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Many companies are being encouraged to consider the environmental impacts of their businesses, but for entrepreneur Lalita Anousha Purbho-Junggee, founder of Nineteen Fifty Design & Print Co Ltd, she is going one better. Her Sakili up-cycled bag brand is turning billboard advertising and textile waste into multi-purpose bags for her clients.

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What does your company do?

Nineteen Fifty Design & Print Co Ltd. (1950) focuses on high-quality cost-effective printing and advertising goods & materials for a diverse customer base. The company offer services like vehicle branding, exhibition booth design, supermarket POS display, and billboard printing.1950 takes pride in its high quality printing output and fast delivery. The company is well know by the public for the instant printing booth they have in one of the major local shopping centers (Mall of Mauritius). It is the first to propose instant one-off printing for mugs, fridge magnets, mouse pads, t-shirts and many other unique gift ideas. Currently the company is expanding to include new environmental initiatives that upcycle non-renewable PVC materials in order reduce advertising waste that goes to landfills. This is the core of Sakili - Once A Billboard, Now A Bag project.

Sakili, is my up-cycling brand - bags made from advertising and textile waste. It was launched officially in April 2017. Through this venture, I encourage other businesses to consider the environmental impacts of their operations and that we normalize sustainability as a business norm. More specifically, this year we have been up-cycling used billboards, banners and textile waste which are being up-cycled for our clients into multi-purpose bags. Typically after an advertising campaign, billboard materials will not be re-used and because of their thick PVC material, they often do not biodegrade, causing waste problems. To combat this, up-cycled bags and products will allow the material to have a second life and to continue being useful to the consumer in a new way. We are the first printing company to initiate a project like this on the island and we are partnering with large companies like South African Airlines, Nissan, Porsche, Jeep, Canal Plus, Orangina, etc, which do regular billboard campaigns.

We are focused on ensuring that our operations have minimal negative impact on the environment as we believe that protecting our environment is an investment in the future development of our country. Helping Mauritius one billboard at a time is our ultimate goal. Being an island nation, we are the first who are affected by climate change and right now there is an emergency to create awareness regarding same among Mauritians. And I humbly feel that Sakili is a really nice way to create the awareness on this issue while also setting an eco-friendly fashion trend.

What inspired you to start your company?

I wanted to be rich! I was young, 21, I had one of the most amazing job. I was a press reporter and had a radio show, well paid. Famous if I can say. But it was still not enough for me. I wanted more, I knew I could do better. I'm glad I quit my job. I was scared for sure but it paid off. I am not sure I would be living the life I am living right now with my previous salary.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

I’m the co-founder and marketing director at 1950 Design & Print. I started my career as a trainee reporter at sixteen. Following high-school, I worked at the top newspaper and radio station of the country. After eight years of working full-time, I decided to take on the adventure of becoming an entrepreneur. Together with my husband, I started the company. After six years of local operations, we are now expanding on the sub-Saharan Africa promoting our newborn environmental friendly project, Sakili - Once a Billboard, Now a Bag, which aims to reduce advertising and textile waste.

Yes, I do come from an entrepreneurial background. My parents are entrepreneurs, dad in the tailoring business and mom in the Indian catering business. They are both very good at what they do. My mom used to teach, she quit her job when I was in college to start her business. One thing that I’ve learned from her is that, once you make your passion your full-time job, you'll actually never work again. She is so passionate about what she does. It's amazing!

Why should anyone use your service or product?

1950 Design & Company knows that environmental impact and sustainability betters their own business and the Mauritian economy. We partner with local companies and organizations that understand and care about environmental sustainability and impact, not just for profit and business expansion, but for a better economy and a better Mauritius. Instead of dumping their old and used billboards & banners to landfills we ask them to donate them for up-cycling. Once the company makes the pledge we collect the banners on their requests. The partner pledge not only helps their own business to be more sustainable, but to create the conditions for job growth and opportunity by donating all used billboard materials and advertising waste to 1950 Design & Company for the foreseeable future.

We have created a culture of sustainability in Mauritius and we eventually want to set a new trend through our bags, as a medium to send powerful yet fun and short messages to teenagers. Examples of catchy and eye-opening messages to be overlap printed on the bags are: "There is no planet B", "This used to be a billboard", "I am a friend of nature". We are aiming to reaching out to at least 100,000 young persons through our bags by next year. I can proudly say that at Sakili, we have started building a generation of environment-mindful citizens.

We are multi-award winners in the world of business, these include:

- 2017 winner of WeAreTheCity Rising Star award in Entrepreneurship category 

- Listed among the hundred most influential women of Mauritius for 2017

- Listed among the 100 Golden Women of Africa by Women4Africa in 2016

- Finalist for Most Influential Women of Africa Award in Entrepreneurship category in 2015 

What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

Entrepreneurship for me is an art of hustling. If you want to make things to happen, then you'll have go out and make it happen. Nobody will do it for you, except you. Be patient, things won't happen overnight. It didn't happen for me at least. Stay focused and never give up.

Tell us a little about your team

I started with my husband in our studio apartment. We hired our first staff only later in 2012 and she's still here, luckily! The real team was built in 2014 when we invested massively in different large format digital printing machines. Today, we are a team of 12 and we outsource a lot as well. We used to do the whole production before. We stopped. I realized that we were not performing at our best. My core service is printing and design. I can't handle the set-up part, like hanging billboards or setting up huge outdoor advertising displays. So I decided to start outsourcing. It is actually very important to work with other companies, especially the professional ones which can help me in performing better. With time, I have learned to trust them. Now I call them partners. We need each other to make the business run and be profitable. I have understood that in order to have more time to concentrate on my core project and services, I have to outsource. Outsourcing actually frees me up to concentrate on what I do best.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

We are currently working on expanding the operations of Sakili on mainland Africa. We have been to Lusaka, Dar-es-Salaam and Seychelles in April and May and the dynamics in these countries are awesome. We have found partners to handle the business there and the best part is that we have one of the biggest billboard manufacturing companies in Africa which is willing to offer us its used billboards. We are already supplying our bags in Seychelles, and we are looking forward to starting the first operations soon. I am a Mandela Washington Fellow 2017 and met some very brilliant persons during the MWF journey. I am very hopeful about setting up a partnership for Sakili with them which would be in Kenya, Senegal and Guinea.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

I feel like, as an entrepreneur, I am doing something meaningful. I work with others to solve problems, helping to change lives and making my country a better place to live.

Source: Lionesses of Africa

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