This year’s Social Impact Award winner was published last week. Julia Bodin from Lausanne won the race with her project Let’s Talk Waste.
Photo Gilles Nahon
Your pitch presents a holistic approach on reducing waste: it goes from consulting enterprises and improving awareness to prototyping waste recycling system. How did you come up with the idea?
I have a degree in environmental engineering, but I ended up in a master’s project on marine biology in Eilat, in Israel. There I learnt how to dive and for the first time, I really realised how huge a problem waste is. After that, I worked for a year in a PhD position on a research project on microplastics, and I learned a lot about plastic. I wanted to raise awareness and I contemplated on creating a YouTube channel or other platform to inform people about waste. I wasn’t convinced that I could be selected as a SIA finalist, but I also thought that there is no harm in trying, and I was selected among 11 finalists to the incubation program.
What was the most important insight during the incubation period?
I had the idea and passion, but I had no idea how to turn it into a profitable business and reach my audience. During the program, I talked weekly on Skype with my mentor Marc Mathys, a founder of ArboLife and we received various trainings from coaches on validation, marketing, communication, legal, and my personal favorite: storytelling with RedBull Amaphiko and SuperSocial. I worked hard to find numbers on marine littering and to determine what others had already done. There were people who worked on awareness and education, others on applications to locate the nearest collect point, as well as companies that produce trash cans, but nobody offered a holistic solution. That was what I wanted to do: consult companies on waste strategy, educate and inspire their employees or clients through team-building activities, improve awareness with an online tool and offer a physical solution for sorting recyclable waste. So my original idea about the platform is part of the package.
Were you surprised on your win?
I am a very positive person but I try to protect myself against disappointment. Anyway I had decided, no matter what happens, I would continue to work on my project. The prize and the money give me a head start, and of course the win is also a vote of confidence.
So what comes next?
I want to build the first prototype of RecyclingHive. It is a modular recycling system, and every module looks like a honeycomb, hence the name. I like the metaphor: like busy bees collect pollen and make it more valuable, RecyclingHive collects waste and makes the most of it. I already have a client company in Lausanne, where the first RecyclingHive will be placed next January: Zoo Burger. The other half of my prize money, I want to use on creating a professional website. In three years’ time my goal is to be profitable and to have 15 clients, 100 RecyclingHive modules rented and to organise 10 team-building activities yearly.
In addition to your mentor, what other factors supported you through your path?
My friends! When I had to return the business plan, an accountant friend ironed it out, and made it perfect! Another friend helped me with the design of RecyclingHive. Impact Hub community has also helped me a lot. I became Hubonaut in Lausanne at the same time as I applied for SIA, and thanks to that, I met many new people, who gave me so much inspiration. I met the lovely Ana Salac who created my logo and met the web developer, who is going to create my new website letstalkwaste.com.
The Social Impact Award (SIA) is the first Swiss-wide program of the Impact Hub network and one of the most important programs for the design and development of social enterprises in Europe. It is intended for young people who want to realize their own projects and thus change and improve the world. The program sensitizes young people to entrepreneurship through the workshops and mentoring. From idea to business.
Jonas Ngoenha and Julia Besson won the second jury award with their sharing platform Beazy. Camille Jaillant’s fashion brand Olistic the Label won the community award.
The Social Impact Award will be launched again in 2019. Subscribe to our newsletter and be first to know when we start taking applications.