Sacosa de panza - "The Textile Bag"

Sacosa de panza - "The Textile Bag"

Romania
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

"The Textile Bag" is a complex project whose main objective is to provide ecological alternative to plastic bags by producing bags from natural canvas.
We respect the principles of sustainable development by using natural local resources, by employing people in poor social conditions, by raising Eco-awareness and reaching economical indicators.

About You
Organization:
ViitorPlus – the Association for Sustainable Development
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Section 1: About You
First Name

Ifrim

Last Name

Iulian

Country

, BC

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

Organization Name

ViitorPlus – the Association for Sustainable Development

Organization Phone

+4(0)-31-432 86 65

Organization Address

G-ral Ion Florescu Str., no.6, 3rd district,, Bucharest

Organization Country

, BC

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, BC

Innovation
What makes your innovation unique?

Our project uniqueness is given by the combination of the goals we work on and the results we have in different areas - social, environment, educational and economical.

We produce textile bags made form ecological or recycled raw materials in different forms and sizes and with various insertions and drawings. The bags are sold to companies, for different events and to individuals form Romania. The companies can use the bags for various events, for personalized gifts and the individuals use them for shopping, at the beach or even as a purse.

Because of the production model that we use our bags are unique - we use only materials produced locally and we hire for manufacturing only persons with poor social conditions and needs on social and professional integration or with disabilities.

The purpose of the project is to educate the consumer and to involve in the production line only person that are in difficult social conditions.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact

"The Textile Bag" is a project whose objectives are very powerful at individual, organizational and community level:

Environment:
- we produced and sold 5500 textile bags in 9 months
- we used textile manufactured local and labels made from recycled paper
- we chose a raw textile to have the minimum impact on environment
- we had 0 waste in production, all small pieces of materials were used in tying the label to the bag
- the materials we used are natural, organic cotton
- reduced CO2 emissions by buying local materials

Social:
- we have 6 employees – persons in major difficulty working on the production of bags. 3 persons are working in the workshop and 3 persons with physical disabilities work from home.
- the people with social problems benefit from social inclusion in a group, are employed and have access to social and career counseling; 3 people in the first stage (first 6 months), reaching 8 until the end of the first year. The main purpose for the people working in the workshop is to prepare them in working with an employer, to follow a working schedule, and follow working rules in general. So far 2 persons passed through our program and found a job.
- the general population that will benefit from a cleaner environment as the textiles used will be organic (the larger the impact on long term, the larger this project gets to be developed).

Economic:
- we managed to cover all the expenses of the first six month including the initial investment but we need constant orders to keep the project self sustainable
- we reached a production capacity of 1500 textile bags per month

Educational:
- the label and the bag itself are instruments of education
- over 5500 people bought our bags
- we presented the project in a small organic cosmetics shop to the visitors
- we have a page on our website for the project and a facebook page where we give advices and communicate with the public
- we organized 5 painting workshops on our textile bags for children and adults. During these workshops we tell about the project but also we give advises on how they can become more sustainable in their day to day life.

Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing

Studies of Romania's Environment Ministry from 2008 shows that a Romanian person uses each year approximately 250 plastic bags, each being used no more than 15-20 minutes. Each year are used over 5 billions non-biodegradable bags. Everywhere you go in Romania and on this planet you will find a plastic bag flying around or hanging on trees. There are thousands of birds and sea creatures dying each year because of plastic bags. This is a major problem and we ant to address it.

Romania faces a serious crisis regarding social and economical policies for people who are in poor social conditions - there are over 5000 persons living in high risk conditions, according a SamuSocial research.

Our solution: implementing a social workshop in order to design and produce ecological textile bags. We hire only disadvantaged persons and people with disabilities, working from home, who are trained for sewing. Our beneficiaries can be put in two clusters according the problem that they are facing - those whose main problem is isolation due to their physical disabilities and who are encouraged to get involved, besides production, in our product presentations, and - those who need socio-professional reinsertion. We train them in a certain domain, make them responsible in working with an employer and in respecting a designated schedule. They are an important part of the project, they receive regular feedback in their activity.

Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. Include a description of the business model. What might prevent that success?

Success for us is consider when:
- we cover all our costs from the production of bags
- we meet our social and environment goals, that means produce and sale 15.000 bags in 2010 and hire 6 persons in great social difficulty

We identified 2 categories of clients:
- corporations with interests or budget for CSR
- population - consisting in women between 18 and 45 years old, from the urban areas, with higher studies and interest in current local or global issues.

The products are the same for both type of clients, for companies there is a possibility to personalize the bags and to put a message on the label of the bag.

For the general population we have 3 distribution channels for the general public and we plan to open a 4th one.
The four channels are:
1. Events, fairs, workshops, slow-food markets
2. Online sales and artists shops - it should be functional in February
3. Small shops chains like libraries, pharmacies –
4. Hypermarkets – this is just an idea; we will do a 6 months feasibility study to see if we can fit it.

Our current production model is a small workshop consisting of 3 working places and 3 persons with disabilities. We work on small stocks and based on orders. This model we are currently using is for corporations and for the 1 to 3 distribution channels.

The production model for hypermarkets. For this bags we must have reduced costs and because of this we work with unemployed persons or with low incomes that know how to sew and they have a sewing machinery at home. We aim to create a database of people like this and if we will sing a partnership with a hypermarket chain to star the production on this economic model also. We will cut the materials, print it and we will deliver to each employee working form home his/hers part of production.

In order to reach this we will need new investments in a bigger place, in new sewing machinery. The current ones being this old brake down often and affect our delivery terms and our productivity. Also we need a small car for all the materials and consumables acquisition, for the transport of materials to and from the persons working from home and for delivery of products to clients.

Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible

The goals of the project "The textile bag" are constructed around the mission and the 2010-2011 organizational plan and also to sustain these financially.

The expected results for the next three years are:
- to produce and sale 15.000 bags made out of natural materials per year
- to offer employment and professional development to at least 8 persons out of which 2 persons to be successful working for other companies.
- to lunch at least one educational campaign each year
- to produce a positive change in legislation regarding the sale and use of plastic bags
- to have 0 garbage or rests from production
- to use only natural and local materials
- to realize each year a 5.000 euro profit
- to grow the percent of revenues obtained from self financing to 30% out of the total

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your innovation seek to have an impact on public policy?

Yes

If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?

A law was voted in Romania saying that no market could give free plastic bags and that a minimum tax should be paid on it by customers. There is no study on how much the consumption of plastic bags decreased but we can still see a lot of plastic bags on the side of all the roads in Romania. This is way we thing that the best solution would be to interdict the selling of any non degradable plastic bags in Romania. We plan to advocate for creating free plastic bags zones as in Ireland.

Sustainability
What stage is your Social Enterprise in?

Operating for less than a year

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Yes

Does your organization have a non monetary partnerships with government?

No

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your Social Enterprise

The non monetary partnerships we have with companies and NGOs are critical for the success of our project.

We have partnerships with 2 NGOs, these are "Workshops Without Borders" and with NESsT. Workshop Without Borders are our social partner, they provide the social services for our beneficiaries and the career counseling. They were very interested to increase the number of beneficiaries through a new, valuable activity and agreed to partner with us. Also whenever possible we redirect possible partners to them and they do the same for us. NESsT is helping us with planning instruments and professional counseling in strategic planning.

We have even more partners from companies. We have a partner that is also supplier to us, this supplier donated us 2 sewing machinery. Another company - Headvertising is giving us advices from time to time on communication. Antalis is supporting us with recycled paper for the labels and ProCredit Bank will place some stands with bags for sale to their clients.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

We have a workshop where 6 marginalized persons are producing shopping bags made from natural fibers. We offer these bags for sales to companies and persons from Bucharest now and we plan to expand our distribution and sales to national level. For orders above 100 bags clients have the opportunity to buy personalized bags, we can put their logo, a message or a drawing on the bag. Also we have a label made from recycled paper that we attaché to the bag, the client has the possibility to place a short massage on the label also.

Our goal is to finance this activity only from the sales of the bags we produce. For that we established that we need to produce 1.200 bags in the workshop and sell them at an average price of 3,8 $ per bag to the general public and companies and 9.800 bags for hypermarkets at an average price of 2$ per bag.

For the more expensive category of bags we have experience of producing and selling 2,000 bags in one month, also from a market research we realized the the price is right and is accepted by the target market.

For the more cheaper bags we didn't start the production or the sales yet but we have information from the market research that the model bags and the price is right. A sales test in a hypermarket store will tell us best.

We also want to access small nonrefundable funds from national or international or small grants from the EU so we can invest in better equipment or bigger production space. These investments will bring bigger marge to us.

Right now from the begging we had a total revenue of 30.000 $. From this amount 22.500 $ (75%)are revenues from the production and sales of bags and 7.500 $ are from small nonrefundable grants.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

We all noticed from years ago the amount of garbage dumped in or around our cities also we realized that some part of that garbage is going to resist longer than we live. The moment we decided to do something was when a law was voted in Romania stating that plastic bags can not be given for free anymore. Stores had to sell the non degradable bags to their customers for a minimum amount of money. So it appeared a new plastic called oxo degradable plastic. Stores started to promote the bags made from this plastic as bio even if it's not. This kind of plastic brakes into small pieces in the presence of air but it is not biodegradable, it does not integrate back in the nature. We saw that there was very few 100% natural bags so we thought that we want to help and give another option to the public.

We knew we wanted to do this business as sustainable as possible so another defining moment was when we meet wit "Workshop Without Borders" and they wanted to be a part of our project and help us in putting together an workshop where people in great difficulty could be involved.

In April 2009 we decided to start the market research and the business plan. As everything looked good, we decided to start this economic activity and on 7th of September we started the work in our workshop with 2 employees.

Tell us about the person—the social innovator—behind this idea.

The social innovator is ViitorPlus - The Association for Sustainable Development.
Life played its mysterious game and, at the beginning of 2006, three people - Teia Gavrilescu (Catană), Teodora Pălărie şi Mircea Ilie got together around a shared dream: starting an organization that would contribute to a better, more sustainable world.

A few elements contributed to start-up things at the beginning:

* SHARING - ideas, dreams, hopes, experiences honestly and deep inside from our beings
* DECIDING TO PUT INTO PRACTICE what we wanted for a long time already and start organizing it
* LEGAL and CONCEPTUAL START-UP - finding out the legal procedures, deciding responsibles for each part, doing it.
* FOUNDERS MEETINGS work on the status, decide the legal form (association instead of foundation based on the existing Romanian law), choose the name - ViitorPlus (FuturePlus), first ideas of activities.
* SHARING WITH OTHERS - ideas, dreams, hopes, experiences honestly and deep inside from our beings, in a way that inspired and attracted other close people with similar views - Marcio Jappe, Jeremy Moses, Anca Soare Minea, Dan Vlad, Ionut Enache, Monia Martini, Cristian Lacraru, Ramona and Ofelia Constantinescu, Luiza Dumitrescu...
* 1:1 personal meetings with each of them where apart from sharing we explored the possibilities of working together in the newly founded NGO (during and after the AIESEC Alumni Hall of fame with Ionut, at a pub in Cismigiu with Cristi, by emails and phone with Marcio and after long talks in Amsterdam, at Carturesti tea house with Jeremy, at "Arcade" and "Cafeneau Actorilor" with Anca, etc)
* REGULAR NGO MEETINGS where we started discussing the first project and organizing it.

MISSION

ViitorPlus was founded to stimulate and contribute at putting in practice the concept of sustainable development at individual, community and organizational level.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information

NESsT

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