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Restoring hope: #Ideasforchange Challenge winner Lizl Naudé of Lilly Loompa is pioneering a way to a cleaner Stellenbosch through innovative upcycling.

Entrepreneur of the Month – Lizl Naudé

By: Cebelihle Mthethwa

The great words ‘Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are’ by Theodore Roosevelt run true for this year’s Stellenbosch Network #IdeasForChange Challenge winner and founder of Lilly Loompa Upcycled Homeware, Lizl Naudé. The Paarl-born entrepreneur turned an unfortunate situation into treasure when she started her business.

After losing everything she and her family had worked hard for, amidst a financial crisis and failed investments, Lizl saw an opening to start Lilly Loompa. She started off designing handmade jewellery and later began upcycling discarded waste material, transforming it into beautiful and usable homeware. With pollution posing as one of South Africa’s biggest challenges, Lilly Loompa’s vision is to pioneer the way to a cleaner South Africa through innovative upcycling.

Lizl’s venture into an upcycling business started in 2016.

“When we lost everything, I had to look to the environment around me, to find what I can do to make my situation better than what it was. On one hand, I had absolutely nothing and on the other, my community had a huge pollution challenge, so I use what was at my disposal to contribute to making Stellenbosch a sustainable city and make an impact in my community,” says Lizl.

The Lilly Loompa Upcycle Homeware team believes that there is value in waste that is overlooked, and with more research and innovation, it can be a much-needed commodity. Turning waste into usable homeware products can make a valuable contribution to the circular economy. After the waste material has been deemed safe and usable, their plan is to create new products that can be sold directly to the public at stores and online. These products will be manufactured at micro-factories which are manufacturing facilities where community members collect the waste items to later transform into usable homeware products.

Currently, Lizl’s home serves as a collection facility, with hopes that they can build a more efficient collection point in Klapmuts where people will be paid for clean and usable waste. In this way, they create income opportunities for the community members while simultaneously keeping their neighbourhoods clean. Their footprint is spread between Paarl and Stellenbosch, however the plans for Stellenbosch will be achieved through the winnings obtained from the #Ideasforchange Challenge.

During the lockdown, Lilly Loompa launched a new range of products, the most popular of which is the My Africa Lap Desk, made with discarded wood. It is a designer desk, in the shape of the African continent and can be used for sitting in bed and working, reading or having breakfast. It is also portable and doubles up as art when not in use, making it multi-functional.

“With all of the items we create, we want to restore hope. Addressing issues such as climate change proves that not all is lost, and that there is still time to make an impact on our society,” Lizl adds.

Although her journey is one of perseverance, Lizl notes that there were challenges along the road. It is important for entrepreneurs to not focus on their challenges and rather seize the opportunities that are presented to them. One of Lilly Loompa’s biggest challenges is the lack of advanced technology, as they currently use basic equipment and technology to produce or manufacture their products.

“For me, the #Ideasforchange Challenge opportunity came at the right time. It came at a point where we were ready to venture into producing a prototype plastic version of the My Africa Lap Desk. I believe that this is an amazing opportunity to work with scientists and engineers from the University of Stellenbosch and CSIR to look at harvesting materials and creating new kinds of products from our current waste streams.”

She adds that winning the #Ideasforchange Challenge will also allow them to leverage relationships and open more opportunities that will help make Stellenbosch a city for the future.

“I also want to encourage all entrepreneurs that anything is possible, but that they should also gain the courage to ask for help and consult people about their ideas. For me that was how I came across the #Ideasforchange Challenge,” concludes Lizl.