Award-winning student start-up on a mission to save the planet from plastic

Award-winning student start-up on a mission to save the planet from plastic
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation

Posted: Thu 29th Mar 2018

Two school friends have won a national enterprise competition for their plastic-free online grocery store.

Co-founders Pawan Saunya, 20 and UCL student Rishi Gupta, 21, run the Zero Waste Club which sells everything from bio-degradable bamboo toothbrushes, to organic pasta, beans, cereals and baking ingredients, all presented and delivered in recycled, compostable paper packaging.

For every delivery dispatched, the firm plants a new tree.

This week/Thursday March 29, the pair picked up the Student Start-Up of the Year award, a national competition that is a collaboration between small business support group Enterprise Nation and youth charity The Enterprise Trust. It seeks to highlight and promote the promising businesses set up by young entrepreneurs, often whilst still studying.

Pawan said: "I studied world development at A-level and just could not believe the appalling harm that plastics are doing to the environment - and what that's storing up for future generations.

"We looked around and there was a lot of talk about it, but no solutions. There was nothing offering consumers any convenient alternative to buying products wrapped in flexible plastics and packaging that isn't accepted by UK councils for recycling.

"We decided to not just sit and watch the world burn.  We decided to try to do something about it ourselves."

Rishi is in the last year of his natural sciences degree, while vegan Pawan decided to defer university to work on the business. Both still live at home with their parents.

The pals met at Lampton Academy in Iselworth.  Rishi moved to Tiffin School in Kingston to do A-levels, while Pawan went to Richmond-upon-Thames College, where he got two A*s and an A.

Together they raised the £5,000 they needed to start-up last year by working on vegan markets. That covered buying the templated website from Squarespace, which took Pawan 200 hours to build from scratch, and their first order of stock.

The company is already on-track to turn over £100,000 in its first year.

Pawan said: "Plastics don't leave the environment.  They break down into invisible micro fibres and we already know these get into the eco system and harm wildlife.  They are in our water and it's highly likely that we humans have micro plastics in our systems too. It could have something to do, for example, of the increase in cancers. We just don't know."

In the future, the pair want to expand the company to design and make sustainable, organic, biodegradable products that are functional and beautiful.

As part of the prize, the co-founders won £2,500 to put towards the business and a year's free office space in London supplied by The Office Group.

Zero Waste Club were one of more than 200 student-led firms that entered the competition from around the UK.  The list was whittled down to the final five, which went out the public vote.

The other four were the mental health social project Happiness Bootcamp, third world education campaign Wazi, digital memory bank Memento and accessible door handle firm The Unity Door.

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, who graduated in Law and Japanese from Cardiff University, said: "We were bowled over by the incredibly high standard of the student entrepreneurs this initiative uncovered in its first year, spread right across Britain's universities and colleges and covering every conceivable sector.

"From mental health bootcamps to fashion to campaigns fighting third world poverty, the businesses impressed us with their their commercial acumen - as well as their energetic approach and fresh, new ideas.

"The Zero Waste Club not only stood out because it's bang on in terms of its ambition to fight for a plastic-free world, but because these two young men had clear vision and loads of entrepreneurial stamina.  They also understood that to make their idea work, they must be prepared to roll up their sleeves and work damn hard.

"This year has again uncovered young people with an appetite to run businesses that bring in the cash - while changing the world.  It's wonderful to see, and we must all do everything we can to support them."

Last year's competition uncovered a genius scientific invention that can create water from thin air. The Imperial College graduates behind ThinAir pumped their prize money into their company and have now been awarded a place on the Climate-KIC Accelerator Programme.

Helen Booth, COO at Enterprise Trust, said: "It's really exciting to learn about all these inspiring young businesses - and how they want to make a difference. We're delighted to be able to have a hand in celebrating and supporting Britain's growing army of young entrepreneurs.

"The Student Start-Up of the Year helps deliver the important message that young people can start-up excellent businesses and that they are doing it in style and considerable number, even while studying."


For more details contact Liz Slee

07540 060112

About Enterprise Nation

Enterprise Nation is a growing small business network and business support provider with more than 70,000 members. Its aim is to help people turn their good ideas into great businesses - through expert advice, events, acceleration and networking. Enterprise Nation was founded in 2005 by Emma Jones MBE , also co-founder of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain. She is author of best-selling business books including Spare Room Startup, Working 5 to 9, Go Global, Start a Business for £99 and the StartUp Kit, Going for Growth.  In 2016 she was announced as the Government's Trade Ambassador and SME Crown Representative.

About The Enterprise Trust

The Enterprise Trust is an independent, nationwide charity that aims to inspire and equip young people to consider entrepreneurship as a career path and develop the enterprising skills they need to start a business.  As part of its mission, The Enterprise Trust is investing in young talent on many levels, with a view to create 250,000 skills-based apprenticeships and inject £1m a year over eight years in youth enterprise support (up to 2025) with a target to generate a £1bn contribution to the UK economy. It was launched in 2011 by UK-based entrepreneur Richard Harpin, who founded emergency repair firm Homeserve in 1993, a FTSE 250 company now valued at £2.6bn. The charity is run by Helen Booth. As part of its vision, it aims to create an impact and leave a legacy by helping individuals to realise their potential as independent wealth generators.

Enterprise Nation
Enterprise NationEnterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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