A World Bank business pitching competition has birthed a pencil making company in Gaborone, Botswana. The name of the company is Aiko Creations Pty (Ltd) and it’s owned by one, Wada Kealotswe.
Kealotswe explained to Sunday Standard that she decided to start Aiko Creations Pty (Ltd) which trades as Eco Zera after she participated in a World Bank competition in 2019 in which youth around the world had to pitch a project under the theme Smart and Resilient cities.
Upon picking up information on the World Bank competition, Kealotswe then made a pitch advancing with the completion up to the semi-finals stage. While her business idea was not selected as the ultimate prize winner, Kealotswe earned a place to participate at the World Bank Youth Summit 2019. It was immediately after the summit that Kealotswe had to find ways to develop her idea of “recycling paper to make something usable”.
The company which has been operating from Block 6, Gaborone for the last two years manufactures graphite and colour pencils from recycled newspaper.
Turning Sunday Standard into a pencil
While there are so many different pencil brands out there, Kealotswe says Eco Zera pencils are unique because 80 percent of the work is hand-made and the shaft is made from 100% recycled newspapers, Sunday Standard newspaper being one of their best according to her.
She adds that the process of paper pencil making is labour intensive because about 80 percent of the work is done by hand and 20 percent by machines.
Eco Zera has a total of 12 employees whose primary role is to ensure that the pencils reach the end user. Of the 12, two are permanent employees while the other ten are temporary employees who come when the company has big orders.
Kealotswe notes that some of the challenges that come with running this business is that people want to buy the pencils at the price of machine and mass produced pencils.
She says Covid-19 affected their business because they started their production right in the middle of the pandemic. It affected them because they could not move as much as they would have loved to in terms of marketing. The prices on shipping increased affecting their capability of sourcing raw materials which they buy from Asia.
What she loves about their business is that it is unique and it contributes to climate change.
“With so much focus on climate change issues our company prides itself in using waste newspaper as its main raw material. In the process of making our pencils we reduce the waste that could be going to the landfill and further reduce the production of methane which is a harmful gas produced by landfills,” she adds.
She says their clientele is made up of students who write with pencils and people that appreciate the value added on the pencil.
This year they will be adding a 12 colour line pencils after a year of postponing due to challenges brought about by Covid-19.
Kealotswe says while her business was self-funded, in 2019 the company received a Climate Adaptation Award for Waste Management from SEED, an international NGO supported by the government of Flanders. The award came with a grant that now helps grow the business.
Kealotswe wishes people could embrace sustainable consumption or preferences and take care of the environment because climate change is a real challenge.
People can access Eco Zera services through their Facebook page: eco zera pencils which is linked to their WhatsApp line.
Locally people can source their pencils in pharmacies, T/T in North gate, Medi Perfect in Mochudi, Midnight in Palapye, Midzi in Gaborone, Century office Supplies in Francistown and Gaborone Botswana Book Centre. They currently sell their twelve pack pencil box at P20.00. She says they will be reviewing their prices from April due to changes in prices of all goods and services.