Turning Trash into Treasure: An Interview with Paulina Alfeus
In 2018 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees C which outlines the disastrous effects of climate change and urging that “changes in individual behavior can make a difference.” Paulina Alfeus sought to make that difference in furniture manufacturing. An industry not yet recognized as infamous for its environmental ruin, the production of furniture actually bears enormous harm.
The World Carfree Network warns that 15% of global carbon emissions are due to deforestation, which a majority of furniture is made from. The airplanes, cars, and trucks used for the expansive transportation of products account for another 14% of global emissions, which is predicted to increase.
Paulina Alfeus helped to start Power Six Investment cc in her home country of Namibia, a locally based manufacturing company. Through upcycling, the company redevelops metal scraps and junk into swanky furniture. Alfeus also hopes that through this sustainable process, employment opportunities will be infused into local towns.
You co-founded Power Six Investment cc, an innovative company that refurbishes trash and junk into furniture. Could you describe the early days of the project and where it is now?
Paulina Alfeus: I’m a Boilermaker by profession. During our last year of training back in 2015, my friend and I were discussing how we are going to tackle life in case we did not get a job because most of our seniors did not have a job. We started brainstorming until we came up with the idea of upcycling oil drums.
The idea was to look for something cheap; barrels are locally available and scattered around our town. They are metal and already in good shape, all we wanted is to turn trash into treasure. We wanted low-cost materials since we didn’t have funds, and to keep our environment clean, this could be done through upcycling. I and five of my friends put together ideas, drafted a business plan, and got to work.
The name Power Six Investment cc says it all, it’s a group of six youth making products in our line of study. This also makes our business easier since we are boilermakers. Apart from our managerial duties, we are all able to serve as workshop technicians. We are the ones that do the manufacturing until the business picks up and we can start more employment. Our aim is to grow our project, clean our environment, and employ other youth. We really want to eradicate poverty and to be able to help trainees with internships.
Your furniture is both practical, yet, really unique and interesting.
P.A. : What inspired us was the look of our tourist places. In Namibia, we import things from other countries– the countries where most of our tourists come from. It lacks excitement when we serve the tourists in our country with furniture from their countries. We want to supply furniture that will exhibit to tourists our own culture while making them feel at home, a sense of home away from home. Presenting our unique products will make someone fall in love with Namibia.
What is it like being the managing director of a company you also helped to start?
P.A. : Doing something that I like and enjoy is exactly like playing a game. Imagine life whereby your workplace feels like playing your favorite game, every day, all day. You will forget you are doing business… until I actually have to exchange my products for money.
Can you provide more detail on what Power Six Investment cc manufactures, and how?
P.A. : All we want is to make products that define our country and that are unique and locally made. Products made to fit weather conditions. We cut drums to desired shapes, cover the sharp edges with rubbers, clean them, paint them, and fit them into sitting bases which consist of a hardboard. We make many designs and we paint them any color of (the customers) choice.
What do you see for the future?
P.A: We are still in the primary stages. The business has been operating for a year and ten months. Within this period, we have made, tested, and launched products into the market. So far, we are operating from our personal savings. We are still looking for funds, such as grants, to expand our business. We have made sales countrywide to individuals and companies, but we have not yet made exports. We are looking for distributors nationally and internationally. The sales made so far have helped us to keep going and people are getting to know us. It’s not easy, but we are pushing and adding clients each month, which gives us the courage to work even harder.
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As an entrepreneur, what are your hopes for growth in Namibia?
P.A. : In order to have more entrepreneurs like us in Africa, especially women, governments and organizations should encourage entrepreneurship from as early as high school. Entrepreneurship can’t be taught, it’s a passion. People must do business in what they are passionate about, the things they enjoy doing. Money is just an added bonus. And I would like to recognize the existing institutions that have extra programs to help mentor and encourage women in business.
How do you ensure the manufacturing process is environmentally sustainable?
P.A. : I believe in the saying, one home one planet. For our planet to live longer, for us to live in a healthy environment, we need to get rid of our trash in a manner that will not endanger the planet’s health.
Upcycling is a good example of both, especially in converting the trash into a new product. We do it naturally without using any chemicals and we don’t emit any dangerous products or gas in the process. With this process, we clean our environment and subsequently add value to it by beautifying it. We make sure that during the upcycling process we keep it simple and environmentally friendly. The only thing we emit is noise, which is temporary and when using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), such as earplugs, you will be 100% protected from this temporary noise.
In the Cover Picture: Power Six Investment cc showcases the manufacturing process that produces practical, yet, aesthetic furniture. Photo Credit: Power Six Investment cc.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.