When you step into Nigerian rural communities, you would notice that poverty, unemployment and poor waste management practices are their major challenges. This is why Mariam Lawani has decided to solve these problems in her own way by starting up a business called Greenhill Recycling.
Greenhill Recycling is a Social Enterprise addressing the poverty and unemployment crisis in Nigeria, using recyclable waste as the currency of exchange.
At Greenhill Recycling, they harness the power of rural communities to solve waste management problems in Nigeria. They have a reward system and the reward for recycling model gives households, especially in indigent communities the opportunity to exchange their recyclable waste (e.g. plastic beverage and water bottles, broken chairs, buckets and bowls, water sachets), aluminum cans, old corrugated cartons and office paper for redeemable Green points, which can be exchanged for items of value such as groceries, pay utility bills or provide school supplies for children.
To impact on communities and create a source of livelihood for another human being is my greatest satisfaction!
For Mariam, entrepreneurship began since her university days where she sold Mary-Kay make up items in school.
She observed her mother as a child succeed in several businesses. Her mother ran a restaurant for decades. She also owned a supermarket and a boutique. Mariam learnt stock keeping as she worked in her mother’s boutique during school breaks as a child.
Mariam had an older brother who also worked the path of an entrepreneur and watching her brother and mother succeed in business as an entrepreneur motivated her to become a entrepreneur.
Mariam chose the path of waste recycling because she got tired of all the waste that flooded her street whenever it rained, causing flood and traffic jams. Thus reducing productivity time for her, and causing her to be late for work.
Asides the aesthetic impact, it negatively impacted on the health of the people as they constantly had to use insecticides at home.
Interestingly, at the time, there were only 2 formal recycling companies catering to over 22 million residents in Lagos State. There was a huge market and the solution of Green Recycling was instituted to solve the waste management problem in Lagos state first and in extension Nigeria and Africa.
I have experienced challenges, some losses, learnt some hard lessons, built amazing networks, got business certifications and an ongoing MBA degree, made some wrong decisions and very good ones and so far, I would describe the journey in one word – Rollercoaster.
We have succeeded to make recycling convenient and relate-able for residents in Lagos state. People can now truly associate waste to value, they can now use waste to solve their daily problems and so for them, it is no longer waste, but a resource in motion. We have also empowered several women to start up their own businesses in the recycling value chain, by offering a franchise opportunity to them.
The ability to change other people’s lives.
As her words of encouragement to people who want to start their own business, she said “Do not see the limitations, they are there deliberately to discourage you. Engage in sufficient research, ensure your solution meets a need and just do it!”