What is the Problem?
In my Entrepreneurship in a Global Context course, we were challenged to create a startup idea that fixes a major problem in our community. The problem I chose was the plastic pollution crisis in the Mississippi River. I chose this problem because I live in New Orleans, La, and see the effect plastic pollution has on our environment every day. I see it as I cross the Mississippi River every Sunday on my way to golf, in the seafood most New Orleanians eat every week, and as I walk along the Mississippi River when I am downtown. The Mississippi River is one of the largest sources of oceanic debris in the world. Every year 8 million pounds of plastics float down the river into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf of Mexico is home to over 800 species of fish and is one of the world’s most diverse fish populations in the world. There are vast amounts of microplastics being put into the Gulf through the river. Microplastics are especially dangerous because they leak toxic chemicals into the tissue of fish and because of their size they are extremely easy for fish to eat. This is causing large numbers of fish to die of starvation because they are not getting any nutrients from the microplastics.
The Mississippi River Watershed
Microplastics found in the River
What is the Solution?
There are three key steps to solving the Mississippi River plastic pollution crisis. The first step is physically removing the pollutants from the river; however, this is just a temporary fix. With over 8 million pounds of plastic floating down the river each year it is almost impossible to stop the crisis by just cleaning the river. The second step focuses more on a long-term solution to the crisis. This step is spreading awareness. Once people become aware and educated about the plastic pollution crisis, that is when we will start seeing actual, long-term change. The last part of the solution is reducing the amount of single-use plastics. There are many organizations working hard to remove plastics from the river, but many of these organizations sell the plastic back to companies that produce single-use plastics like non-reusable water bottles, grocery shopping bags, straws, etc. These plastics are being removed from the oceans and rivers and then returning to a cycle that will ultimately make them end up back in a river or ocean.
My Startup Idea
My startup idea will respond to the plastic pollution problem in the Mississippi River by turning plastic found in the river into sustainable beachwear. The plastic pollutants will be bought from organizations like the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative that are working to remove plastic from the river through research and community help. Since most of the plastics in the river are microplastics and other forms of polyethylene, the plastic can be recycled into nylon. This nylon can then be fabricated into swimsuits, hats, flip-flops, etc. These products will be sold off of a website as well as shops in New Orleans and along the Mississippi River.
4Ocean removes a pound of plastic from the ocean for every product sold.
Sea Shepherd is a conservation society that sells clothing to profit their conservation of marine life and habitats.
Veja has a line of footwear made of a recycled plastic called B-Mesh.
The main demographic or audience my startup will reach out to is young adults and teens. This is a very broad area, so to be more specific I think young adults and teens who stay up to date with current trends will be drawn to my startup idea. Another important demographic my startup is reaching out to is people along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast who see first hand the pollution crisis in the Mississippi River. This startup would also appeal to people looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I will reach out to these demographics through a big social media presence that allows a large audience to see my business and the cause that it supports. I will also reach out to them through online ads and in-person appearances at events.
Revenue and Funding
Revenue streams and funding are crucial to the start of a business especially my startup idea because, unlike most clothing manufacturing companies, this one includes an extra step of recycling. Recycling is a difficult process that needs specific equipment and environments. Initial funding will be the most important because at the start of the business there will be no profits from the beachwear. Initially, a way my startup will get the needed funds will be from donations. These donations could come from regular people who want to help, investors, organizations, and more. Once my startup becomes a more stable business, the revenue streams will be from sales as well as collaborations/sponsors. Collaborations are a key way to grow a business as well as spread awareness for the plastic pollution crisis. Some possible collaborations could be with a popular clothing company making a sustainable line of swimwear or an organization that is focused on the plastic pollution problem could sponsor a product from my business. The product will be sold on the business’ website as well as in various locations. These locations could include the Audobon Aquarium and Zoo of the Americas in New Orleans, resorts like Margaritaville or the Beau Rivage Mississippi, and other locations along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast.
Triangl- they could produce a line of swimwear made with recycled plastic pollution where a percentage of profits go towards my business
Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative- a line of beachwear could be created where a percentage of the profits go towards their cause
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas- the aquarium could sell the products as well as promote awareness for the plastic pollution crisis in the Mississippi River
Some feedback I would like from my project is any suggestions people may have pertaining to funding and revenue streams at the beginning stages of my startup. I have been researching ways to get the funds to start a business and most of them rely on initial investors and donations. Do you think that this startup idea would attract potential investors? If not what could I do to make this startup more appealing to potential investors? Is there anything you would change about the product being created? The sales tactics?
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