Entrepreneur going green | Sunday Observer

Entrepreneur going green

“Yes I’m an entrepreneur, yes this is something I do” said Vraie Cally Balthazaar. Cally, is the woman entrepreneur who produces the Cally reusable bags. Women like Vraie are rare to be found in our society. Vraie is willing to take risks and be innovative as she realises that entrepreneurship would help keep her work flexible. She shares her story of the Cally reusable bags with Youth Observer.

Q: Where did it all start?

Meetotamulla was definitely an eye-opener for me. I’ll be lying if I say I had been aware of the garbage problem back then. I had been part of green stalls working in different organisations. I have seen it. I've heard conversations about it, but the trigger was Meetotamulla. I wish it hadn’t happened, but had it not happened it wouldn’t have been such a big wake up call. About 27 people died because of garbage that I definitely contributed to. This was a big deal for me because I thought what kind of a world would I leave for my children. Obviously, in Colombo, everyone tried their best to somehow dispose of used water or food leftovers, but then I realised that is only a temporary solution. I had to make a decision at home on how to manage our own waste. That is where it started.

I started with three bags. Finally it came to a pack of 10. I made this for fruits and vegetables, and later I realised we can bring rice in them. We no longer need to bring rice in those 2kg bags of polythene. When you shop bulk, you can put up to 5kg in big bags, including stuff like dhal, grains and sugar packs.

Q: What is your style of waste management?

A year ago if those garbage collectors didn’t come, maybe for two weeks, we literally had a small mountain of garbage outside our own house. I would be furious and angry with the garbage collectors. Then I realised all of us at home are to be blamed, because we are bringing in things that become waste. We must cut down on that stuff. It’s not just about getting rid of your garbage, it’s about what you bring in.

We made big changes at home. I started to shop more at polas and the market. I stopped bringing polythene bags home. I would put fruit and vegetables either in boxes or I would use my bag. Even to buy meat, I take boxes. I buy coconut oil and spices in glass jars or old bottles. We stopped buying plastic stuff for the children. With two children, it’s a big deal. Many toys can never be recycled. Meat contributed to the smell of the garbage. You can’t put that into the compost bin. I keep a box in the freezer for all the bones of fish and keep it in the freezer until garbage collectors come. If you have a garden, dig up and bury it.

This is a new concept. It’s not easy, but we try. The less you buy the less waste you have. I mean buy what is necessary. I started being conscious about my choices and making a difference at home. I know it’s not an easy thing for everyone.

Q: Is your venture a success?

I got into this business just three and a half months ago making 250 packs of 10 bags each. Now we produce 750. There is a market for the bags. They are available at the Wellawatte market. We have over 10 stores in Colombo and one in Matara retailing our bags.

I think people understand the importance of the new mechanism. It doesn’t matter where you are from. This is something that everyone can use. I think people are becoming more conscious, A wider acceptance is needed.

Q: Your experience with the Cally Reusable Bag?

I tested my bag before I started manufacturing for wholesale. It may take quite a few years for people’s acceptance because it’s new to people. While shopping I look like a magical person. I dramatise the situation by flinging my bag in front of everybody. When I am in a super market counter, those guys know when I’m standing in line as they are packing goods for others in polythene. They look at me because they know me. I’m a bit of a celebrity now, because they behave as if I owned the monopoly of cloth bags.

Q: What are its features?

I localised the bags with drawings of gotukola, jumbu, nelli, passion fruit, cabaranka on the cover or pouch, making it look Sri Lankan. Because the gift items and souvenirs are all clique. This is cool like something Sri Lankan.

Q: Cally the entrepreneur?

People know me as a media or design related person and not as an entrepreneur. I never pushed being an entrepreneur. This is the first time I've come out to say, "yes I’m an entrepreneur, yes this is something I do".

Q: What about your team?

Its only me. I do the marketing, social media promotion, packaging, delivery and the pickup. I designed the bag. The drawings on the bags were hand drawn by me. There is a small factory that sews my bags.

Q: What is your mission?

Super market chains are not taking the responsibility to solve the problem of polythene usage. They greenwash it; they call something greener, a fresher choice, but their contribution to the problem is huge. Plastic bottles and soda cans are mainly used by sweet drink manufacturers. They only have a little recycling bin and that's their contribution. They don't make big choices or stay focused. Everything is about consumerism. I want the reusable bags to be accessible to everyone. I want to help create a better environment for children.