Hudson Diphofa from South Africa was among many workers who lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic. He became desperate and frustrated as he couldn’t find a way out of his situation. He then decided to become his own boss instead of working for people and getting retrenched again in the face of another public health crisis.
The 33-year-old went on to start a recycling manufacturing business called Structural Poly Plastic Furniture & Project in May 2020. The company makes unique picnic tables, benches and jungle gyms from recycled items.
“I lost my job as a result of the pandemic. I desperately needed an income so I decided to start up my own business, both to provide for my own employment as well as to create for others who had also lost their jobs and were battling to get re-employed,” Diphofa told IOL.
He continued: “We’re not only looking to build awareness but also a shift to destroy the idea that waste is garbage – waste is simply raw material that can be used to create a variety of reusable products.”
According to him, he was inspired by the works of another entrepreneur who is into recycling plastics to start his business. “The owner of a plastic furniture company is one of the people who inspires me. He has mentored and supported me and been instrumental in helping my business to grow,” he noted.
Diphofa said he started the business without any financial backing. However, to keep the business afloat, he would request a deposit at the start of every project or use his personal savings to get started.
The business started by supplying only his local municipality (Ekhurhuleni municipality area) with recycled plastic furniture. “Although business was slow in those first few months, there was progress and growth,” said the South African entrepreneur, who operates his business from his home in Katlehong.
He subsequently partnered with Sani-touch and Shoprite and can now supply to other municipalities and provinces.
In April this year, Shoprite announced that it was donating an eco-friendly jungle gym made from recycled wipes collected from its supermarkets to the Qedusizi Day Care Centre in Brakpan. The jungle gym was manufactured by Diphofa.
“This innovative initiative is a wonderful example of how recycling has the power to breathe new life into old things and help protect our environment. While it significantly reduces waste it facilitates a circular economy by using recycled single-use wipes to create durable and reusable jungle gyms, benches and other outdoor furniture,” Sanjeev Raghubir, Sustainability Manager for the Shoprite Group, said.
Diphofa believes his company is making strides because it is a one-of-a-kind business in South Africa.
“I am the only business making outdoor furniture out of recycled material in my community, this makes my business unique,” he said.
After two years of operating, the young entrepreneur wants to expand his business to target game resorts, golf courses, schools, hospitals, malls and private homes. In addition, he wants to hire some 20 people as part of his expansion plan.