ESUP Heroes – Efe Oguegbu

As part of our commitment to fighting plastic pollution in Nigeria and creating more awareness about eco-friendly alternatives, we decided to highlight Nigerians who are in their own way lending their voice and their platform for social change. Today we speak with Efe Oguegbu, co-founder of The Paper Packaging Company. As the name implies, the Paper packaging company is a Nigerian company that provides an eco-friendly alternative that shifts away from the commonly used plastic packaging. Efe runs the company with her husband and co-founder Chidi Oguegbu, together they are making a positive impact in our environment. Enjoy our interview with them.

Efe Oguegbu. Co-founder, The Paper Packaging Company

Tell us about the paper packaging company and how it all began?

The Paper Packaging Company (TPPC) was previously known as The Paper Cup Factory. At the time, paper cups (branded and plain) were the only products we offered which was birthed out of my partners trip to China and seeing paper cups at all the offices he visited. He spotted an opportunity and after our research we dived in head on.

As time went by, we began to see first hand the effects of single-use plastics on our environment and health and coupled with our customer’s demands, we expanded our product offerings to include other eco-friendly food packaging and here we are today 4 years after.

What were some of the challenges you encountered at the start?

Getting people’s buy in because the concept of paper cups and paper packaging was entirely new around here. People thought that it will get soaked. We had to educate people a lot on the functionality of our products as well as price points.

How did moving to Lagos impact your business?

Moving to Lagos was a strategic business decision for us after our data revealed that most of our clients were actually located in Lagos. We also had the opportunity to exhibit at major exhibitions that really gave a break and access to a good cliental base.

This move helped us to significantly reduce logistics costs for our customers and created more repeat orders rather than having our clients default back to plastics.

So in terms of impact, we consider moving to Lagos a smart move because it has helped us reach a bigger audience and positively influence our environment.

What is it like running a business with your spouse?

Chidi Oguegbu. Co-Founder, The Paper Packaging Company

Lol! I get this all the time because apparently, as I have come to figure out, most people cannot come to terms with working with their spouses because there is a valid need to be in an individual space doing something different and just breathing fresh air lol.

So I will say it is interesting because we get to connect in all areas of our lives.

As they say, your business is your baby or your family, it’s very important it has a father and a mother.  Don’t think it’s all rosy all the time, sometimes we have conflict of ideas but we deal with it by having other members on the management team.

Chidi and I both have different skill sets, competences and experiences which allows us to be individualistic in our roles as co-founders bringing in our unique expertise to our work in our individual spaces. However, we don’t depend on our abilities to handle a couple brand/business which is why we have set boundaries, checks and balances in line with corporate governance that ensures we stay focused on the target.

What is most interesting is that we both get to achieve a unified goal and that, we love.

How receptive is the Nigerian market to your business?

This is really relative because whilst people might love the products and want to save the environment from the adverse effects of single-use plastics, they also need to consider the cost to them in terms of price points and their bottom line.

I believe that the Nigerian market being receptive must cut across;

People-the positive effect on the lives of humans

Planet- the reduction of environmental pollution

Profit- pricing that enables clients purchase the products without a dent to their bottom line.

Only at this point would there be a perfect match which is why we are working tirelessly to ensure that our pricing is very competitive with the plastics and speaking with stakeholders to see that our paper mills are working which will largely reduce the cost of the products to customers.

In terms of pricing, we are competing head on with plastic products for a good number of our products which is why we are the most sort after eco-friendly packaging company in West Africa.

Why is your business important to the environment?

The Paper Packaging Company has replaced plastic packaging with over 6million eco-friendly biodegradable alternative packaging which has in turn reduced the plastics clogging our drainages causing flooding and creating a breeding site for mosquitoes.

We are critical to creating a sustainable environment for ourselves and for our children.

We are also focused on educating people about the adverse effects of single use plastics on our environment thereby creating a lifestyle change that will impact on the environment positively.

How environmentally-conscious are Nigerians?

We certainly are not where we want to be yet and getting there will require a consolidated effort of all stakeholders to carry out educational campaigns and advocacy to create awareness and the consciousness we desire.

I must say a big thank you to your organization for being a voice to bring about the change.

I also reckon that the government is not doing enough to sensitize people about this problem and also setting up programs to support business and NGOs doing this and to encourage more stakeholders to do same.

How easy is it to rid our country of single-use plastic?

It is as easy as having the right infrastructure and partnerships in place that ensures that the packaging industry is ready to effectively produce and distribute eco-friendly alternatives at the lowest price points across the nation.

What are some helpful hacks to substitute single use plastic in our day to day activities?

Simple and ready to go:

  1. Ditch the plastic straw and drink out of your cup or bottle.
  2. Rather than buying a pack of bottled water, buy a refill dispenser bottle for your home/office. Exchange it each time you need a refill.
  3. Tote bags are way cuter than nylon bags anyways……can we ditch them already?
  4. Contrary to popular opinion, metal cutlery don’t break your teeth. Have some stationed at work so you are not stuck with plastic cutlery.
  5. Grocery shops are very generous with nylons bags, CAUTION THEM, and if you must take, ensure it is fully optimized in its use.

What are some of the eco-friendly changes you will like to see in Nigeria?

I would like to see a ban on single-use plastics. I would also like to see more car pooling and mass public transportation to reduce individual carbon emissions.

What is the future for the paper packaging company?

Number 1 eco-friendly Packaging Company in Africa

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