Matimba won Studentpreneur of the Year at the 2022 EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity for his company, LolaGreen.
LolaGreen uses plastic waste to produce construction products, such as eco-friendly, durable and fire-resistant bricks. These bricks are sustainably made and affordable to buy, but what makes LolaGreen award-winning, is the driving force behind it – Matimba’s passion for sustainability and the environment.
What led you to start LolaGreen?
There’s a growing demand for sustainable construction products. I grew up seeing my father build many nice houses for people. I studied chemical engineering and am currently completing my MSc in the same field (both through UCT). Throughout my studies, I grew a passion for sustainability – so now, going back home, I could not help but start to experiment with ways to make my father’s job relevant for the future; regarding both the craft and materials. Our bricks are 20-25% lighter than conventional bricks, which helps with ergonomics to an extent.
What have been some of the highlights of LolaGreen?
We made our first sample in January 2022. Based on our previous experiences in Entrepreneurship, we decided to not do this behind closed doors, but rather to be vocal from the word “go”. To our surprise, there were many incubation hubs available to help curate our business endeavours. We’ve won the UCT Pitch 2022, EDHE Studentpreneur of the Year 2022 and a few other prizes.
How difficult is the technical process of converting plastic into building materials?
The first few attempts didn’t give the desired product. We kept on trying until we synthesised a brick that ticked most of the required boxes. This is where I applied most of the skills obtained from my MSc experimental work – to experiment and prove a case under given parameters. We had our breakthrough and were confident enough in going to meet as many people as possible and showcasing our product to them. The biggest lesson we’ve learnt is not to go through this process alone; it’s important to keep the end-user in mind.
How open is the local building industry to using sustainable building materials?
There are already eco-estate developers, for instance. We perceive this segment of the market to be our early adopters, based on their feedback to us. They are already geared towards switching to green and sustainable construction products. There’s usually less resistance when interacting with them, as opposed to those building the old, traditional way. We plan to cement ourselves on the low- hanging fruit, and then grow from there.
What advice can you give to students and graduates wanting to start a business?
- Don’t file your business or idea under the bed, talk about it to almost everybody. No one is going to steal your idea (for things relating to IP, you may hold some details back – talk about things without revealing the details).
- Dedicate some time to learn about a business model – there are a million incubation hubs waiting to assist on this.
- Have a reliable team. It’s impractical to be the CEO, Marketing Director, Financial Manager and HR, all as one person.
How do you juggle studying with your work as an entrepreneur?
It has not been easy studying and doing entrepreneurship. My supervisors were instrumental in my business venture. To them, I was a human being before a student, which went a long way. On my end, I make sure to be strict with my time; so, for the moment, I’ve cut out on many leisure activities – I am happy and content with my decisions regarding this.