In a year of economic and social disruption, small businesses have had to find innovative solutions to maintain a foothold in the market.
For the Amanzimtoti-based innovators from Lavaplastic™, the guidance and practical solutions provided by business coaching specialists, ActionCOACH, have proven invaluable in forging ahead into unknown territory.
Established in 2010 by Keith Walters and, Gavin Paulsen, Lavaplastic™ specialises in designing and manufacturing quality furniture items and other outdoor products using 100% recycled post-industrial/ post-production line plastic.
Lavaplastic™ has its origins in a process called “toll converting” – pelletizing industrial customers’ post-production line plastic and selling it back to them. Never content with the “easy-road”, the business partners began searching for unique, creative ways to add value to the recyclable waste plastic material. They started investigating suitable product and application ideas.
Solving a waste challenge
Whilst solving a customers’ accumulating PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) post-production waste challenge, Walters developed a style of woven plastic fencing. It was originally intended for use in coastal dune rehabilitation. This fencing appealed to the domestic fencing market too! R&D into cost-effective alternative fencing designs ensued. It is exciting to report that the Lavaplastic™ fencing style has recently been relaunched as a woven slat fence, incorporating Lavaplastic™ recycled plastic planks. This has proven to be a fast-moving product.
During the trialling of fencing ideas, Lavaplastic™ processes expanded to include the manufacture of a variety of plank and pole profiles. These were rapidly converted into environmentally sustainable, attractive recycled plastic furniture. With the Prestige Picnic Set as a current ‘best seller’, the extensive range of Lavaplastic™ products spans benches, Adirondack chairs, pool loungers, decking, balustrading, jungle gyms, trellises and even beehives.
Block boards gaining popularity
In the commercial sector, Lavaplastic™ block boards are gaining popularity, replacing the traditionally-used wooden, laminated or fibre-composite boards used during the production and manufacture of bricks.
Commenting on their massive business success, and many awards, Walters, confessed ‘serial entrepreneur’ and founder of Lavaplastic™ explains, “I am a conservationist by qualification, and my business partner is a motor mechanic! Neither of us has been formally educated in running a small business. While it seems to come naturally to me, having a mentor to discuss business challenges with, and bounce strategy and ideas off, is invaluable”.
Gary Brummer, ActionCOACH business coach, commenting on his involvement with Lavaplastic™ said: “When a client decides to engage an ActionCOACH Business Coach, they are committing to the future health and prosperity of their business, by agreeing to ‘learn’ more about business and reap the rewards.
Entrepreneurship is a lonely road
Walters stated, “Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road. It has been great to have the involvement of an experienced professional from ActionCOACH, to advise and guide us in a structured way. Using the ActionCOACH framework we will improve our business performance with practical, results-driven strategies.”
Lavaplastic™ currently uses 40 000kg of waste per month.
The community and the environmentally-driven organisation continues to make a positive impact across several sectors. In terms of repurposing waste, Lavaplastic™ currently processes around 40 000kg of plastic waste a month. They’re also involved in many community projects, recently manufacturing 100 school desks from 100% recycled plastic as part of a Polyco (Polyolefin Responsibility Organisation NPC) initiative.
“I am always on the lookout for new business opportunities and gaps in the market,” continued Walters. “As any creator knows, research and development take time and financial investment – I have so many ideas for our recycled plastic products that will replace traditional materials and I am steadily developing and introducing them to market!”
Caption: Lavaplastic fencing and lounger add value to this home.