By: Kieran Khan | September 3rd, 2019
Vandana Mangroo – HELLO GREEN
Vandana Mangroo never set out to build a business. Instead, this dynamic, young entrepreneur was looking at a way to improve the environment around her, having grown up in south Trinidad with a love for the outdoors. With thousands of single-use plastic and food containers improperly disposed of daily in T&T, she sought out Vegware products as a viable alternative to traditional food packaging and has since made immense strides.
“While both my parents are business founders and owners, I thought I knew what it took to start a business until I decided to start my own,” she pointed out. Her company, Hello Green was started with the expressed intention of being the official distributor for Vegware in the Caribbean. The international manufacturer of certified compostable food packaging made from plants such as corn and sugar cane. With the experience gained from her educational background in entrepreneurship studies at Ryerson University, Toronto and her time spent in her family business, Hello Green would soon amass major regional clients spanning the archipelago.
Still, for her, business was a means to an end and not the end goal in itself. “Vegware products are far superior to many other options on the local market – some of which have less stringent production standards. The Vegware products, which we have tested can decompose by composting in as little as 12 weeks into a nutrient-dense soil that seeds can then be germinated in,” she noted. “And even though we are the official distributors for the brand, we always advocate for people to opt for reusables where possible – that is, to take their containers when they go to purchase their daily lunches or food purchases.”
The entrepreneur has also been involved in advocacy to change the environmental impact of our daily consumption. “In 2016, we visited various Ministries and SWMCOL to share the product options now available internationally with them. We started to look at the pathway to reduced duties on this type of packaging to increase the uptake by local food businesses. There wasn’t and still isn’t any import code of eco-friendly packaging. We have been the only company involved in the moves to get two things done: firstly, to remove duties on these friendlier packaging options and secondly to ban the other hazardous product options as some other Caribbean islands have begun to do,” Mangroo highlighted. “We have also begun to invest in other areas and are working on projects with local scientists to see how we can create a closed-loop system – that is, to manufacture new products for use from recycled waste and dispose of them properly.”
The social entrepreneur best represents the new wave of conscious business that is engaging the millennial and generation Z minds across T&T. “I wanted my love for business and nature to be married, and this was the way that I saw as the best way to achieve it. On this journey, I have had all the challenges one can expect. We started off selling our products door to door and then experienced a flood of competition in the space. At the start of the 2018, my mother passed away, but we got by as a family and as a company, because we truly believe in the goals we have set. That is what my mother would have wanted us to do.” For Mangroo, who is close to completing her Master’s degree, her next steps are to transition the business from the SME category to that of an established business and recognised brand.
Hello Green was awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year In the Start-Up Category in 2018.