Finalist, Young Entrepreneur of the Year
“We felt the urge to protect our children and the whole community from urban garbage aggression.”
Wanting to create a profitable business dedicated to solving one of Russia’s pressing environmental issues, Igor established Karton Chernozemie – a growing waste management company that recycles many tonnes of waste each year and is changing people’s opinions on the value of recycling.
For Igor Zaboev and his business partner Petr Boikov in Voronezh, southern Russia, tackling the national problem of waste disposal is a top priority. This is not least because Russia is a country where waste is generally burned and where there is no standard approach to waste separate collection and recycling.
Their company, Karton Chernozemie, collects and sorts solid household wastes (paper, cardboard, plastic etc.) that they then mold into bricks, and send to plants for processing and the ultimate production of recyclable materials.
The company is currently recycling 1,000 tonnes of paper and 45 tonnes of plastic waste per month, supplies recyclable materials to Ukraine and deals with more than 400 customers.
Igor and his business partner have seen a huge turnover that is only projected to increase, but the company does not stray from its initial focus – making the world a cleaner place.
“Making money while solving environmental issues – what could be better? That was our main motive and inspiration.”
Igor faced many challenges when attempting to start his company. He could not finalize the warehouse agreement, and was denied a bank loan because of insufficient experience. He also bought a truck for garbage removal at his own cost, but plants only received waste in the form of pressed bricks, to which he was lacking the necessary equipment.
Youth Business Russia, a member of Youth Business International, linked Igor with his mentor Yuri Segal, who helped him enter new sales markets, sign profitable contracts with manufacturers of recyclable materials, and develop new lines of business. These decisions eventually led to the creation of Karton Chernozemie where he teamed up with his current business partner and co-founder of the company, Petr. Yuri also provided assistance in overcoming administrative barriers, obtaining a loan from Sberbank, and advice for a social entrepreneur competition that he ended up winning.
To achieve the goal of a shift in perspective in regards to discarding waste, Karton Chernozemie operates with small shops, the public and with local administration boards, attempting to change the common approach to the issue of waste.
In order to further raise awareness, Igor and Petr established a non-profit partnership called the Association of the Chernozemie Waste Recyclers, to combine the efforts of various regional enterprises engaged in handling waste in order to influence alterations in the regulation surrounding waste recycling, as well as to raise environmental awareness in Russian society.
“We were the first to properly analyse the issue of the public approach to garbage. The vast majority believed that waste is something unnecessary, the dirt to be disposed of. We revised this concept and attached an absolutely opposite meaning to the notion, stating it in the positive sense.”
In June they launched an innovative Russian-Finnish joint venture that will manufacture subsurface containers to collect encapsulated waste in residential areas. Additionally, they are launching three other ventures including opening a call centre for the blind in order to create more jobs for visually impaired citizens.
Their business also indirectly creates jobs by partnering with company suppliers such as cardboard, plastics and polyethylene gatherers. Currently there are over 20 suppliers of this kind in various Russian regions, each employing approximately 10 people.
Today, Igor and Petr often attend the Young Entrepreneurs’ Club where they share his experiences and success story with young people who are thinking of opening their own businesses. Igor, as well as Petr, says he is ready to become mentor to one of these young entrepreneurs, because thanks to his own experiences, he realizes the value and the importance of any help he can provide.
Igor’s achievements will be celebrated in March 2015 at the final of YBI’s Young Entrepreneur Awards, supported by Barclays. This year, the Awards will be held in the United Arab Emirates as part of an Entrepreneur Roadshow.