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  • GRADE A+, Upcycling Sheep’s Wool Blankets

GRADE A+, Upcycling Sheep’s Wool Blankets

Feb 13 2023


GRADE A+

, they discovered that sheep’s wool is breathable, soft, elastic, and hypoallergenic. Therefore, they decided to adopt upcycling sheep’s wool blankets as their business.

The project of founder Jocelyne Saade and her team began in June 2021 by collecting sheep’s wool and treating it in industrial machines. The use of a quilting machine assisted them in producing 50 blankets per day, in different dimensions and weights. Unlike the traditional ones, the upcycled sheep’s wool blankets can be cleaned in a washing machine, are fire resistant, heatproof, and can control humidity. The successful experiments mentioned above have led them to produce the roll insulation used in construction. 

Q: What do you exactly do? Why did you decide to work on this solution, and how did you get started?   • A: Seeing that a part of our heritage is keeping up with the suffering of farmers in the matter of their limited income and after seeing the yearly burning of 2,500 tons of sheep wool, we conducted research and found that sheep wool would be a raw material for tens of different products that can introduce us to different sectors: furniture, construction, clothing, and agriculture. During our first year of operation, we began collecting the wool that was thrown in the mountains and fields, for which we compensated the shepherds. Here the adventure of discovering this treasure began, and we started upcycling!

Q: How does your product work?   • A: We wash the sheep’s wool collected from the shepherd just by using water and without introducing any synthetic material. After collecting the sheep’s wool from the shepherd, we washed it with water and used no synthetic material. We did several experiments to choose the appropriate cotton fabric for our work so that we move away from the polyester materials in cloth, even if in small quantities. Thanks to Abou Walid, a shepherd who provides us with his sheep’s wool, we can produce 220 blankets or insulate 25 tents.

Q: What makes your solution special or unique?   • A: We considered our role to be essential in solving these problems and returning wool to the market, but this time in an industrial way. Traditional blankets made from sheep’s wool disappeared from our market because they weren’t practical for our lifestyle. It requires cleaning, an operation that takes 2 days, and is very heavy, with a range of 6–10 kg. We improved the traditional blankets; ours are 2 kg lighter, suitable for modern tastes, and could be cleaned in a washing machine in 15 minutes.

Q: Who is benefitting from your solution?   • A: As sheep’s wool is both thermally insulated and fire retardant, we can use it as insulation in construction. We were able to turn the sheep’s wool into an easy-to-install roll. We were able to reduce the inside temperature of a tent by 8 °C in the spring. The results from a certified laboratory justify these characteristics that apply to our product and are later shared with wholesalers and trading companies.

Q: Why is your solution important to you?   • A: My team and I are in the research and development phase of a third product, a nutrient-rich pelleted fertilizer used for plant growth in agriculture. It could save 25% of the water used in irrigation. Briefly, we will be able to save sheep’s wool from burning in nature and polluting the environment by upcycling it to produce blankets, roll insulation, pellet fertilizers, and many other eco-friendly products. 

Q: How is your solution relevant to your sector?  • A: To compare our blankets to what is available in the Lebanese market, ours have higher quality and a more competitive price. We started doing laboratory tests for our sheep’s wool, and we discovered that it has a thermal conductivity of 0.035 W/m.K, the same as the fiberglass insulation that is imported and the most commonly used for insulation. Adding to that, it has many characteristics that give it an advantage over fiberglass and rock wool, including hypoallergenicity, humidity regulation, air purification, sound insulation, and fire protection. 

Q: How is your solution relevant to Lebanon?  •  A: We notice that the Lebanese market is full of Dacron products, which they consider a refuge for rest and sleep, but it is made up of chemicals that are highly toxic to our health. We were able to save 30 tons during these 2 years, and we are aiming to save 2,500 tons of sheep’s wool annually. After being sufficient for the local market, we will be able to export it, empowering the Lebanese economy as in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Russia, and other countries.

Q: Why did you apply to the program? What were you hoping to achieve when you applied to it?   • A: An idea can become a start-up, but a lot of startups failed to become a business, because of their weakness in experience. We chose the short way, and instead of repeating the mistakes of others, we decided to learn business essentials by applying to the GIMED program. We are very careful in every step because we have learned the keys of business and are surrounded by expertise.   

Q: What did you benefit from the most through Berytech’s program?  •  A: The most valuable skill learned in this program is the one that you can’t hire anyone to do: eco-design. No one will know the workflow and how to improve employee behavior better than the entrepreneur. We learned how financial numbers could lead us to read the real present and predict the future of the company. In the group sessions, our shortcomings were illuminated, and in the one-on-one sessions, the experts filled in the blanks. 

Q: What are your key success factors?  •  A: We were able to recognize that we reached the breakeven points because of the financial study conducted during the sessions, which gave us the motivation to keep going. 

Q: If you had to choose one achievement to highlight, what would it be and what lessons did you learn from it?  •  A: What I’ll never forget is telling a shepherd in the Aaqora area that we’d like to buy sheep wool from him because we’ll need it for our production. He was surprised and kept asking, “You want the sheep’s wool? I threw it away. Why do you need it if nobody is using it?” His questions made me think that even the shepherds forget the utility of this wool, so why should I wonder about everyone else? The biggest achievement we made was to restore the utility and value of an eco-friendly traditional product and let the shepherds get a new income. 

Q: What are the main challenges that you have faced so far?   • A: The challenges that we faced are: 

Difficulty in finding a technical consultant in the field.  

Customizable machines that can’t be produced in Lebanon, due to the lack of industry.  

Since there is no electricity generated by the government, we bought our own generator. Last year, we struggled to find fuel for our generator, and lately, we installed a Photovoltaic system to minimize fuel consumption.  

All the tests required for the insulation cannot be performed in Lebanese laboratories; as a result, we had to use an international lab, which is costly. 

We are in the incubation phase of the GIMED program as we were one of the four winners in the GIMED program 2022, we will work on the plan and from the remaining prize of the WeMed Award we will be able to launch our social media pages.  

Q: How did you overcome these challenges?   •  A: Successfully overcoming these challenges made us believe that, as a powerful team, we are on the right track, and we can get a signage of “Grade A Plus” for all this success, which will give us a boost of motivation to keep going. Last November, during the GIMED program, we were invited to the Ecomondo exhibition in Rimini, Italy, where we met big manufacturers who would later assist us once we had the right funding to proceed. Being the winner of the 2 prize in the Southern Mediterranean countries category in the WeMed Award 2022 has helped us afford the consulting and testing we needed. 

Q: What is one thing you would have done differently throughout your journey?   •  A: We believe that every step we took was the right one, even after we knew that we were wrong! It became an experience for us, and we learned the know-how from it. This is why we can’t specify anything that we preferred to do in a different way through our journey because everything was the reason for our progress. 

Q: Have you ever thought of giving up on your venture? If yes, what made you pull through?   •  A: If a business is easy to do, everyone can do it! This is what can strengthen us to face challenges. The Grade A Plus team is doing a lot of things during the trial-and-error process, which took a lot of time. 

Q: What are your long-term goals as a startup?   •  A: As a startup, our goal is to launch our products in the market the right way, and our long-term goal is to export our products to support the Lebanese economy. We will always struggle to reach our goals, but we will have the choice to continue or resign. 

Q: What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is starting out in your industry?   •  A: Our choice is to join our forces to continue by holding the fear of failure which will warn us of falling but not to retreat because we believe in our business. 

Berytech is the official partner of The Green Impact MED Project – Positive Investments for Positive Impacts (GIMED), an EU-funded project under the ENI-CBC Med Programme aiming at supporting green entrepreneurs to better access finance and market in the Mediterranean. The project provides training, coaching sessions, capacity building workshops, and sub-grants to consolidate green business creation and green business development. Learn more about the GIMED Project





Topics

Tags: Upcycling
Source: Berytech