Social enterprise crowd funds for Micronesian project

Social impact entrepreneurship is reaching some of the remotest locations on earth.

John Abraham couching a sheet of banana paper.
John Abraham couching a sheet of banana paper.

In recent years, social entrepreneurs, many times expat travellers living and working far away from their home countries, have been partnering with skilled local people, turning their exotic wares into opportunities for growth and improved livelihoods for the communities they work in.

Harnessing the power of the internet to build these local businesses, these entrepreneurs who are committed to social equity and ecological sustainability, often use web-based crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter to get like-minded people to invest, regardless of their geographic location.

One such company, Green Banana Paper, is trying to make a difference by using an unlikely material–banana plants–to make a range of products. The company is in Kosrae, Micronesia, one of the most remote islands in the world. With a population of just 6000, most people work for the Government or as subsistence farmers. Sustainable economic development is severely lacking, with very few job opportunities in the private sector. Green Banana Paper is making an important contribution to Kosrae’s struggling local economy. It aims to break the cycle of a welfare nation dependent on foreign aid by connecting with the world on the Internet.

A travel wallet is one of the popular products made at the workshop.
Travel wallets are among the popular products made at the workshop.

The company was founded by Matt Simpson, a 31-year-old who moved to Micronesia nine years ago, as a volunteer with World Teach, a global organisation placing young adults in schools around the world to support education in developing countries. After several years with the organisation, Matt learned that many of his students had to leave their island home to work basic jobs in the United States, working in fast food chains or retail stores. Matt had fallen in love with the lifestyle on Kosrae and decided to start a business to help provide on-island opportunities for young people who wanted to stay.

Through years of R&D, Matt and his team have developed an ethical and sustainable process involving an array of ancient and modern techniques and equipment. Their supply chain includes more than 75 local farmers and currently employs 18 fulltime staff, with the potential to support at least 15 more. The social impact is a central part of their overarching mission.

Green Banana Paper epitomises social enterprise ideals and demonstrates how research and development of new products for the Western market can promote solutions for global issues, including targeting positive economic development within countries like Micronesia. The wallets are designed and made in Kosrae, and are as durable and functional as they are stunningly natural and gorgeous. The paper is also available for sale on their website.

Learn more at www.greenbananapaper.com. Links to their crowd funding campaign are on their homepage. The funds raised are to be used to hire more people and help improve their production and design.

Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Australia is proud to be supporting this initiative and raising the awareness of this Pacific innovation.

For more information, email Cath Cooksley-Little, Communication and Marketing Manager at cath@pacifictradeinvest.com

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