Chioma Ukonu shines in Los Angeles


Nigeria’s Chioma Ukonu, COO of RecyclePoints, an incentive based recycling scheme has emerged as the first runner-up at The Chivas Venture competition, which took place in Los Angeles last week, after a high staked pitch in front of a high profile panel including Oscar-winning actress, philanthropist and businesswoman, Halle Berry. 

Chief Operations Officer At RecyclePoints Talks About Her New Venture And Journey Into Winning The Chivas Venture Competition

The Chivas Venture, the brand’s global search for the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs, rewarded all five finalists the remaining share of the $1m fund at the final pitch event on Thursday evening.

The announcement came after the five finalists pitched the potential of their start-up to create transformative social change to an expert, judging panel that included the Chairman of Pernod Ricard, Alex Ricard. Peetachai Dejkraisak of Siam Organic was awarded the largest share of the fund, receiving $400,000 for his venture whilst Nigeria’s own Chioma Ukonu was awarded $200,000 to scale her venture.

Recycle Points is a waste recycling and social benefit venture that operates an incentive-based scheme which collects recyclable materials from individuals and rewards them with ‘points’, which they can accumulate and redeem for cash or other useful items offered through their ‘i-Recycle Store’.

Recycle Points employ young ‘wastebusters’ to ride electric tricycles to collect these recyclable waste from door to door and employ unemployed women in the community to process these items and then sell off to recycling plants to use as raw materials for new products.

The motivation behind the operations of the Recycle Points is first to solve the perennial problem improper waste management poses to the environment.

“I can say the Problem solving came first, then the business followed,” Chioma said in an interview.

“It actually started as a Personal Social responsibility/hubby born out of the desire to replicate what I observed in the western world during family vacation, where it was compulsory to segregate your waste right from your home.

“On our return to Nigeria, my family started waste segregation and equally started preaching the message in our neighbourhood. Then came the massive response such that the space we had both in our compound and opposite couldn’t contain the items, so we found a land space to accommodate the waste which was increasing on daily basis. We also noticed that our community was getting cleaner by the day as everyone knew that they could get valuable household items just by submitting their recyclable waste to RecyclePoints. Then we did a research and got in touch with manufacturing/Recycling plants that could buy off the aggregated/sorted waste from us as their raw material.

Chioma was not the only  star of the night. Other finalists to come away with funding on the night included Bioestibas ($50,000) from Colombia, a company that produces ecological stowage made with flower waste, that would normally be polluting the environment; I-Drop Water ($50,000) from South Africa who install purification and dispensing units at the point of sale and Intendu ($50,000) from Israel who have developed a video game platform specifically designed for brain training.

The games involve dynamic scenarios and body movement that mirror real life, and features technology that adapts in real-time to the user’s needs. The Venture – which saw more than a thousand social entrepreneurs apply for $1 million in funding – culminated at The Final Pitch event at the Los Angeles Design Centre in front of a large audience. The evening was hosted by Frozen Actor, Josh Gad who applauded all five of the social entrepreneurs who pitched for their commitment to using business as a force for good.

The Final Pitch event was attended by a range of high profile entrepreneurs and movie stars including Academy Award Winner, Javier Bardem and Hollywood Actor, Don Cheadle, both of who have starred in Chivas Regal’s Win The Right Way film, which helped launch The Venture by issuing a challenge to aspiring social entrepreneurs and the world at large to reframe their meaning of success.

The judging panel which included Adam Braun, Sonal Shah, Alex Ricard and Halle Berry, assessed each business based on their ability to create sustainable change through a viable business model and potential to scale.

Talking about her win, Chioma Ukonu said, “I am extremely thankful and grateful for this opportunity and the support of the Chivas team in Nigeria, the public for their efforts in securing me the additional funds. When we entered this competition, our dream was to win enough in funding to roll out this business model in other parts of Nigeria and with this funding, we are able to do just that quicker.”

Since it started operations, Recycle Points has been able to record some eco-friendly achievements including the introduction of over ten electric tricycles to better our logistics and reduce our carbon foot print; completion and launch of RecyclePoints mobile App for waste collection and increase the volume of waste collected as against last year’s collection.

Regardless, she still has a stellar your vision for the future of Recycle Points, that is to “grow RecyclePoints into a very significant and relevant brand, a household name in our country; with a presence in all the states and major cities of Nigeria and ready to expand operations into other African countries.”

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