Plants on a Plate
I am Claudia Isabel Barona, an industrial engineer. I worked for several multinational companies after leaving university – but they kept downsizing because of Colombia’s economy. In the last two companies, I had important roles, but when these companies made the decision to restructure, this didn’t matter. They just fired people and I ran out of work twice.
This was why, eight years ago, I decided to start my own business, Provokame. I thought; if I'm going to work hard, it will be for my own self, the future of my family and the community. I decided to work with women because we women are entrepreneurs, managers, workers, fighters and we don’t rest until we reach our goal.
My company manufactures and markets special biodegradable plates processed from natural fibres and used paper. They contain seeds, so after the plates are thrown away they germinate into a whole variety of plants. These plates are amazing. Covered with just a thin layer of earth they will produce, in less than three weeks, plants, fruits, trees, shrubs or vegetables. Not something that you can do with plastic or styrofoam. We put seeds in our plates that will germinate in the countries where they are marketed. Our products have a positive environmental impact because the plants grown from our plates convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
This product has generated jobs for more than 80 single mothers, who put the seeds in the plates using a special process that we’re hoping to patent. We aim to employ twice as many women next year. These days I am a mother of a four-year-old girl and I understand much better everything a mother has to go through to provide for her children. I'm happy to work with women who are heads of households. They work hard and they give their families emotional stability.
We work with the company Papelyco, founded by Andres Benavides, which are wholesale suppliers of beautiful paper. Together we are called LifePack. Papelyco have experience in green product innovation; they also make products from natural fibres which they get from groups of pineapple growers in the region.
Like them, we’ve studied hard about innovating green products and in 2009 we won an Open Future award from the Bavaria Foundation which supports entrepreneurs in Colombia. This meant that we could launch our special biodegradable plates.
We also work with government body PROEXPORT-COLOMBIA, which helps entrepreneurs hoping to export their goods, to market our plates in the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe. I met potential buyers in Chicago, Frankfurt and Paris and we hope to start exporting there before this autumn.
Provokame is the 2013 SEED Award Gender Equality Winner. The company provides flexible work and business management skills to female heads of households while raising awareness about sustainable waste management in local communities.