Innovative school products

Startup Dunedin’s Audacious programme highlights University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic students initiating innovative business ideas. This week, reporter Simon Henderson speaks to company founder Olivia Marshall who takes a global approach to consumer goods.

In greek mythology Atlas carries the sky on his shoulders.

Parents can sometimes feel they bear the weight of the world as they manage not only the pressures of parenthood but also the aims of environmentalism.

Finding a balance between essential items for school children and shopping in a globally responsible way can seem impossible.

That is why founder of Atlas and Sage Olivia Marshall aims to develop a brand of products that are durable yet kinder on the planet.

She has just completed a Master of Entrepreneurship at the University of Otago and is also a dive instructor.

"I’ve just loved the ocean and the environment my whole life."

Caring for the planet is at the heart of Olivia Marshall’s entrepreneurship. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Caring for the planet is at the heart of Olivia Marshall’s entrepreneurship. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON

Her values on sustainability led her to be a dive instructor and also inspired her desire to develop a business that had concern for the environment from the outset.

During her studies she considered the problem of parents who cared about the future of the planet but also needed to find items for their school-aged children.

She felt there was a gap in the market for children’s sustainable school products.

The first product she plans to develop is a backpack that can grow with the child.

It would be constructed from waterproof hemp which grew fast, requiring less water to grow, it was durable and could be recycled, Miss Marshall said.

"My hope would be that one backpack would last the six years of primary school."

This could replace on average three backpacks going into landfill, she said.

Backpacks could be personalised with a range of themed patches.

Children could choose patches that related to their own interests, including marine life or slogans about the planet.

As well as providing a way to personalise the backpacks the child would also receive digital information about environmental topics related to the patch.

"So it’s reducing waste, because it’s not pamphlets and things that get thrown out."

The patches could be used to repair any rips or holes in the backpack and over time the backpack would have a history unique to the wearer.

At the end of its life Atlas and Sage would offer a take-back scheme.

" They can send it back for free."

The bags could then be repurposed in the manufacturing process to make new patches or as material for other items.

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