Case Studies

Arsala, Enterprise Challenge

6th June 2023

At just 16, Arsala is already a prize-winning entrepreneur. She and her teammates won last year’s Enterprise Challenge Pakistan with the idea of replacing plastic crockery with eco-friendly coconut shell bowls. They’re now preparing to launch their business, Coco Katora, in real life.

Katora means ‘bowl’ in Urdu, and as she shows off the prototypes, Arsala describes how they eliminate waste and pollution at both ends of the production line.  ‘Plastic waste ends up in landfills or seas where it harms marine life,’ Arsala explains, ‘And when local vendors sell coconut products, they usually discard or burn the shells. Our bowls reduce waste and pollution at both ends.’

The girls plan to source waste coconut shells, clean and sand them, and then sell them on. They hope to start by replacing the plastic bowls in their own school canteen, before also targeting other schools, urban food festivals and street food vendors who sell their wares in single-use plastic containers.

A prize-winning pitch

Enterprise Challenge Pakistan is a joint initiative from Prince’s Trust International and SEED Ventures. The programme enables school students to learn practical business skills through coaching, mentoring and an online business simulation game.

As part of the programme, teams of teenagers design and develop their own business idea, focusing on enterprises with a positive environmental and social impact, as well as profit-making potential. Teams pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, in the largest inter-school business competition in the country.

In March 2022, Arsala’s team were crowned the winners of this year’s competition. ‘We were truly stunned,’ remembers Arsala, ‘We were so excited that we started screaming!’

As they move on from school to college, Arsala and her teammates plan to develop their business alongside their studies, using their £1,500 prize money to get started. Arsala will manage the finances, having been her team’s financial officer throughout the programme.

‘I did the financial modelling, and I learned a lot along the way,’ she recalls. ‘We’ll use the prize money buy the shells, the sandpaper and cleaning agents, and we’ll need to allow for marketing and transport costs too. Once we start generating revenue, we can use that money to scale up.’

A launchpad for ideas

As Arsala and her teammates start turning their idea into reality, they are also keen to move beyond just bowls. ‘We want to design forks and spoons, and start using banana leaves too,’ she says. ‘Eventually we want to explore the possibility of edible cutlery.’

When Arsala leaves school, she hopes to study commerce and maths, on her way to becoming a businesswoman – ideally at the helm of Coco Katora. She explains that, by supporting young people to develop environmentally-friendly entrepreneurial ideas, Enterprise Challenge Pakistan also helps reduce the waste of another precious resource – creativity. Just as she and her teammates sand, clean and polish their products, so the programme’s expert business mentors help young people to refine and enhance their raw ideas, and present them in public.

‘Young people have hundreds of good ideas, they just need polishing,’ she explains. ‘They have good ideas but no platform to present their ideas, so they often just get wasted. I’d encourage young people to take part in programmes like this and bring their ideas forward, because there’s so much talent here.’

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