Meet the Maker
Meet The Maker : The Java Eco Project
Every brand has a story to tell and we are really excited to share them with you. Today, we spoke to Java Eco Project, a social enterprise established in Singapore who proudly supports and markets XSProject, a non-for-profit and fair wage organisation located in Indonesia. Read on and learn more about how the brand is founded and how they are giving back to the community by reducing waste in our society.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to owning your own business/brand.
I am an Australian expat who has lived abroad for almost 10 years. In my previous posting before moving to Singapore, I lived in Jakarta where I had 3 children under the age of 3. Employment wasn't possible for me at that time, so I focused my efforts on helping a local charity name XSProject. The charity produced high quality up-cycled products from non-biodegradable trash and in turn, supported the healthcare and education of a trash picking community in Java. I am passionate about this cause because I was a refugee child myself, who was given an education and lifeline in Australia as an immigrant. I understood the importance of opportunity. I knew that I wanted to continue supporting XSProject after leaving Jakarta. So I set up a social enterprise, Java Eco Project once I settled in Singapore.
Rinka Perez in a coffee networking group in Jakarta that supports the XSProject.
2. What is the first item you created? What was the story behind it?
XSProject has an amazing design team in Indonesia and have created many upcycled products that do not look like the materials were sourced from trash. My first and most treasured co-design for Java Eco Project were laptop sleeves made by donated leather from an airline's first class cabin seats. The leather quality is outstanding and the final product looks amazing. You couldn't tell that they were made from airline seats!
Upcycling leather airline seats
3. What are some problems you have faced when creating a brand?
Being a one woman start up, my budget and resources were limited to myself only. My biggest challenge was trusting in my own skill and instincts to creating a brand that was true to the business and its objectives.
*I would like to add to this that I have now grown the organisation with the help and skills of many talented volunteers. Without my team, Java Eco Project would not be possible!
Rinka Perez's son taking pictures of The Java Eco Project products
4. What was the most heartwarming comment that you have received for your business?
Starting a Social Enterprise from scratch on my own in a new foreign country and also trying to raise a young family at the same time is very challenging. I get many compliments from people about how I am doing a great job of managing both roles! The truth is, I have lots of support from friends who I have met along the way, and they make this possible for me. I have an amazing support community in Jakarta through a coffee networking group that I started there. This coffee group continues to help sponsor four children through XSProject and raise money for the education and healthcare needs of the trash community. The continued support by this group of women in Jakarta for the Social Enterprise is the greatest compliment for me and warms my heart.
Rinka Perez visiting the community at XSProject in Indonesia
5. How did you envision your brand in shaping the world around you?
I envision my brand to bring awareness in the world towards the impact we make as consumers. It is easy and convenient to purchase mass produced product from cost effective suppliers, especially for schools, gifts, meetings and conferences. But this product has no story behind it and its lifespan is very likely to be short, ending up as trash itself. When you purchase a product from The Java Eco Project, you are helping to reduce waste in our environment, supporting the Fair Trade employment of a underprivileged workers and giving children a chance to break the cycle of poverty through education. This product tells a story of hope and creates a life far beyond the usage of the item.
6. What is the greatest lesson you have learnt while building your business?
I have learnt to be brave. It's important to keep on moving forward everyday and not let the details slow me down. Having a good support network from smart and successful friends to guide and cheer me along the way has also been business critical.
7. What wise words do you have for people who want to start their own business?
Don't wait another day, start now but always have a Plan B.
*In reflection, my advice would now be to believe in yourself and never give up!