Meet our Premium Member: Nicolas Huxley, Founder & CEO of ELEPHBO
Nicolas, could you tell us more about ELEPHBO?
ELEPHBO recycles plastic in Cambodia and uses it to produce backpacks, bags, sneakers and accessories. Our goal is that ELEPHBO products always guarantee and produce a positive impact on the environment and the people involved. For this reason, we not only recycle and process materials, but are committed to setting the highest possible social and sustainable standards for our recycling team, production and the entire value chain.
Everything started during a backpacking trip in 2011. By chance, I noticed all this plastic waste, mainly bags of cement, covering fields and roads, plus they looked really cool. At the same time, I was fascinated by the culture and hospitality of the local people and was looking for a way to support them.
We started paying local people to recycle and process the plastic. Today in Cambodia we have an 11-person recycling team, which almost triples during the dry season. All bags and backpacks are then made by hand in our production facility in Cambodia. We have a four-person operational team in Zurich that takes care of all the back-office work.
What are your long-term plans? What should we expect from ELEPHBO in 2023?
In the short term, our plan is to focus primarily on the backpack segment and to strengthen our position there by investing in product development. We are also planning to enter the Austrian and German markets by setting up a second warehouse with a partner in the EU.
In the long term, we want to become a role model as a manufacturing company in Cambodia by setting new standards in terms of sustainability and social responsibility in a profit-oriented setup.
What has been the biggest success that you have achieved in ELEPHBO?
So far, the vision has been successfully executed and many fair jobs have been created. Ultimately, we have always stayed true to ourselves and still believe that many small good deeds are necessary for a big mission. We collected tons of plastic, more than 170,000 bags of cement to be precise, and turned it into products that we are really proud of today.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Our biggest mistake was lack of focus when starting out. In the beginning I wanted to do too much at once: develop many new products, expand into different countries and at the same time set up recycling plants in other developing countries. On the one hand, the quality of the products suffered and, of course, so did the entire team. We certainly had to pay a lot for these mistakes in the first two years, but fortunately we learned from them and are doing even better today.
What motivates you to continue your business every day?
ELEPHBO is my heart project, whereby not only is the sustainable aspect a major role for me, but more so the people behind it. When I experienced the generous hospitality of the local people in Cambodia, I wanted to give something back and build ELEPHBO together with them. For us, it’s truly the people behind our ELEPHBO brand that matters the most.
One piece of advice for someone who is just starting out with their startup?
Do one thing at a time. Define a clear formulated focus and have the discipline to stick with it even when other interesting things pop up. Perfectionize your product/ service and dig into the nitty gritty details. You will become the wo/man to go for a topic and suddenly things will become easier and fall automatically into each other.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the Swiss Startup Association?
The start-up community in Switzerland still has a lot of potential for improvement and the Swiss Startup Association is driving this improvement in a very positive way, which I am happy to support. Personally, I particularly appreciate all the events you organize and can also benefit from them professionally by expanding my network in the area.
Would you recommend joining the Swiss Startup Association? If yes, why?
Yes, of course! For the reasons already mentioned above.
Have you ever participated at an event of the Swiss Startup Association? If yes, which one?
Yes, various founders dinners and afterwork events at Spoom.
Is there anything that we haven’t asked you that you would like to share with us/the community?
Keep it up! Your work is highly appreciated.
A big thank you to Nicolas and the ELEPHBO team for sharing your story with us! If you want to know more about ELEPHBO, visit elephbo.com.
Do you also have a story to tell and would like to be portrayed as well? Become a premium member now, and our team will contact you shortly!