x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mission to spread the green message in the UAE

The Life: This week, Hessa Qabanji was named best chief executive of a student company at a competition run by Injaz UAE to develop the entrepreneurial skills of University students. The 23-year-old IT student talks about her company, E-go, which makes reusable trash bins for cars.

Hessa Qabanji, who was named best chief executive of a student company, wants to help Emiratis to adopt new healthy ways of recycling and decrease the amount of plastic they use. Delores Johnson / The National
Hessa Qabanji, who was named best chief executive of a student company, wants to help Emiratis to adopt new healthy ways of recycling and decrease the amount of plastic they use. Delores Johnson / The National

This week, Hessa Qabanji was named best chief executive of a student company at a competition run by Injaz UAE to develop the entrepreneurial skills of university students. Here, the 23-year-old IT student talks about her company, E-go, which makes reusable trash bins for cars.

So, how did the company take off?

After the summer holidays, when we all travelled and didn't focus on the business, I got a call from my mentor Yousef Hamza, an investor, who asked me if I was quitting. I said: "Are you kidding me? I am not a quitter." I gave a call to each of my team members and they said: "Whatever you want to do, we are with you." We decided we wanted to build something environmental, go green. When we went into the desert, we saw animals that had died from eating plastic bags. We want to help Emiratis to adopt new healthy ways of recycling and decrease the amount of plastic they use. So we came up with the idea of a trash bag for car journeys that is waterproof and washable so you don't have to use plastic bags. Within two weeks we managed to raise the finance and meet two of the biggest names in environment in the UAE.

Who are they? And did they like your idea?

We met the "Green Sheikh", Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi, and the founder of Bee'ah, Samer Kamal. They were very glad to see our products. They told us: "You are a team that can improve the idea much more." I was very hesitant they would like the product because they are very big names and they have seen so many environmental projects. But, luckily we were supported by them and the Green Sheikh was so happy he ordered one. Mr Kamal would have ordered one, too, but he is so environmentally friendly he doesn't own a car.

Can I buy one of these trash bags? How much are they?

They are Dh50 (US$13), but we are going to improve the product more and the price may become a little higher. We are thinking about making it entirely out of recycled material. Even our business cards are made out of 100 per cent recycled paper. If you want one, the best way is to tweet us @egoinjaz.

You managed men and women. Was that difficult?

[Mine] was the only team [in the competition] to mix up two genders. I had four guys and four girls. I had to walk the line between the logical minds of the guys and very creative style of girls. I had to blend these two styles, but it was not so hard because my team was so great. But seeing white kandura mixed with black abaya is a very proud moment for me. It shows that we don't face as ladies a challenge to go into business. We are equal.

So where will you go from here?

From now to five years, I see my company going green with different products. I am targeting Emiratis to [teach them] how to think green. We are the youth and we are the ones who will adopt this idea.

lgutcher@thenational.ae