Embracing the Circular Economy Revolution with La Dechétèque

La Decheteque’s founder Stephanie Bouloc

This week, we caught up with Stephanie Bouloc, founder of La Dechètèque, as she took us through her entrepreneurial journey of setting up a venture in a new country with no clear rules to back up what she was doing. Find out her story as she redefines waste collection and management using circular economy strategies.

What is the story behind La Dechètèque?

With a 15-year background in Europe and Mauritius as a circular economy and people inclusion consultant, I embarked on a new journey. In 2018, I moved to Mauritius to kindle my entrepreneurial spirit and explore fresh horizons. Stepping into unfamiliar territory, I engaged in voluntary work to comprehend the local circular economy landscape. I discovered that plastic waste recycling is a major problem in the country. While traversing the island, I encountered a wealth of talent within underserved communities, many of whom were keen on repurposing waste materials but didn’t know where to find them. There was no mechanism for companies to give their waste to individuals. This gap led to the inception of La Dechètèque. La Dechètèque’s role materialized as a conduit between companies possessing surplus materials and individuals aiming to repurpose them. The goal was clear: forge connections that curbed waste and catalyzed sustainable practices, ultimately lessening the global carbon footprint. Though regulatory frameworks for this sector remain evolving, our collaboration with the government propels us forward. Encouragingly, the government officially adopted the Circular Economy Roadmap and Action Plan on August 11th. Our journey continues, marked by incremental progress and shared determination.

What was the journey like between when you had the idea and when you finally implemented it?

In 2020, two years after my arrival in Mauritius, I took the decisive step to actualize the project. I applied for Climate Launchpad and secured an award for the La Dechètèque concept. This breakthrough led us to an incubation opportunity at La Plage Factory in November 2020, where fate introduced me to my mentor turned valued board member, Nathalie Sanchez. Building on this momentum, our go-to-market strategy took flight in November 2021, marking the official launch of our initiative.

What have been the main challenges you have faced in your entrepreneurial journey?

In a landscape where circular economy principles were gaining traction through civil society and private sector efforts, a notable void remained: a unified platform for trading second-hand materials. Pioneering this concept, we faced the daunting task of dismantling entrenched linear waste management mindsets. This endeavor was especially taxing as a foreigner and female founder, grappling with challenges magnified by these dual identities. However, the Mauritian government, led by the Ministry of Environment, emerged as a receptive ally, endorsing and supporting our vision. Their involvement in CE is evident as they have initiated a website dedicated to it. Juggling as a solo founder demanded relentless commitment and managing myriad responsibilities simultaneously. The uphill battle extended to funding, with investor skepticism emanating from the venture’s financial prospects

What do you think that getting funding is challenging, and what funding options have you explored in Mauritius?

In the realm of the circular economy, Returns on Investment (ROI) unfold gradually, demanding steadfast resilience and patience. While ROI remains a consideration, our primary focus centers on the transformative impact within our local community. In our quest for funding, we prioritize individuals and entities attuned to our narrative, journey, and the influence we aim to foster. Notably, our initial seed funding materialized through Eclosia Group, a supportive partner integral to our growth trajectory. Presently, we’re engaged in securing funding from angel investors via Mo Angels, propelling our mission to amplify impact and bring our vision to fruition.

What is your long-term vision for La Dechètèque?

As emphasized earlier, our paramount goal revolves around maximizing impact within the community. Through securing the necessary funding, we aim to bolster our operational capacity by onboarding additional team members and broadening our sphere of influence. Envisioning tangible progress, we aspire to establish physical hubs across the island where people can walk in and buy/sell second-hand materials. Looking ahead, our overarching vision extends to encompass the broader Indian Ocean region, encompassing Madagascar, Reunion, and Mayotte islands, thereby magnifying the positive ripples of change.

You were recently nominated for the Women in Entrepreneurship award. Could you tell us more about the award and what this means to you as an entrepreneur?

First and foremost, I express my gratitude for the award. Presented by Graine De Boss, a vibrant startup community comprising mentors and ecosystem contributors on the island, this accolade significantly augmented our visibility and standing both locally and internationally. The award facilitated collaborative synergies with fellow ecosystem stakeholders, amplifying our potential for impactful partnerships. Such recognitions hold substantial weight, dignifying our endeavors and setting us up for forthcoming accomplishments.

What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs looking forward to setting up their business in Mauritius?

Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey can be daunting, replete with moments of doubt and frustration. It’s crucial to persevere during these lows, as resilience is often the bedrock of success. Embrace the possibility of both triumph and learning from challenges. Self-belief and confidence in your idea are non-negotiable. Speak up, amplify your voice, and stand firm. Equally important is cultivating a circle of mentors, confidantes, and friends who provide unwavering support, extending beyond your project. They will keep you going during your lowest moments.

Financially, exercise patience and acknowledge that substantial returns may not manifest in the initial two years—at least realistically speaking (perhaps less if you adopt an assertive approach). If you’re just starting, having savings or seeking funding is pivotal. Remember, your commitment and vision will guide you through, eventually positioning you for growth and accomplishment.

Interested in finding out more about La Dechètèque and the work they are doing in the ecosystem? Visit their website. Remember also that if you are a startup, partner, sponsor, or mentor keen on learning about La Plage Factory, you can visit our LinkedIn page or get in touch at hello@laplage.io. Let’s ignite the positive changes we yearn to witness, building a brighter future for Mauritius, Africa, and the world together!