Meet Sagufta Salma.
Sagufta is one of the trailblazing entrepreneurs who took part in our 2019 yher Pacific Islands program.
Her venture Fusion Designs promotes sustainable living through upcycling and recycling waste materials into high end furniture and home decor. They do this whilst also providing training and employment opportunities for women and youth.
Fusion Designs was created out of Sagufta’s sheer passion and ambition to solving two problems:
- Today, almost 200 million tonnes of plastic waste and other debris are going into our oceans, posing significant risks for the safety and health of our marine wildlife. In addition to this, landfills are filling up with non-biodegradable waste, of which 90% of uncollectable waste is burnt, releasing harmful fumes into our air. This is having harmful consequences for our communities’ health.
- On the other hand, in Fiji Sagufta observed the children of unemployed women selling mats and roti parcels in Suva to support their families, rather than attending school. This is often because their mothers have not had equal access to education and employment opportunities, and as a result cannot afford to send their children to school. This is a problem because education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Sagufta saw the power of social entrepreneurship to help her address both problems at once. Through Fusion Designs, she is building a commercial business that creates beautiful products, all whilst providing employment opportunities and reducing our waste problem.
She trains and employs previously mothers to create furniture and home decor made from waste materials or debris commonly found in our oceans. Her journey started by making pet beds using old tires, and selling them at her local market. Although this remains one of her best selling products, Sagufta and her team have now grown to create other beautiful home decor products, and have also started supplying hotels and resorts with upcycled furniture. This includes beautifully designed stools, tables, mirrors and other home decor.
Despite her success, Sagufta did encounter challenges as a woman entrepreneur wanting to do business, but also do good. Early in her journey, she found it difficult to present her case and have people believe in her vision, which in turn made it hard for her to access the funding that she required. This was mainly due to the fact that women making furniture in the Pacific Islands is a very rare case, and this undermined the credibility of her business.
Sagufta’s social enterprise has received a lot of media and industry recognition, and has been awarded Aspiring Entrepreneur of the Year in the Women in Business Awards 2019. Fusion Design has upcycled more than 400 tonnes of waste materials, and created employment while providing household incomes by establishing small ventures and adding them to their supply chains. By forming partnerships with outer islands communities, Fusion Design has encouraged more than 170 customers to purchase sustainable furniture.