He starts by washing the car tyres thoroughly and drying it. After, he glues it and wraps a foam around it. Then, he sew a fabric or leather and wears it around the foam. Your furniture or sound system is now ready! thouh described simply, it is no small task. That is the daily life of Papa Nii, a young man in Ghana transforming car tyres and other wastes into useful products. Read on as he narrates how it all started to the B&FT’s Inspiring Start-ups.
Who is he
Bernard Nii Nartey, affectionately called Papa Nii, grew up in the Winneba, the Central Accra Region of Ghana. He is former student of Wa Senior High School; and a graduate from the University of Cape Coast with a degree in BA Social Science.
After university, he did his national service at Kantanka Automobiles as a pattern maker. He remained in the company after his service, but not as a permanent worker on payroll. while there, he applied for several jobs but did not have any response. In fact, it was his frustrations at not getting a job that, one day, pushed him apply for a ‘house boy’ (a name given to male house helps in Ghana).
But for the offer of a salary of Gh₵300, he would have taken up the job, even though he is a graduate. From that day, the urge to find a job to do to make a living grew ever stronger.
One day at the automobile plant, he saw a used and abandoned car tyre lying somewhere. He began thinking about what could be done to make the tyre useful. So, he told his boss he wants to create something with the tyre. He was asked what he wanted to do with it and, on the spur of the moment, he just said dressing mirror. So his boss gave him a piece of plywood to add to the tyre and try his hands on it.
A new dawn
As he was working on it, a colleague approached him and asked what he was doing. After telling him he was trying to do a dressing mirror, his friend asked why he won’t rather make a seat from the materials he had. Papa Nii replied he doesn’t think it will be durable when made into a seat, as he felt it would be broken when someone sits on it.
When he said that, his friend, who was bulkier than him sat on the unfinished work and it was still intact. That experiment changed the focus from a dressing mirror he intended doing to furniture. After his first work, he was pleased with the feedback he got from his friends and it moved him to do another one.
Then, he thought about trying diffrent products other than the furniture. He disassembled his old speaker and tried using the car tyre to make a new sound system, and that also came out well.
From there, he decided to set up on his own and start producing the furniture and sound systems in commercial quantities, but he didn’t have enough money to own a shop and a showroom.
He told his father about his business idea and he threw his weight behind him, but told him he doesn’t have money to support him. However, he has a piece of land at Prampram in the Greater Accra Region which he could give to him to start.
After he got the land, one of his friends gave him Gh¢200 to start with. With that money he bought some few materials, and under a mango tree, he made one furniture and posted on social media. The calls and response, he said, was amazing!
A lot of people called him to make orders which he could not even supply as he didn’t have the capacity to do so.
And even now, because he has very limited funds, he is unable to produce to meet demand. He is looking for a partner who shares his vision so they could team up and take this business to another level.
Currently, he recycles the waste car tyres into furniture, tables, flower pots, couches, and sound systems.
How unique the products are?
Papa Nii says his products are unique, in that, one will barely find a similar thing on the market. He makes sure he uses durable materials to produce them so they could last for so many years. He gives it a finesse finish, even without modern machines.
And what is more, he employs innovation and creativity in his work. In fact, some of his furniture has sound systems fixed in them, thereby, serving a dual purpose.
Nat Recycling, his business name, wants to do more than recycling car tyres. He wants to, in the nearest future, turn any solid waste at all into useful products; and create employment for many as well.
One of the challenges that Papa Nii considers a sad one is the lack of appreciation and value that indigenes have for locally produced goods.
“My furniture is not expensive. It starts from GH¢200 ($40) but someone will look you in the face and tell you he will buy it at GH¢50 or 100 ($10 or 20), with the reason that you just picked the car tyre from the street, and as such, my cost of operations is not high.”
Again a challenge is the fact that he has no shop or showroom. As noted earlier, he does his business under a mango tree. The effect of this, he says, has contributed to his selling the products so cheap in order to clear them early to avoid leaving it at the mercy of the weather.
Then, financial constraints. All these talk about showroom, shop, logistics such as vehicle for delivery, and not able to meet demand all boil down to lack of adequate capital, which is why he is looking for investors to partner him.
How education has helped
Education, Papa Nii says, has really benefitted him. It has helped him in communication, reading and writing, especially in English language. Clients who cannot speak any local language are able to communicate with him.
How government can support
For Papa Nii, the best way government can support businesses of his kind is to organise trade fairs and other exhibitions for startups that will make it possible for them to showcase their products to the world and attract investors as well.
Advice to the youth
“I am telling the youth to be creative and innovative. They should not be limited to only looking for a job. If the job is not coming, look elsewhere— start a business small and it will eventually grow.”
Contact: 024 550 3762
Facebook page: Nat Recycling Centre