By Prudence Minayo
A young entrepreneur started a project that would catapult him to fame while still in high school. What was meant as a school project turned out to be a fully fledged recycling business. Interestingly, David Denis is not recycling plastic or glass like is the norm, he is recycling human hair. He turns human hair into fertilizer and herbicides. This business has not only benefited him but farmers across and beyond Arusha who swear by his fertilizer.
Here is the story of David Denis as told by WoK.
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The Birth of the Idea
The idea was sparked when students were coming up with ideas during a high school science fair. David had noticed that a lot of hair was being wasted in the school salon. This hair ended up in landfills, hence, being hazardous to the environment.
“Where I live in Arusha, there is so much waste. It causes health problems to communities. Seeing the waste from hair salons across the city, I was curious to see how human hair could be recycled, so I started speaking to my science teachers and experimenting in the lab,” he said.
From his study of sciences, he had learnt that hair contained proteins that if combined with the right chemicals could be used in the agricultural sector. He also wanted a project that would give back to the community.
Launching the Product
After testing and trials, he launched his innovation during the science fair. He displayed herbicides, fertilizers and bricks, all made from recycled human hair that he had collected from salons and barber shops across Arusha.
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The next step was testing it with Arusha farmers. There was a lot of arable land but most of the available fertilizers were imported and expensive.
This is how his company, Cutoff Recycle, was born. He partnered with Oju Jack to form the company. The fertilizer was first tested by a few chosen farmers on amaranth and Sukuma wiki. The farmers were impressed with results and soon David had customers for his business.
After high school, he joined Ardhi University where he continued to juggle between school and the company. Seeing how many graduates end up jobless has been a great motivation for him to succeed in his entrepreneurship journey. The company, which has been running since 2019, has provided employment to more than 100 people. From those who collect the hair around salons to those working with him.
Despite the success, he has faced his own shares of challenges. At first people were reluctant to give their hair. They thought it would be used for witchcraft rituals. Changing such beliefs is a big challenge. There is also the fact that the process of setting up a business in Tanzania is complex.