Purpose-driven venture tackling scalable sustainability

Purpose-driven venture tackling scalable sustainability

Founder Nhan Nguyen’s impact-focused startup Refill is growing exponentially following his graduation from RMIT Activator’s LaunchHUB. Driven by his ethos of ‘impact first and scalable impact’, his passion for anti-littering is his motivation.

Nhan has always been passionate about sustainability and entrepreneurship from his humble beginnings making spring rolls in his apartment, to creating an organisation for nation-wide clean ups. His latest venture Refill is battling plastic pollution by selling soap refills. Nhan’s venture is growing rapidly due to his competitive edge of selling well-known branded soaps, combined with the convenience of refills and his infectious passion for sustainability. 

Before Nhan founded Refill, he saw a little boy ask his mum what to do when he finished drinking his milk. When the mum just pointed at the ground instead of the bin, Nhan knew habits and mindsets needed to change if he was going to have a chance to reduce plastic pollution in Vietnam.

To set the scene, here are some fast facts on plastic pollution: 

  • 8 – 12 million tons of plastic currently in the ocean 
  • A straw used for minutes stay’s around for 450 years 
  • A truckload of plastics in the ocean every 60 seconds 
  • BY 2050, there’ll be more plastic in the sea than fish 
  • Vietnam ranks fourth globally in the amount of plastic waste dumped into the ocean 
  • The great Pacific Garbage Patch is the size of four Vietnams

*These facts are from Refill’s research

Pollution, already a dire problem throughout the world, grows day-by-day. Nhan is determined to apply a scalable model Refill to speed up the reduction of plastic pollution. 

“Right now, my whole thing is impact first and scalable impact. [Other refillable shops] are converting some people slowly, slowly. slowly, but that's not that's not making a dent in the mountain of rubbish that's out there.” 

Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh standing in front of Refill's stand Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh visited Refill's stand the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Planning and Investment and United Nations Development program’s conference.

Currently, there are four Refill shops, with the plan to expand through a simple franchising model. Women from the Vietnam Women’s Union will have the opportunity to sell Refill soaps from their homes. The Women’s Union already run one of the shops and 30% of Vietnamese women are part of this group. By opening more shop fronts, this will reduce the number of plastic bottles and make it easier for people to fill up soaps – therefore changing habits.  

Since 2020, Refill has endured multiple lockdowns, opened three shop fronts, employed four staff and over the last four months, they have saved over 6,021 bottles so far and gained 500 new customers. Refill was also a winner at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)’s plastic pollution challenge and received a grant of $US18,000 to continue the initiative in Ha Long Bay Vietnam.  

“You have to have drive, you have to have all that stuff that we say entrepreneurs need to have. But to me, it all stemmed from my passion. I was just tired of seeing people litter and I thought, I'm going to do something about it. So, the passion fed the perseverance.” 

Are you ready to make an impact through a saleable startup?  

If you are passionate about an issue or have a startup destined to make the world a better place, RMIT Activator is here to support you on your endeavours. 

RMIT Activator Vietnam 

If you are in Vietnam, join Activator’s Founder School – a 6-week introduction into entrepreneurship for RMIT students who wants to learn more about what it means to ideate, innovate and be an entrepreneur. Register for our next cohort here.  

RMIT Activator Melbourne, Australia  

If you are in Melbourne and you’re ready to launch your startup through a pre-accelerator program join LaunchHUB. Founders accepted into LaunchHUB go through 12 weeks of intensive learning and graduate with ongoing support from the Activator community, equity-free funding opportunities and much more. Apply for our next cohort here.  

26 April 2022

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26 April 2022

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