Gurpreet started this as a hobby after quitting her job as CEO. But today she not only makes the best gifts but also runs a factory that funds its workers' education as well. Pretty cool, right?
In a small factory in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, 15 young men and women and work with small piles of cement, crafting the paste into pretty shapes that are perfect for saplings to be sown in. Known as planters, these gorgeous little pots can decorate your desk or be a meaningful gift to friends. They make an average of 1000 of products every day.
Such a sight is perhaps routine across many factories in India, but these young workers have come very far for this ‘normal’ moment – both literally and figuratively.
All thanks to Gurpreet Kaur, an ‘ecopreneur’, whose efforts made sure that these 15 not only have a stable job in a major city but are also doing well for themselves.
From CEO to an Ecopreneur in Indore:
Gurpreet’s journey initially was spent in corporate offices. For 16 years, the graduate worked for the government and private organisations across the country. The last position she held was that of a CEO in a textile and garment business in Jaipur.
Though she enjoyed a generous salary and perks, when her daughter completed post-graduation, Gurpreet’s priorities changed.
“She was to become an independent woman now, working in the field of finance. I knew she wouldn’t need much financial support from me anymore. So I decided to retire from my position and focus on my hobbies instead,” the 44-year-old shares with The Better India.
Gardening was something that Gurpreet cherished for a long time and when she finally got the space to relax, she pursued it. But one thing bothered her – plastic planters. She was determined to not use plastic in her garden.
“I wanted to keep ornamental pots but ceramic is too common a material. Since I wanted my garden to stand out, I thought of concrete – a material that is not used much in this field,” Gurpreet explains.
There weren’t many options for concrete planters in the market. Gurpreet took matters into her own hands, literally, and began crafting them for her garden.
Not just pretty, a concrete mission with a heart:
Gurpreet was soon making plenty of concrete planters, but there was an unexpected side effect – her friends started asking her to make planters for their own gardens!
Initially surprised by all the requests, Gurpreet began making them on a commission basis, mostly by word of mouth, in 2017.
But she quickly understood that there was a sizeable market out there for her unique products, whether as gifts for colleagues and friends or just for use in homes.
So in March 2018, she formalised her business, naming it ‘Elite Earth’. Gurpreet’s guess was right. The few commissions for friends very soon turned into corporate orders for thousands of planters!
Gurpreet required more hands on the deck – immediately. The first person she approached was her domestic help.
“She informed me that her daughter is studying in college but was also looking for a job. The mother didn’t want her child to become a domestic help. She was overjoyed at the proposal of working in my studio-factory. She became my first hire. From there on, I was determined to work with young people like her, from underprivileged backgrounds, who would appreciate creative work.”
Today, Gurpreet’s Elite Earth has 15 people working in the factory – all of whom from underprivileged backgrounds. Some have completed their graduation and four are ‘earning-and-learning’.
The most heart-warming part of her organisation? In addition to giving them a handsome salary, Gurpreet is funding evening classes and paying their exam fees.
Despite the growth, the founder continues to design the planters herself, while the others have full responsibility of realising these designs.
Elite Earth has also upgraded to making clocks and desktop organisers. Their next goal? Food-grade trays and furniture!
“We believe in reusing and recycling every bit of the resources we have at our disposal. Broken pieces, spare concrete is all utilised in the next batch of products. For us, it was a natural step to include a wider variety of home decor so Elite Earth grows,” she signs off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan & Vinayak Hegde)