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This article was published 7/3/2020 (598 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After coming in second place in 2019, a local student enterprise out of Brandon University came out on top during a recent competition in Calgary.
ReNu Hygienics was created out of the Enactus branch at Brandon University by now-graduated student Parker Easter. Enactus encourages students at universities across the world to be entrepreneurial and start values-driven enterprises.
For Easter, the inspiration came from staying at hotels and thinking about how much waste was generated by soaps and shampoos being replaced every day with half-full bottles getting thrown out without being used.
In partnership with three hotels in Brandon, ReNu collects soap that would otherwise be thrown out, cleans it up and adds other ingredients to create upcycled bars of soap. Similar types of soap are processed together to maintain consistency.
They use a custom mould to deboss their logo into each bar and can use the same technology to deboss the logos of companies they deal with into bars they sell them. At a recent Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon, ReNu gave out custom bars of soap to local businesses with their logos debossed into them.
For every bar of soap they sell, ReNu has committed to donating a bar to charity to help people who might not otherwise have access to hygienic supplies. Samaritan House Ministries, Brandon Bear Clan and the Women’s Resource Centre are among the beneficiaries of their donations.
Easter said they’ve donated 794 bars of soap in the last year. During that same time period, ReNu has diverted 1,031 pounds of soap waste from the local landfill.
Having finished with his business administration studies, Easter now acts in a more advisory role and Courtney Bryant has taken the reins at Enactus and ReNu. A small team of volunteer students help make the bars in a rented space in the basement of the home of ReNu’s only paid employee.
"It evolved into my baby," Easter said. "I wanted to stay involved with it."
The soap used to be made in Easter’s kitchen and production has become a lot more efficient since moving to a dedicated space where they can produce soap seven days a week.
It’s been successful enough that a group out of York University in Toronto started a version of ReNu in January.
Every year, Enactus runs regional, national and international competitions where teams from various universities have to pitch their concept and demonstrate how successful it has been.
In 2019 the team from ReNu came in second in the Western Canada regionals. This year was a breakthrough.
Last weekend in Calgary, the team came out on top and won first prize in their division in regionals. Along with bragging rights and a trophy, those behind ReNu were awarded $1,500 to invest in their enterprise.
"It was huge to see the one year in review get quantified by a championship win," Easter said. "I was really proud of the team, to see them pull that off."
The next challenge for the ReNu team will be competing in the Enactus national championship in Toronto in May. A win on that stage would make a fitting sendoff for Bryant, who is about to finish her own business degree at Brandon University.
"I think we have a lot of momentum right now, everyone’s really excited," Bryant said. "We had some first-year students with us (in Calgary) that got to see the whole thing. They’re really motivated now.
"Even if we don’t place or we don’t win at the national level, the impact that we’ve made and the people we’ve helped give bars of soap to is really the win for us."
That’s not the only accolade that could be coming their way. At the last Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon, guest speaker and World Trade Centre Winnipeg president Mariette Mulaire announced that she was going to nominate the enterprise for an international World Trade Centre award.
Now the team from ReNu is waiting to hear if they make the cut. In the meantime, they’re continuing to make soaps and selling them to Brandonites through their website, renuhygienics.com.
They’ve also reached a point where they would like to increase production and are hoping to partner with more local hotels. Like Easter, Bryant is looking to stay involved with ReNu after graduation.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark