What's in the Box?

11.06.2021
A blog article by ENZI founder Azariah Mengistu.

A carton made from recycled paper and biodegradable materials

We have always looked for ways to add depth to our products' impact in a meaningful way. How we could expand our vision of empowerment, employment and investing in local potential. It took years of R and D, but we are so happy with where we are now.

When we first began producing shoes in Ethiopia we learned that most factories imported their shoe boxes. We also discovered that there was a reason for this with local suppliers being inconsistent and low quality. Working to improve the quality of box production in Ethiopia was too far from our core skills to be a viable solution. On the other hand, minimum orders were far too big for a brand of our size. Not to mention our desire to keep as much of the value chain in Ethiopia as possible. For years we searched for a solution, and were very surprised where this led us.

We met a young man named Tesfaye who had spent years developing an eco-friendly paper business. He had developed a range of papers using recycled paper and biodegradable materials. One of these papers was made using the bi-product of an Ethiopia delicacy called Kocho. We approached Tesfaye with the possibility of making shoe boxes with this material and he jumped at the opportunity. The first few prototypes were ok, and we placed our first small order. When the boxes arrived we quickly noticed that quality had dropped significantly and called Tesfaye a meeting. He admitted to the challenges of scaling up from prototypes to production and asked for one more chance. Tesfaye took a bunch of the raw materials at his disposal home for the weekend and stayed up late with his wife to work out the solution. The next week he came back to our office with a large smile and a working solution. We’ve been working closely together ever since.

Shoebox ENZI

We are the first to admit the boxes are not perfect yet, but gradual improvements are made with each order. In this instance we are happy to work towards perfection to minimize our environmental impact and support a local entrepreneur along the way.

Azariah Mengistu

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