would you do with a million bottle tops and 10 tons of old fire hose?
How about empowering a female entrepreneur to create a unique and sustainable product collection which also supports the local community?
When Coca-Cola came together with artisan Kresse Wesling, that’s exactly what happened. From the most unlikely of raw materials, mixed with the company’s 5by20 goal to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs across its global value chain by 2020, a remarkable collaboration was born.
all started after the successful
Meanwhile, since 2005, Wesling’s social enterprise design company, Elvis & Kresse, has found an ingenious and artistic use for London Fire Brigade’s decommissioned hoses. Sharing a passion for applying high-quality design and craftsmanship to rescued materials, the company based in southeast England ”upcycles” the department’s hosing to make a range of items, including belts, bags and shoes. Before their intervention, all of Great Britain’s fire hoses were destined for the landfill.
As keen supporters of women entrepreneurs – and fellow champions of upcycling – Coca-Cola challenged Kresse to turn the bottle caps into art.
told her we have a million bottle tops and asked how these could be used to
create a sustainable product for their collection,” recalls Liz Lowe, corporate
responsibility & sustainability manager for
Elvis & Kresse needed a source of metal for belt buckles and realized the
Coke bottle tops could be melted down for this purpose. The company designed a multi-purpose
buckle that could be the centerpiece for a belt, a luggage tag and the Elvis
& Kresse Mini-Messenger bag. As a tribute to the source of the metal, they
called it the London Legacy Buckle. A small
a result, a
“We are passionate about supporting the local community and maintaining the traditional craft skills that used to be so common in Britain,” Wesling says. “We want to pass on these technical skills to help other young women earn a livelihood and build their own business in the future.”
In 2013, Elvis & Kresse employed its first local apprentice in its studio in Bournemouth. The young female apprentice had struggled with alcohol dependency issues and recently completed a rehabilitation program. The program offered her structure, the chance to learn new skills and the opportunity to work in an inspiring and creative business. After completing the program, she enrolled in college and mentors other people coping with addiction.
An apprenticeship program supported by Coke's 5by20 program allows Kresse to pass on her skills to young women from the community.
The program has helped Wesling realize the positive impact her business can
have beyond its reclamation work. Supporting one woman in her community has an effect
that goes much further, she says. Over the next four years, Wesling’s goal is to help five to six apprentices learn a variety of skills, eventually going on to work full time as the business
A second apprentice is currently working with Elvis & Kresse at its new location in Kent. Wesling is also working with local women’s colleges to provide work experience to students so they leave college with a genuine boost to their resume.
says the result is an exemplary collaboration for
“Not only does it show our commitment to sustainability, but it’s also a perfect example of how our 5by20 initiative translates into economic empowerment for entrepreneurial women in Great Britain,” she adds. “It’s a social business that genuinely helps the community.”