Plastic has a bad reputation that it doesn’t entirely deserve. It’s a durable, lightweight material that — when recycled correctly — can be used repeatedly with low costs and very little material loss. AVP alumni Mona Taponen Balzarini wants to demonstrate this with her Muoviamo project by showcasing and letting people try how plastic waste turns into new objects.
Mona is something you might call a serial entrepreneur. They come in two main types: those who quit their previous company before starting another and those who run several businesses simultaneously. Mona proudly represents the latter group, but acknowledges it’s not for everyone. “Juggling multiple projects is doable, but it requires solid time management skills,” she says
Entrepreneurship is in Mona’s blood. Her parents and both grandfathers were entrepreneurs, and Mona got to experience the good and bad of it first-hand at home. Despite some rough patches, they always pulled through, and Mona learned a lesson or two about what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
Before Mona would start her first own project, she had to get a couple more lessons. She got some of those while at Aalto University, where she studied New Media Design and Production and took her minor in Aalto Ventures Program. At AVP, she learned more about startup entrepreneurship and got concrete tools for setting up her own business. Her studies included discussing the founder’s dilemma, analyzing different companies and learning about various design processes. One thing Mona especially praises is the inclusion of different psychological patterns. “Entrepreneurs need a good understanding of self and other people, so it’s important to study not only business but yourself,” Mona says. She also suggests we add a whole course of neuropsychology for entrepreneurs, which honestly is not a bad idea at all.
I still sometimes refer back to the materials I got at AVP.
After graduating, Mona stepped on the entrepreneurship throttle. Her first business was RetkiRent, an equipment rental community for camping enthusiasts and professionals, which she and her outdoor professional friend kickstarted in just a few days. Once RetkiRent had gained some momentum, Mona started her next business. And then the next. Her endeavors include a senior-focused exercise class promoting brain health, a consulting company and a digital marketing agency specializing in China. “A minor in entrepreneurship was so useful. I still sometimes refer back to the materials I got at AVP,” she says.
It may seem like Mona has her hands full, but that didn’t stop her from starting another project — Muoviamo. A few years ago, Mona had begun acquiring plastic recycling equipment for her personal projects. Later, she ran into a former colleague, with whom they started to talk about the reuse of plastic. They found out they had much to discuss. “We decided to finish the conversation later, and here we are,” Mona says.
Muoviamo is a project that makes plastic recycling visible. In practice, it’s two container units at Keran Hallit, filled with plastic waste and equipment for turning that into new products. Twice a day, they host a workshop on how to grind down recyclable plastic, melt it and create something out of it — whether it’s everyday items, jewelry or a piece of art. The workshops are free and open to the public, but as they’re popular, booking a time is recommended.
Visitors can use the plastic available at the venue or bring their own — as long as it’s polypropylene (PP). When we at AVP visited Muoviamo, there was plenty of plastic to use. After a short introduction to the project and plastic recycling, we grabbed a couple of old orange DVD cases and started to turn them into a snack bowl for our office. The whole process is surprisingly easy; choose a color, use existing pellets or grind down something of the color you picked, put them into one of the machines that melt them down, and pour the molten plastic into a mold or shape it some other way. In addition to making a bowl, we used molds to make a couple of clamps, clips, and a comb. If you’re interested in trying it out, the workshops are open until July 7th.
So, what’s next for Mona? Muoviamo is still running, but she already has her next project underway. She was asked to help develop a virtual well-being house and, of course, said yes. To tackle a new kind of challenge, Mona will again refer to what she learned at AVP: “An entrepreneur needs to be a certain kind of person, an optimist and a realist at the same time, but it doesn’t hurt having good materials to go back to.”
Banner photo: Andrea Balzarini