In Mexico, only 0.5% of the textiles thrown away each year are recycled, that is, of each kilogram of clothing that is discarded, only 5 g would be recovered. Globally, only 1% of materials are recycled. With that in mind, the Mexican Eleazar Guevara and his sister, Monica Guevarahave transformed the “small family fabric business” into Novaboria textile recycling company focused on sustainability that now has two sharks of Shark Tank Mexico.
The history of this company begins on the trains of the Mexican Revolution, at the beginning of the 20th century. In interview for Entrepreneur.com, Mónica explains that she and her brother grew up among fabrics, “stuffing cushions, seeing blankets, with looms. It’s part of us.”
“My great-grandfather sold blankets to the revolutionaries, to the passengers, and then my grandfather had a wool factory. Those businesses are gone, but they are part of us. My dad had looms and then he dedicated himself to recycling, and that’s where I come in. I was working with him making blankets for a long time,” says Eleazar, founding partner of Novabori.
Starting in 2013, after the death of their father, the Guevara brothers decided to continue the family legacy. “In fact, we are the only ones in the family who continue to do this.” Then Eleazar decided “change the fabric recycling industry in Mexico and the textile industry, in general”.
That idea prompted him to turn the family business around. turn it into a company dedicated to textile recycling and the production of articles made from recycled fabrics from maquilas: blankets, napkins, towels and more.
Adding innovation to tradition: the differentiator that put them on Shark Tank Mexico
The brothers describe Novabori as “a cluster”, that is, a group of small companies that collaborate to have common benefits. They set out to design more complex fabrics, aiming “bridge the gap between recycling and fashion”. Also, they sought to have a positive impact both on the other companies in the cluster, as well as on the industry and the community.
So, they took their experience and the infrastructure they already had, and took it to the next level. Little by little, they integrated into the business the innovative ideas they acquired during their respective master’s degrees at Tec de Monterrey: Eleazar focused on sustainability issues, and Mónica on business.
“The next step was to work on innovation and development. By experimenting with the materials and having the basic technique already mastered, the possibilities of all the products in which it could be applied opened up,” say the Guevaras.
With a 10-year vision, more small companies began to join the ‘cluster’, expanding their capacity and projection until they had between 9 and 12 economic units. These companies employ thousands of people to collect, select and classify the ‘scraps’ of fabric left over from clothing factories. “It is nothing new, it is an entire industry in Mexico,” they highlight.
At the same time, its project contemplated generating beneficial conditions for its associates, workers and communities. They have been recognized by firms such as AC and Levi’sas well as the National Autonomous University (UNAM)for their efforts to combat the damage the textile industry causes to the environment.
“In 2016 my brother was globally selected among the most innovative projects in textile sustainability in the world. In 2018 they chose it as one of the 12 projects to combat the climate crisis, and in 2021 the UNAM recognized us as an innovation of the future and we were global finalists for a zero waste project,” says Mónica, also a founding partner.
The 5 P’s of sustainability: the pillars of Novabori
Their first development was a blanket made with recycled material and with a more “fashionable” design. Through trial and error, they managed to improve the technique and began making fabrics for fashion. In 2019 they formally established their new company, Novabori, based on five pillars that Eleazar calls “the 5 P’s of sustainability”.
He explains that he learned this model from one of his teachers and refers to a teacher. These are, in English, “profit, people, planet, prosperity and peace”which is Spanish and translates as profit, people, planet, prosperity and peace.
“Any sustainability model must generate profits, seek the prosperity of people and the planet, and generate peace,” they explain. “It is difficult to ‘change the chip’ from a corporate model to a more socially sustainable one, with fair salaries and ethical practices, and at the same time integrate innovation, but it is worth it.”
“We do not have our own plant as part of the business. The strategy was to give work to the plants that already exist, in collaboration with my dad’s best friends, who help our process. Without that we would not exist,” say the Guevara brothers.
Weaving the way to the Shark Tank Mexico pond
Their project led them to present their pitch to the sharks of Shark Tank Mexico. Initially, the brothers were looking for an investment of 2 million pesos in exchange for 15% of the company.
While Alejandra Rios, Marcus Dantus and Marisa Lasso They decided to retire Karla Berman and Mauri Vergara did bet on him. After negotiating and reviewing numbers and projections, in the end Novabori obtained 1.5 million pesos by giving up 20% of his company.
“This investment will be used to position our products, develop new textiles and integrate artificial intelligence technologies. We also want to produce more and look for more sales channels, because right now we have person-to-person sales, and wholesale sales for the hotel industry,” explains Eleazar.
Mairem Del Rio Addicted to watching series and movies, doing (a little) exercise and changing my hair color. I am also a journalist, with more than 16 years of experience and dedicated 100% to digital media since 2011. I have been from reporter and community manager, to editor in various media and agencies. My areas of expertise are as diverse as they are contrasting: entertainment, travel, lifestyle, health, business and finance. Now I am focused on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, metaverses and the promising cannabis industry in Mexico.