At StartUp. Croydon, we support and encourage a wide range of all business ideas, but we get very excited when we meet fledging business owners who are doing something that makes more than just a profit margin.
One such business is Sackito. We interviewed Sackito owner Maria Skelly, who is participating in our current Business Incubator programme, to find out more about why she started the business, how it’s going and how she expects it to develop.
Sackito transforms reclaimed coffee sacks into stunning and unique shopping bags. These bags are handmade in HM Prison Pentonville, London, where prisoners are given the opportunity to learn new skills, gain work experience and, in turn, earn a wage.
The model has a double social value, by giving prisoners a skill to bring into the real world when they are released, and it’s also a sustainable concept using material that would otherwise go to landfill.
Please introduce yourself
My name is Maria Skelly, I am a freelance fashion designer and have worked for well-known high-street retailers as well as independent brands.
During the pandemic, I decided to explore more sustainable and meaningful projects in the fashion and textiles industry and started volunteering at HM Prison Pentonville, teaching a small group of prisoners how to cut out patterns and sew them into bags.
What is the company name, and what does it do?
The company is called Sackito, a social enterprise. We transform reclaimed coffee sacks into stunning and unique shopping bags. These bags are handmade in HM Prison Pentonville, London, where prisoners are given the opportunity to learn new skills, gain work experience and, in turn, earn a wage.
How did the idea come about?
Coffee is a big business in the UK. In 2020 the UK imported approximately £762m worth of coffee. Green coffee beans are traditionally shipped in woven sacks made from jute, a natural fibre. The sacks come from all over the world, showcasing beautiful prints. When the green coffee reaches the coffee roasters, the sacks are disposed of, creating waste.
I developed a purposeful way to make use of the strong and robust sacks that would otherwise end up as landfill.
Along with prisoners from HMP Pentonville, I transform the sacks into stunning bags. In this way, Sackito (meaning small sack in my native Spanish native language) was created.
How is StartUp Croydon helping you?
Before I met Start Up Croydon, I wasn’t sure how to develop the Sackito bags project to recycle coffee sacks and work with HM Prison Pentonville to make it into a viable and successful business. StartUp Croydon gave me clarity on how to do this.
With their expert support and hands-on workshops, StartUp Croydon is giving me the tools and encouragement to look at my business with a fresh perspective. I am grateful to be able to access their wealth of experience, knowledge and contacts.
StartUp Croydon is giving me the tools, ideas and encouragement on how to progress with the business.
Going forward, my aim is to promote the Sackito bags and increase sales. I am on a mission to spread Sackito’s social value, to save as many sacks from landfill as possible, and to make a positive change in prisoners’ lives.
Maria will be exhibiting at our mini trade fair as part of our event for Global Entrepreneur Week on Friday, 18th November – be sure to come down and see the bags which will make excellent sustainable Christmas presents.