A group of Year 13 agribusiness students at a Dunedin College are working hard to put a bit of bounce back in wool demand, ‘one baale at a time’.
Kavanagh College student company Under the Door Enterprises, competing in the national Young Enterprise Scheme, has devised a door wedge made of wool carpet off-cuts and recycled wood and rubber.
Mitre 10 in Dunedin has already agreed to purchase 500 ‘Woolly Wedge’ four-packs and the teenagers are busy expanding their range of wool products.
“It’s pretty awesome and a bit surreal,” Under the Door Enterprises managing director Hayley Anderson says.
“When people learn about what we’re trying to do, they’re really helpful. It’s just blown up a bit in the last two months as word has got around.”
Kavanagh Commerce Head of Department Jill Armstrong said the college hadn’t entered the Young Enterprise Scheme for 24 years but the current crop of agribusiness students had shown real commitment and drive.
“They were aware that [strong] wool prices were in the doldrums and wanted to do something. They’re an incredible bunch of students and they’re just flying with this.”
A talk from self-confessed “wool freak” Craig Smith, Chair of the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests, encouraged them to think outside the box and find ways of using more of this resilient, versatile and natural fibre.
Hayley said it was COVID-19 that sparked the original concept. Classroom doors were supposed to be propped open for hygiene purposes during Alert Level 2, but the standard door wedge wasn’t up to it, particularly on carpeted surfaces.
They came up with a wedge design incorporating carpet off-cuts from Carpet Court, used rubber from bike inner tubes (courtesy of Cycle World) and recycled timber offcuts. Due to the shortage of bike tubes, the team contacted Skellerup who have kindly donated rubber as a substitute.
Their “one-stop-door-stop”, put together by local social enterprise Cargill Enterprises to the students’ design, has been successfully tested at the University of Otago on flooring surfaces, including concrete, vinyl, carpet, tiles and timber.
Under the Door Enterprises’ market research found that consumers were interested in sustainability, supporting small businesses, and functionality.
“Also, we want to give back to the farmers who are struggling with mental health and donate to Farmstrong, which will go towards this,” Hayley said.
Tokofarms gave them a bale of wool to get them underway on other products.
They’ve now come up with three more:
• The Woolly Mask aims to stop sliding doors from closing on fingers/hands as it forms a barrier between the door and the door frame. Target end-users include early childhood education centres, kindergartens and households.
• The Woolly Wind Stopper’s purpose is to prevent drafts from under doors, and there are plenty of drafty doors in student flats in Otago that need these!
• Finally, the Woolly Shield’s purpose is to stop car doors from being scratched in tight car spaces.
Under the Door Enterprises has already featured in the Otago Daily Times and on The Country with Jamie MacKay. The students are also active on social media, and for in-store appearances, one of the students, Te Kahui ‘TK’ Mariu-Boreham, dresses up as a sheep.
All told not a baad effort, and Hayley says once their website is up and running and they’ve completed a video with local firm FYI Media, sales should get a further kick along.