Part of Plant Chicago’s mission to cultivate a circular economy is to be a sustainable community resource hub for local businesses and neighbors. As we settle into the space at the Firehouse, we continue to add more products to our retail shelves and develop programs that encourage circular consumer habits. All retail items are thoughtfully selected and sustainably sourced products that embrace a vision of circularity and social reciprocity. You can find Dinobi and other local offerings in our retail shop every Friday and Saturday, from 11am to 3pm.
Increasing diversity, nurturing resilience in Chicago’s communities of color
One of the key principles within the circular economy, beyond the direct goals of regenerating waste, is the redistribution of knowledge and economic opportunities. This goal, to realize community potential and invest in it, is one that is often admired but just as often overlooked. Chicago is without exception. According to a survey of entrepreneurs by the U.S. Census Bureau: 18 percent of Chicago-area businesses are owned by minorities. Hispanics, the largest minority group in Chicago, at 22 percent of the population, own 6 percent of businesses… Asians, who make up 6 percent of the Chicago-area population, account for 10 percent of businesses…Blacks account for 17 percent of the population in Chicago but just 2 percent of business ownership (Chicago Crain’s List 2016).
Barriers to entry such as access to loan support from banks, economic disparity, and systemic racism have historically stifled communities of color and continue to impede on Black and Brown potential. A rich circular economy is one that includes the involvement of its local people and in return bolsters the residents in that community.
What businesses can do
Businesses, specifically small businesses, are conduits for economic growth and opportunity in their local communities. Business activities have the potential to regenerate natural ecosystems, influence local community stakeholders, and increase human knowledge and capacity to further support the local economy.
Today, we turn our attention to our new featured product, Dinobi, a powerful plant-based detergent that guarantees customer satisfaction for hard-to-clean laundry needs. “Dinobi”, which translates to “precious” in the Igbo language of southeastern Nigeria, is the name owners and couple, Augustine and Sylvia Emuwa, chose to give their detergent that cares for the preciousness of skin and planet alike. These Chicago entrepreneurs are making it their mission to not only sell a quality green product but also participate in the reeducation process, that is, teach people about chemicals’ harsh effects that run beyond skin deep.
The Emuwa’s emphasize their role as an integrity brand. They uphold this by disclosing all ingredient information, reducing product waste by storing their concentrated formula in glass containers, and engaging with consumers [regardless of whether or not they meet the criteria to be considered a “target” customer]. Each 32oz bottle sells retail for $19 a bottle, but each load requires less liquid per wash, making the price comparable to the cost of commercial brands. Cost-efficient green initiatives are in the works as well as owners discover a manageable way for customers to return the glass bottles they bought the detergent in. Once successful, the bottle return will work to save time and money on the manufacturing end, but also reward customers for their participation.
“We know how important it is to feel empowered. . .Your detergent can be the difference between feeling confident in your own skin during a meeting or class, or subconsciously scratching at your skin.”
Along with owners’ goals to make their detergent financially accessible to anyone, they know that representation matters. Look no further than Dinobi’s Instagram to be inspired by thoughtful storytelling about daily family life. Augustine and Slyvia, recognize they are in a unique position as a Black business to open the conversation and make their product accessible to anyone who is equally concerned about the environment as they are about treating their skin. “We know how important it is to feel empowered.” Augustine recalls a time when he, too, was unaware of the penetrating harmful effects from harsh chemicals, “Your detergent can be the difference between feeling confident in your own skin during a meeting or class, or subconsciously scratching at your skin.” Their mission has since evolved to develop several community initiatives where owners participate in parent laundry workshops through CPS or with Chicago’s section housing and homeless shelters.
What we can do
We can start by researching the household products in our kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Slyvia’s stroke of entrepreneurial brilliance was born from necessity when she demanded more of her family’s household detergent.
We can learn about the products we allow into our homes, onto our skin, into our bodies, and into the lives of those we care for. By shopping locally, understanding the importance of investing in products, and the makers who go beyond to support others, we can effectively prompt and sustain circular change.
You can find Dinobi’s products on their website, and in Plant Chicago’s retail space at the Firehouse which is open from 11am until 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays!
Other shops across the city that carry Dinobi can be found here, like Dill Pickle Food Co-op and the Silver Room.