International Women's Day - Kimberly Bolton
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International Women's Day - Kimberly Bolton

Kimberley Bolton

A champion for sustainability, Kimberly Bolton is looking to the sea to reduce plastic waste – but she’s certainly no fish out of water when it comes to progressive, female founders in the start-up space.

As a female working in what is arguably the world’s most leading edge sector, Kimberly believes the slate has been cleared, with the equality in opportunities for men and women speaking volumes.

“The start-up landscape is so supportive of women in business, it’s refreshing and exciting for the future – there are so many women in the sector lifting each other up and encouraging one another to take risks, the network is only going to get stronger.”

With a passion for solving the plastic problem, Kimberly is one of the three founders behind Carapac, a business developing sustainable soft plastic alternatives made out of crustacean shell waste.

A South African native, she felt privileged to grow up with holidays spent camping in national parks and on safari, and as such she developed a huge respect for nature.

But so too did her uneasiness toward the abundant litter and waste facility issues plaguing her homeland.

“We had the most beautiful bay we would swim in, pristine waters and a magical vista – but then the tide would turn and the whole bay would be suffocated in litter, plastics in particular, it was frustrating that there wasn’t a better solution.”

This prompted a lifelong crusade, which has so far also included degrees in economics and environmental sciences at the University of Cape Town, and a Master in Business Sustainability at The University of Sydney.

Carapac was in fact born during a course required for her Masters, The University of Sydney’s ‘Inventing the Future’ program.

“It was an intense 12-week program in which my two now co-founders and I were randomly grouped, and together challenged to identify, develop, pitch and market a new product.”

“We identified early our intention was to find a biodegradable plastic that would break down easily and quickly, and this lay the foundations for Carapac.”

With only two viable options for sustainable single use plastic – recycled or biodegradable – Carapac’s focus was on a breakdown solution for biodegradable plastic.

“Much of the current biodegradable plastic on the market takes years to break down, and then only in specific conditions, and takes little consideration into other sustainability trade-offs in its manufacturing, such as deforestation,” she said.

“We wanted to develop a biodegradable plastic alternative from a waste source for a genuinely sustainable product, and identified crustacean shells as a really exciting opportunity.”

Three years later and the company has developed four new crustacean-based materials, and is now looking for a commercial pilot facility to scale up production.

Carapac was also recently named as one of the 45 global companies selected to participate in FoodBytes! Pitch 2020, Rabobank’s global food and ag start-up discovery program, from which she said the networking opportunities were invaluable.

However Kimberly’s entrepreneurial drive comes as no surprise to family and friends back in South Africa, her family lineage of strong-willed women impressive.

“My great grandmother was the first woman to invest in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, my grandmother started a tracking and logistics company with my grandfather, and my mother is a lawyer – so I’ve had wonderful female role models growing up, all with entrepreneurial interests.”

And she believes there’s never been a better time for women to come forward with their ideas.

“Even five years ago start-ups were associated with the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, but now you’ve got women like Sara Blakely the founder of Spanx, who I regard as extremely inspirational.”

“I feel so fortunate that here in the start-up community I feel encouraged and empowered. I genuinely believe this will only strengthen as more women are inspired to step into the space, and this International Women’s Day I applaud all the fabulous women doing marvellous thinks to make our world a better place.”


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