Nav Awards $10,000 Small Business Grant to Startup Company Upcycle Hawaii

By James White Friday, May 7, 2021

Entrepreneurs with eco-friendly outlooks are continuously finding new ways to create sustainable business models and novel methods of protecting the environment. Whether it is recycling and repurposing batteries from electric vehicles, creating a new green energy startup company, or producing sustainable fashion, business owners are working hard to solve environmental issues across the globe. Recently, fintech company Nav awarded its $10,000 Small Business Grant to Upcycle Hawaii, a startup business that redirects and repurposes materials from landfills to create brand new products.

"Nav's Small Business Grant was created in 2018, but in the last year, the grant has become a lifeline and second chance for some business owners," said Greg Ott, CEO of the fintech company. "Upcycle Hawaii's work upcycling trash to turn it into treasure is not only positively impacting the environment, but also their local Hawaiian economy. The vision and love Mattie Mae has put into her business is inspiring, and we couldn't be more thrilled to award her and her team with this grant."

A tree made of rope and glass.

From Trash to Treasure

Upcycle Hawaii was founded in 2016 by entrepreneur Mattie Mae Larson. The startup company was formed as an extension of her creative ambition and concern for the environment.

Larson has always been deeply connected with her environment, according to an Upcycle Hawaii blog post. Throughout her childhood, Larson spent her days exploring caves and beaches, as well as creating all kinds of art ranging from music to pottery and painting. Later, she would go on to study environmental science at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and become more conscious of her own environmental footprint. Seeking a way to create artwork through more sustainable materials, Larson established her green startup company.

Today, Upcycle Hawaii creates a number of products with solid waste diverted from landfills. Customers can even bring in their own materials to donate to the startup company. Larson and her team make trinkets, jewelry, totes, wallets, and more from diverse upcycled materials, including fused plastics, painted plastics, marine debris, reclaimed rubber, and old vinyl banners. The startup company claims to have diverted around 472 pounds of materials from local landfills so far.

"As the 'Lead Trashionista,' I love that I get to make a positive impact on my community through my small business,” Larson said. “Through my work at Upcycle Hawaii LLC, I've added jobs to my community, diverted landfill from local landfills, and educated students and clubs on the importance of a sustainable business. This grant money will be imperative to the Upcycle team's development and growth over the next couple of months.”

Diving Into Ethical Fashion and Beyond

Upcycle Hawaii is dipping into the sustainable fashion market with its upcycled jewelry. Market research projects the global ethical fashion industry to value over $8 billion by 2023. The startup company allows customers to reduce their ecological footprints while also redirecting excess waste from landfills.

Beyond jewelry, the startup business has the potential to further expand its upcycled offerings into the realm of home decor and other departments.

About the Author


Headshot of James White

James White is a Michigan State University graduate with a BS in Environmental Biology. He is interested in reporting emerging trends in technology, especially with regard to alternative energy and environmental conservation.

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