She initially imported eco-friendly straws and stainless-steel telescopic straws, but she soon realised the challenges of competing in these markets.
“It was initially quite hard because five years ago no one was talking about being plastic conscious in rural Australia,” says Simona. “People were looking at me like if I was an alien. People would say ‘Simona, plastic free? You know everything is made of plastic in this world! What are you thinking?’.”
“But I had this very vision in my mind that was way too strong for me to let go.”
This led her to open an online marketplace for products that sought to reduce plastic pollution, aiming to provide sustainable solutions to eco-conscious consumers.
This venture also faced logistical challenges and high shipping costs given the distance between her operations in regional Australia and potential markets.
The turning point
Her start-up took a significant turn when she embraced affiliate marketing and began recommending plastic-free products or products that have minimal plastic on her online platform and using technology to redirect users to those products.
The "I’m Plastic Free" platform was born to not only offer solutions but to act as a bridge, connecting eco-conscious consumers with plastic-free products from around the world. When these recommended products sold on her platform, Simona earned a commission.
This simplified model eliminated the need to manage physical inventory. The secret ingredient though is the detailed research she conducts on the products to ensure they are designed with clear sustainability principles.
She believes in the potential of the circular bioeconomy, a new economic model that embraces the use of renewable natural capital and focuses on minimising waste and replacing non-renewable, fossil-based products.
It is estimated the circular bioeconomy will have a value of US$7.7 trillion by 2030. Simona believes industry will becomes better at extracting and processing resources while reducing pollution. And she continues to seek investors who share this vision.
In the last five years Simona has seen a surge in companies selling “closed loop” products – or items that can be re-introduced to the market, minimising what ends up in landfill.
Production of compostable plastics and biomaterials – such as seaweed, algae or fungi – have also boomed as a way to reduce plastic waste.
Simona now focuses on content creation to her global audience of about 18,000 unique web users per month. About half of the platform's growth has been from North America, particularly the USA and Canada.
“I’m Plastic Free” promotes environmental consumer education in a bid to reduce microplastics – which have infiltrated the entire ecosystem.
An entrepreneur’s path
Simona's journey has not been without its challenges. Being a female founder, a migrant entrepreneur and based in regional Australia presented additional obstacles.
As "I’m Plastic Free" continues to grow and make a positive impact, Simona was recently awarded the Chief Executive Women (CEW) and ANZ Sustainability Scholarship.
As part of the scholarship she will attend the Executive Education for Sustainability Leadership at Harvard University. She will learn new strategies for making sustainability a driver of organisational engagement, innovation and change.