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Egyptian Upcycling Startup Turns Metal Barrels into the Coolest Furniture Pieces

The startup, called Readymade, creates environmentally friendly and functional urban furniture. You may have sat on one of their creations at events like the Riseup Summit or Egypt's Social Media Day!

What’s the first thing you think of when you see a barrel? Worthless trash can? For Mustapha Hussein, there's more to it than that. The entrepreneur is turning them into stunning pieces of art, upcycling the material to create colorful furniture, from chairs and benches, to garden tables. 

His startup Readymade, was founded in 2015 and launched at the RiseUp Summit on the same year, winning first prize for its crowdfunding campaign and taking home $1,000 awarded by the Tennra. Just like Egyptian upcycling startups Up-Fuse and Mobikya, the startup sets off to provide a sustainable solution within the Egyptian community, where recycling is not common practice. 

Upcycling, not to be confused with recycling, is the process of making more use of something instead of discarding it. When you recycle a bottle of water, you reuse its materials in order to make a new bottle. But when you upcycle, you can simply use it as part of a lamp or plant-holder and re-purposing it. Apply the same logic to barrels being made into furniture, and you have the Readymade model, with parallels to Egyptian startups such as Qubix’s, which focuses on upcycling used shipping containers and using them as the basis for anything from homes to restaurants.

“We mainly focus on using barrels to make everyday products such as tables and chairs, rocking chairs, and cupboards,” says Hussein. The barrels are taken, redesigned, and reformed to fit the desired shapes, "and then we use upcycled wood and other materials to make the products,” he adds. 

So far, Readymade can make 150 products using 100 barrels, with most product prices ranging from LE 375 to LE 925. The business model is simple: “We buy our barrels locally, then make the products and sell them at prices generally cheaper than their average counterparts.” The entrepreneurs are cooperating with other startups as suppliers, such as Jareed, which makes use of discarded palm midribs to replace wood in product design.

For Earth Day, Readymade helped orphans get an idea about sustainability, collaborating with companies to help donate their barrels. The point of the event was “to have the orphans realise that they have job opportunities within sustainability and they don’t have to work only within the social services.” Hussein hopes he can take Readymade to events and put it to good use, designing furniture for events such as Social Media Day and interiors for the US Embassy's classrooms.

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