Having worked as a multinational company project manager for 10 years, but never having felt that she fitted in there, Dasha Kichuk founded Kyiv-based Effa1 in 2018 in partnership with her industrial designer husband, Ilya, a graduate of Kharkiv State Academy of Art and Design. Every day hotels and airlines dump around 6 tons of plastic disposable toothbrushes. So, now that restaurants and coffee shops have pledged to phase out plastic straws, Dasha and Ilya have decided to focus on toothbrushes and other plastic hygiene products, including razors. Their toothbrush is made from paper covered in a nanolayer of the biodegradable bioplastic PLA (Polylactic acid) together with bristles made partly from nylon and partly from castor oil. The end product, which is packaged in water-dissolvable paper, is an eco-friendly toothbrush that “makes one care for the environment from early morning until late at night”.
“I am actively supporting female entrepreneurship, inspiring women all around the world to create something wonderful together”. – Dasha Kichuk
By April 2021, Effa had signed sales contracts worth $2 Million, had already started on mass production and had raised $500,000 of angel funding on a $3.5 million valuation. Within a year, by February 2022, it had weathered the Covid Pandemic and was preparing to participate in “South by Southwest” the technology and arts festival held annually in Austin Texas. They had received $10,000 of sponsorship from the Ukrainian Start-Up Fund, arranged their travel and accommodation, and set up meetings with prospective investors and business partners. Then on 24th February Russia invaded Ukraine, an investor was unable to transfer his funding and the Start-Up Fund informed them that their sponsorship was being withdrawn to fund the war effort. So, instead of travelling to Austin to help grow their business, Dasha and Ilya sought safety away from Kyiv with their two-year-old son. Having just paid their 6 employees, Dasha gave them a little extra money and told them she would understand if they left the business as she did not know when she would next be able to pay them. None did.
With their 5000 paper toothbrushes scheduled for Austin now somewhere in Romania and their paper razors in Kyiv, they have been unable to focus on Effa and the environment despite having started supplying their customers in December 2021 and negotiated orders in Europe and Korea as well as Ukraine. Instead, they have begun helping to ease the suffering of young Ukrainian families by packing baby products (lotions and nappies/diapers) that they are sending to the war-torn regions of the country. Even so, Dasha, like Ukraine’s First Lady, continues to inspire both women and men around the world.
While the mission of Effa is “to replace disposable plastic in the world with an environmentally safe alternative [and] make everyday use products safer for the planet” their highly promising efforts to do so are being thwarted by actions that are endangering life, causing unnecessary suffering and destroying not saving the planet. As Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) observed “The real and lasting victories are those of peace and not of war”. To save the planet we need to be working in harmony both with each other and our environment. Unless people like Dasha and Ilya can achieve their objective, peaceably, as they wish, we will destroy ourselves and the planet. Their business venture is addressing SDGs 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions, 15 (Life on Land), 14 (Life below Water), 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). They have recognised the need to find a harmonious entrepreneurial solution to the sustainability challenges the world is facing. However, we need everyone, world leaders included,, to appreciate that it is only when harmony prevails that “all things under the sun will flourish” (Xun Xi 310-238 BC).
- Effa, named after the EPHEMERA butterfly that lives only one day.
Anonymous (2021) Ukrainian Startup Effa raises $500k at a 3.5M valuation. It produces disposable eco-friendly products. Ain-Capital. 12th April.
Kamps, H.J (2022), Effa’s tiny but tip-top team tools up for a tiff with trivial toothbrushes on their own turf. TechCrunch.com. 5th January.
McBride,S., (2022), A tech Conference, a War and Five Lives Upended. Bloomberg 11th March.