Darwin-based Simona Paganetto offers consumers and businesses the whole package when it comes to helping them bin plastics.

A Women’s Innovation Pitch Winner 2021 and Business Innovation Program (BIP) graduate, the 44-year-old entrepreneur has created a world first in bringing together eco brands, businesses and not-for-profits.

Her website, implasticfree.com, is a one-stop directory for plastic pollution solutions. It boasts a digital intelligence platform connecting consumers, via an affiliate marketing model, and businesses through membership subscriptions to plastic free and upcycled products, services, and new technologies to fight plastic pollution.

“I’ve done a lot of research online and my digital directory, which connects three categories of eco brands, business solutions and not-for profits, is a world first,” said Simona.

According to a 2020 study by parcel delivery service CouriersPlease, 90 per cent of Australian shoppers are actively looking for ethical and sustainable products.

“My ‘I’m Plastic Free’ platform allows eco-conscious consumers to do that in a convenient and easy way, guilt-free, and not just in Australia but globally,” she said.

Simona dreams of the day the ocean is plastic free. Having an online one-stop directory for trusted and safe plastic free/upcycled products, ranging from affordable to premium price, is a deep dive towards that dream. Finding solutions for businesses and collaborating with not-for-profits is also key in solving the plastic pollution crisis.

“Individually we are one drop, together we are an ocean,” she said. “Along with the platform, there’s the latest eco news stories and sections highlighting simple steps individuals and businesses can take.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Simona, however. She went through several iterations of her innovative idea before landing on the right business model to create waves of change.

Back in 2019, Simona developed an ecofriendly straw to sell to the hospitality industry. However, stiff competition from larger companies and warehouses around the country that delivered a similar product as well as COVID-19 meant the mother-of-two had to go back to the drawing board.

“I then had this idea for an e-commerce third party vendor marketplace,” she said. “Similar to eBay and Etsy, small Australian businesses listed their ethical eco-friendly products on the marketplace to sell them to a targeted audience of consumers.”

With a pitch that won the attention of three judges at the inaugural Women’s Innovation Pitch in April 2021, Simona was one of three finalists who received a placement in BIP, which includes a $30,000 grant to help develop and commercialise innovative business concept.

Simona admits there were several challenges with her idea which required her to pivot her thinking and business strategy to the point where she did consider throwing in the towel.

“One of the biggest problems for me was shipping costs because the online products were coming from all these different vendors,” she said.

“Like Etsy, I was facilitating the sales and involved in a lot of customer service. It was challenging to become an ecommerce powerhouse and then one co-founder from the States pulled out and then another person in Darwin.”

She was about to pull the plug on her online idea when a guy from the USA , an expert in search engine optimisation (SEO) and a plastic pollution awareness blogger contacted her for an article collaboration. He suggested Simona develop an affiliate marketing model, where she would receive a commission for directing customers to a vendor’s website for a product.

“It was a light bulb moment,” recalls Simona. “It had been suggested before to build traffic to the website first but I was too stubborn. Sometimes you have to find out for yourself.”

Simona then added the innovative solution to create a digital platform which not only connects individuals to eco-friendly products via an affiliate marketing model but draws in businesses and not-for-profits through membership subscriptions.

“Having a passion is good but you also need a business view that prevails that passion. It’s all about balance and finding the right mentors that are actually in the field you want to enter into.

“The thing is to make mistakes and learn from them. Developing and commercialising an innovative idea is a journey with many peaks and troughs. You also need to be in it for the long haul, which I am.”

To find out about opportunities for funding and investment head to https://innovation.nt.gov.au/ecosystem/funding

Page last updated on 24 October 2022