This time, we’re with Matt Simpson, the man behind Green Banana Paper, a company developed purely as a way to give local employment to a demographic of island dwellers in Micronesia who would most likely have left for jobs in the city. Making wallets from banana trees, learn how this unique company’s process has been a labour of love for Matt, and a great example of alternative materials playing their role in building products of the future.
So, Matt Simpson (below right) from Connecticut, arrives in Kosrae, Micronesia in 2008. He is a young volunteer teacher and picks up some work at one of the local high schools on the island.
He falls in love. With the people, with the island, with the work-life balance he encounters. Who wouldn’t? After work every day, he is merely a hop, skip and jump from the ocean where he spends hours surfing and lapping up the waves.
When his teaching contract came to an end, Matt, understandably, was reluctant to leave.
His time on Kosrae had taught him many things, including the fact that very few businesses existed on the island. And hardly anything was exported out of Kosrae. His former students who had now left school were either unemployed, or had already shipped out to find work in the US, most probably on minimum wage.
Matt decided to do something about it. And Green Banana Paper was born.
A bit lost in high school, Matt originally went into teaching because he felt an urge to help kids who, much like him, needed a helping hand to tread their own path in life.
Taking that philosophy into his business, he has built a business NOT to serve his own interests as a budding entrepreneur, but to satisfy and serve the needs of his team of workers and the Kosrae community in which his business sits.
As he explains to me during our conversation this week, Matt had absolutely no previous experience doing what his company now does. He learned everything from Google and YouTube.
As his latest Kickstarter campaign came to an end last week, Matt’s business is ready and rearing to go. Yes, it has taken a good few years to get to this point. But Matt’s story is one of passion, belief and creating a business for the good of the many, rather than just the few.