Vandana Mangroo grew up in South Trinidad and describes her childhood self as one that was very active and always outdoors playing with neighbours. She attended Cedar Grove Primary School in Palmiste followed by Naparima Girls’ High School before migrating to Toronto in 2004 to attend Ryerson University where she was awarded an international student scholarship. While in Toronto, Mangroo also pursued Fine Arts by attending the Ontario College of Art and Design with a focus on drawing and painting. Upon graduating, she got various short jobs but she really got her big break when she was hired by Warner Bros. to work in their Operations Department. In 2011, however, Mangroo found herself back to the shores of Trinidad and is today the Founder of Hello Green, a company committed to environmental preservation which she partly attests to her childhood years outdoors and her growing fascination with nature. Vandana shared her exciting success story with the WE Mag Team and we felt inspired to share it with you, our dear readers. Here is a bit on Vandana’s journey.
What are you working on at present?
Since my business is only three years old, I am constantly looking at ways to expand and grow sustainably. I am also looking to diversify into manufacturing, using local waste materials so that we can bolster the collection and use of recycled materials nationwide. I am also working with other parties to create compostable materials locally that can be used in local manufacturing as well as exported. These projects are very dear to me since it would really change the way we think about waste. I am continuing my work with NGOs and other agencies to improve waste management locally and to eventually introduce organic recycling/composting. I am currently doing my Master’s Degree at the Arthur Lok Jack School of Business which will be completed in August 2019.
What are some of your treasured milestones thus far?
Honestly, the first thing that comes to mind, other than my academic accomplishments, is my wedding. Not for the reasons that seem obvious but because the day represented so much more to my family and I. My mother, at the time, was living with Stage 4 Cancer and my wedding was more of a celebration of her and family than anything else. Looking back at those photos, I feel nothing but true joy. My mother lost her battle to cancer on Old Year’s Day 2017, so I started the New Year without her.
Interestingly, later that year I was honoured with the title of “Entrepreneur of the Year (startup category)” from EY and the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which meant a lot more to me since it was truly the darkest year of my life. In one year, I experienced the lowest of lows and the highest of highs.
Professionally, I would have to say that being the first company to bring 100% certified compostable packaging to the Caribbean and seeing the effect it has so far on awareness about climate change and plastic pollution, has been an amazing experience. Seeing governments of other islands we operate to embrace alternatives and even ban single-use plastics and Styrofoam, as a result, has helped to keep me motivated.
How Did You Handle Adversity And Doubt?
When I lost my mother I was like anyone else, overwhelmed with grief. It honestly took months for me to even start to feel remotely like myself. However, I used this grief as a form of energy which I channeled into my business and I also decided to start my Master’s Degree in January 2018, right after she passed. My mother was a determined woman who fought for what she wanted, and I knew that the best way to honour her legacy would be to keep fighting and pursuing my own dreams. I believe that in any situation you can either say, “why me?” or “what is the lesson here?”. That is what I go back to any time I face adversity. Starting a new business also comes with a myriad of emotions, doubt is one of the top three. For the first year of my business, I probably cried every night from fear, worry and being overwhelmed. I just kept pushing myself with my end goal in mind and of course, with the love and support of my family, close friends and my very own guardian angel.
What’s your ultimate goal or biggest dream for the future?
I do not have one ultimate goal since I have many, but seeing my business continuing to grow and eventually become a leading manufacturer, exporter and distributor of compostable items is my focus. I am in the process of diversifying into the manufacturing and innovation sector as I am currently working with any third parties and experimenting with various waste materials such as recycled paper, sawdust, rice husks, and Sargassum seaweed. Ultimately being able to create a new compostable material here locally that can replace plastic is a dream that I am actively pursuing.
What are you most grateful for?
Without a doubt my family and friends. I am beyond blessed when it comes to having a support system that is one hundred percent ‘Team Vandana’ even when I have the craziest ideas.
Why do you do what you do?
Our generation needs to look at the world we live in differently because it is constantly changing. The world our parents lived in, sadly, is no longer here and we must start to do things with a purpose. My purpose is to work towards a cleaner, greener Trinidad for future generations but also to enjoy my life surrounded by all the love I can.