One of the first things Lizl Naude, the creator and brainchild behind the Lilly Loompa range of upcycled products tells me is that being an entrepreneur is not for ‘sissies’. The Klapmuts resident was originally working in a corporate position when an injury resulted in her being booked off for an extended period. She purchased some beads to occupy her time, as she had done beading as a child, and upon her return to work her colleagues started enquiring about her costume jewellery pieces. Starting off making items after hours, an art director friend challenged her to select a business name and formalise her side hustle. Lilly Loompa, named for Lizl’s childhood nickname, and the Oompa Loompa characters from the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was born.

The business started operating in 2004, but has taken a number of years to build. Although Lizl had studied interior decorating, she found that product development was her passion and this is the direction she decided to follow. Relocations and other setbacks slowed business growth, but in the meantime Lizl focussed on creating products for her own home, blogging about her various DIY projects, and writing for magazines. In 2015, she made the decision to ask a mentor for advice and she relaunched Lilly Loompa as an upcycle-based product business in 2016. She shifted her focus towards smaller items targeted at the tourist market, and officially registered her business in 2018.

Products from Lilly Loompa are all upcycled. This means that a previously existing item such as a bottle or a tin can is manipulated or reworked so that it can be used for something else. This is different from recycling which involves waste being broken down only to be remanufactured into the same item. Products in the range include items such as the Toona Can, a reworked and lidded tuna can that can be used to store small items. The design is bright and attractive and speaks to both adults and children. A slumped wine bottle is transformed into a spoon rest, platter, or salt and pepper shakers, and lamps are created from cans and wood. During the Covid pandemic lockdown, Lizl’s Africa range was born and includes a foldable lap desk, wall art, and charcuterie /cheese boards. Designs for salad spoons and candle holders are in the works.

Lizl has learned that it can be challenging to work with waste and limited resources. She has learned to evaluate what materials are available and to use those. Items like cans, wood, and glass are ideal for upcycling, but she is hoping to also start using plastic for her projects soon. By doing the “dirty work” or sourcing and transforming items, Lilly Loompa allows others to become a part of the waste solution. She works in conjunction with various sources within a 15km radius of her business including a waste plant, wine farms, markets, as well as some schools to collect the items she needs.

Looking forward, Lizl hopes to expand the business to include innovation centres where research can be done about new ways to use materials. She would also like to establish micro-factories located in multiple communities thereby creating a production belt for upcycled retail products.

Along with having her products for sale at the CoCreate Hub, Lizl also has a retail space at Paarl Nursery. She is appreciative of the TV exposure her business got, especially during lockdown when the viewing schedule resulted in her segment being aired on multiple occasions.

Lizl says that the best way to get started is to make use of the things you have around you. She warns about the risk of perfection becoming a shackle that hinders your progress. For aspiring entrepreneurs, her advice is: “Living your purpose is so important, Find your passions and your gift. If you can do this, you will be happy and a gift to the world.” She goes on to say that there is never a wrong time to take a step out, but that before embarking on a project you should do your planning carefully. If possible, have a financial buffer and learn to live a leaner life.

To find out more about Lilly Loompa, you can view a selection of their products at the CoCreate Hub in Stellenbosch, visit their website or connect via the CoCreate Hub Entrepreneurs page.