As the climate crisis and environmental challenges intensify across the world, there's a pressing need for local solutions that are effective, creative and sustainable. UBC Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) student and budding entrepreneur Prishita Agarwal leads a business venture that checks off all of those boxes—and then some.
Agarwal is a fourth-year student pursuing Finance as a specialization with a concentration in Sustainability and Social Impact. She’s also the co-founder of Mosa, a Vancouver-based, socially-conscious start-up that encourages people to take their first step towards sustainability. Mosa is a digital platform and online store where people can shop for handcrafted gifts and products made from recovered glass bottles.
How curiosity sparked a desire for change
As a lifelong environmentalist, the idea for her business was sparked after Agarwal began researching the fate of alcohol bottles in Vancouver.
"I was shocked when I started looking into recycling glass. I learnt that barely anything is recycled in British Columbia because the province doesn't have enough recycling facilities,” explains Agarwal. “Most of it is transported to recycling plants in the United States and glass is heavy to transport so it makes the whole process very expensive.”
On the heels of this revelation, she decided to set up a meeting with the CEO of Return-It BC, which manages glass collection depots throughout the province. Their conversation uncovered another challenge: B.C. doesn't produce enough glass to make glass recycling facilities viable at-scale.
“I thought to myself: 'How can I help make an impact, and at the same time make it commercially sustainable as a business?'" recalls Agarwal.
Over 6,750 glass bottles find a new home
The answer was in a process called 'upcycling' glass. While recycling uses high heat and energy to melt glass bottles and mould them into other products, upcycling uses minimal manufacturing processes to transform glass products. It uses less energy-intensive methods like glass-cutting and polishing to turn them into final products.
With the production process now in place, Agarwal and her co-founder launched their business, Mosa (formerly known as Rescued Glass). It's now a registered for-profit enterprise with a team of 23, many of whom are her peers from the UBC Sauder School of Business.
The company has collaborated with 12 organizations to collect bottles around Vancouver—including restaurants, bars and not-for-profits like Ocean Wise. Together, they've salvaged over 6,750 bottles so far.
Their online store has a wide array of home and lifestyle products made from rescued glass bottles, from aromatic candles to snack bowls and handcrafted wine decanters. The company also partners with B.C.-based artisanal designers and handicraft workers to create the products.
"The idea was to leverage local partnerships and create a circular economy: to rescue these glass bottles from beaches and other environments and re-introduce them into the economy without actually putting a lot of energy and cost into the raw material," explains Agarwal.
A ‘rising star’ inspired by her city and her school
With strong partnerships around the city, people are starting to take notice of Agarwal and her sustainability-focused venture. This year, she was recognized and celebrated by BC Business magazine's Women of The Year Awards, winning the 'Rising Stars’ category.
The local recognition means a lot to Agarwal, in part because she credits the city of Vancouver for boosting her entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to the environment. Originally from Surat, India, Agarwal says her new home is the perfect place to build her business.
And it's at UBC Sauder that she honed the skills to launch and run an initiative. She says one course, taught by Victoria Levy, Adjunct Professor, Law and Business Communications Group, transformed her entrepreneurial journey.
Agarwal also credits Levy for her help in the company’s recent rebranding campaign, as the brand evolved from ‘Rescued Glass’ to ‘Mosa’ in late 2022.
"The Business Writing course has been tremendously helpful in framing my ideas and vision for Mosa. It's critical to educate and persuade our customers, business partners and even team members about the social goals we want to achieve,” says Agarwal. “The class helped me effectively convey why it's important for [bars and restaurants] to supply us with glass bottles, instead of simply discarding them in a recycling bin—or worse, not recycling at all. Adjunct Professor Levy helped me frame my messaging to invite consumers and companies alike to join this circular-economy movement and take their first step towards sustainable living.”
Since launching Mosa, Agarwal has expertly navigated two demanding areas of her life: focusing on her BCom studies and serving at the helm of her own venture. It’s an impressive balancing act that requires dedication, focus and motivation.
Having come this far, Agarwal has a message to other students who aspire to start their own business or initiative.
"I want to remind others at UBC Sauder who want to start a project: have that belief in yourself and trust the journey."