Young South Korean entrepreneur dedicates herself to upcycling

Park Mi-hyeon, 32, is founder and CEO of TOUCH4GOOD, a social enterprise based in Seoul.

Her company recycles banners into bags, empty coke bottles into blankets, socks into a writer’s chair, paper into Post-its, and empty cosmetic bottles into skipping ropes and hula hoops among others. This creative repurposing is known as “upcycling.”

Her 10-member team finds partners that donate recyclable goods and factories that process them into new products.

It is far from a high-paying or glamorous job that many others her age would want, but she is proud of her work.

“This isn’t just about making money. You contribute to public good and this is a great feeling to have,” Park said.

The name of her company, TOUCH4GOOD, means “We work to touch people’s hearts through goods with social values.”

Her company is for profit, which mainly comes from partners that provide recyclable goods and goods they sell online _

Her job has made her popular. Park has been invited to talk about her company to students and adults.

She said it wasn’t easy when she started in 2008.

“Social enterprise was so new then. Nobody knew what I was doing. I felt lonely. It’s so much better now,” she said. “Also I believe this job makes you learn and grow all the time.”

Most of the goods are for sale, but some are made for specific groups only. For example, “with Amore Pacific employees, we make beads for jump ropes and hula hoops.”

As a psychology and political science major at university, Park was inspired to start her company by her previous work.

“I worked for a civic group for children’s human rights,” she said. “That’s where I learned to cherish social values. And while I was working there, my job was to make banners and souvenirs. I’ve seen many banners discarded and thought to myself ‘I hope someone recycles these.'”

She was looking for places to upcycle them but couldn’t find any. “Well, why not do it myself?”

Park said she’s open for partnerships. “Please contact us if you want a partnership. But, it’s not that we are taking your trash,” she said.

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