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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Shop Sustainably: upcycling by UC Davis student

Priyanka Shreedar shares how she began a successful green business during quarantine.

The California Aggie spoke to Priyanka Shreedar as part of our Shop Sustainably series, which highlights a green business local to Davis each month.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have found themselves looking for a way to stay busy. Some students have turned this boredom into a creative outlet, including Priyanka Shreedar, a fourth-year biopsychology major, who has started upcycling. Shreedar said that while stuck at home, she was deep cleaning her closet to pass the time when she had the idea for her upcycled scrunchies.

“During quarantine, I wanted to stay busy […] and also I’ve been working on downsizing my wardrobe, and I had a bunch of old t-shirts and dresses that I didn’t need,” Shreedar said. “But, not a lot of places right now are taking clothing donations due to the pandemic.”

Shreedar said that she was also looking for some new scrunchies, and with all the material she found in her closet, she decided to try to make one herself. In an effort to clear out some closet space and keep busy, she began making scrunchies for family and friends, and after sharing one of her creations on Instagram, her business started to take off.

“I ended up posting [a scrunchie] on my main Instagram story and a lot of people were like […] ‘If you made those, I’d totally buy them,’” Shreedar said. “So, I just started asking around who would actually be genuinely interested in buying them and that’s kind of how I got started.”

After taking orders from friends and Instagram followers, Shreedar expanded her business, creating a separate instagram account—@upcyclingbypri—which she uses to share new designs and take orders. Through her Instagram, Shreedar is not only able to show off her creations and reach more customers, but she has also been able to directly interact with customers and take some custom orders. Chloe Hofschneider, a UC Davis graduate, said that she actually reached out to Shreedar to see if she would be able to make “healthcare headbands.” 

“I was actually looking to purchase some [healthcare headbands] online, but because she was upcycling and working with scrunchies, I asked her if she could possibly make some and she did it really well,” Hofschneider said. “She was very accommodating and eager to try new things.”

Since then, Shreedar has expanded her product range to include “healthcare headbands,” as well as propagated plants and dog bandanas. 

Shreedar first began Upcycling by Pri in July, and in just two months she has shipped orders all over California, Oregon and even Maine. Shreedar says that even in the short time she has been doing this, she has gained a new perspective on what it means to be a small business.

“Every time somebody buys something I do a little happy dance,” Shreedar said. “I think it [has] really made me appreciate buying from other small businesses and realizing how big of an impact you’re actually having on that person’s day. When you get a sale in, it’s very different than if you go to Forever21 and buy a scrunchie there. It’s someone sitting at their desk and when they check their phone […] and somebody [has] ordered something, they’re going to remember your name.”

Shreedar is committed to getting to know her customers. She makes sure the fabric of the scrunchie compliments the buyer’s hair type, keeps them updated on her progress and allows them to customize their orders. Loren Estrada, a UC Davis graduate, said Shreedar’s commitment to her customers was memorable.

“I feel like it’s really unique with small businesses where they send you pictures as they go throughout the production process.” Estrada said. “I got to customize even like the threads for the embroidery and she sent me an update after she did the first scrunchie. She even made a tiny bandana for [my pet] snake.”

In addition to her focus on customers, Shreedar is also committed to running Upcycling by Pri as a sustainable business. Even before she started her business, Shreedar was passionate about sustainability in her personal life, which she largely attributes to the culture of Davis.

“I’ve always been a very sustainably-minded person but being surrounded by Davis’ various sustainability initiatives and the amount of effort that’s put into clean energy and upcycling and reusing supplies, […] I’ve been really trying to integrate that in every aspect of life,” Shreedar said.

In addition to using fully donated fabric, Shreedar has begun integrating natural dyes, such as avocado and turmeric, into her scrunchie designs. She has also begun propagating and selling plants in recycled kombucha jars. As for packaging materials, she uses recycled brown paper bags to label her products. Being a sustainable business is extremely important to Shreedar, but it does make for additional challenges in production. 

“I definitely want to work on ways to maintain my sustainability aspect if I continue to do larger productions,” Shreedar said. “What’s kind of different in what I’m doing than many other small businesses is that once a fabric is gone, a fabric is gone.”

Shreedar is passionate about maintaining the sustainability of her business, and also hopes to bring more awareness and tips regarding sustainability to her followers on Instagram, regardless of whether they are purchasing a product. Shreedar said that Instagram culture has significant sway over her generation, and hopes to use that to encourage others to lead more sustainable lifestyles. 

“My goal is to start putting out some more sustainability tips in the future and broadening this to more than just scrunchies and plants,” Shreedar said. “Social media has a lot of power when it comes to encouraging sustainability, but it should also provide realistic expectations. [For example], when it comes to going plastic free. It’s not realistic for everyone—it’s not for me—but maybe bringing a reusable bag every time you go to the grocery store is something you can do. Finding ways to make sustainability a habit is a great place to start.”

Written by: Katie Debenedetti — features@theaggie.org


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