Meet Sagara Ranga Liyanage, the man behind all the newspaper products we sell at Serendip. He is the founder of Earthbound Creations in Sri Lanka.
He began his business in 2013 with a simple mission: to create mats, baskets and bowls out of old newspapers, as he had seen done by artisans from abroad. "But I had no idea how to do it," he says, "so I experimented at home. Eventually I created my own unique system."
At first, he hired just three people who worked from his home. Today, he hires over 350 people, who can work from their homes or in the small factory which he built in the hills near Kandy, and he exports his products all over the world.
Lucky gold necklace
Sagara started life in a very poor family, but he was determined to break out of the poverty which his and many other local families were trapped in. He worked hard at school, despite having to revise for his final exams in very poor lighting as they had no electricity at home.
However, life was still not easy for the would-be entrepreneur. "I had many difficulties," he tells me, "and I became enemies with a person that I hated so much I wanted to kill him!"
This determined mindset is evident in his first small business, which he started in 2006, selling greetings cards handmade by his sister from recycled scraps of card and pressed flowers. "We had no money even to buy the paper," he recalls.
Walking into the storeroom at his factory is like entering a vault full of treasures, with shelves reaching to the ceiling packed full of brightly coloured bowls, baskets, mats and picture frames - all made out of newspaper. They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, and in this case, it all starts with a single piece of rolled up newspaper.