A metal container, on a wooden table, containing different foods.

Mama Mundo: For A Life Without Plastic!

Business: Mama Mundo Inc. (Life Without Plastic brand)
Region: Outaouais
Program: Women Entrepreneurship Strategy
CED’s $90,000 non-repayable contribution has enabled: Implementation of a European marketing strategy

Reduce the use of plastic while offering accessible solutions: this is the goal Chantal Plamondon, Co-owner and Co-founder of Mama Mundo Inc., has given herself. The Gatineau business today sells over 450 plastic-free products in Canada and the United States. Thanks to support received through CED’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), this Quebec SME is now setting out to conquer the European market.

An idea pregnant with possibility

A portrait of Chantal Plamondon, Co-founder and Co-owner of Mama Mundo, and the CEO of Life Without Plastic.
Chantal Plamondon, Co-founder and Co-owner of Mama Mundo Inc. and CEO of the official trademark Life Without Plastic.

In 2005, Chantal was concerned about the impacts of plastic on health and the environment. The young mother went out in search of alternative solutions for commonly used objects and realized that little was available in her region. “For example, to buy a plastic-free baby bottle, I had to contact a foreign supplier and order not just one, but 1000! So, I approached other mothers about purchasing the merchandise, and the response was more than positive. And this is how the business was born,” she recalls.

Contributing to clean growth

A year later, the visionary entrepreneur—in partnership with her then-partner Jay Sinha—launched Mama Mundo Inc., or Mother Earth, better known under its official trademark of Life Without Plastic. With sales currently exceeding $1 million and growing an average of 15 to 20% per year, the SME today employs seven people and offers a complete range of items online mostly made of stainless steel, glass, organic cotton and wood.

A portrait of three women working at Life Without Plastic.
Three Life Without Plastic team members: Regan Hachey, Administrative Assistant; Sarah Wylie, Inventory and Operations Manager; and Chantal.

The business is generating economic spinoffs not only in its region but also elsewhere around the world: its suppliers come from various countries, including Germany, Italy, South Korea, China and India. “Since I was a teenager, I wanted to found a business that respects workers, consumers and the environment. With Mama Mundo, we are making every effort to have products that are sourced ethically. This means ensuring our products are created in safe facilities by workers who are treated well, paid fairly and have normal hours. This also implies that the supplier respects the environment during production and manufacturing,” specifies the lawyer by training, who also studied business ethics. To ensure this is the case, Mama Mundo gives all of its suppliers a detailed questionnaire. The entrepreneur also visits certain facilities and works with specialized international organizations that guarantee strict inspection measures are followed in India and China, for example.

At the same time, Mama Mundo seeks to raise awareness among the public about the problems posed by plastic. Their book—first published in English in 2017 under the title Life Without Plastic: The Practical Step-By-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family and the Planet Healthy—was released by Jay and Chantal in French in 2019 as Vivre sans plastique : des outils écologiques à notre portée and is today a point of reference.

Breaking into the European market

A Life Without Plastic kiosk during a trade fair in Paris in January 2019.

The Life Without Plastic booth at a trade show in Paris in January 2019.

After receiving orders several times from Europe, Chantal had an intuition that these markets could offer worthwhile openings for her products. However, to develop a network of on-site retailers, she needed a financial boost. CED’s support will enable her, among other things, to hire an additional resource, participate in trade fairs and set up online purchasing. “It’s wonderful to have access to such a program. I often felt that being a woman represented a barrier in the business world; it is even more the case abroad,” she notes.

In fact, according to a study by Export Development Canada (EDC) published in 2018, between 13.5% and 16% of Canadian SMEs are women-owned, but only 7.5% of these businesses export their products and services.

The dynamic entrepreneur closes our meeting by speaking about her latest product under development: an organic cotton plane cushion that can also be used to carry travel clothes. At Mama Mundo, there is never a shortage of stimulating ideas or projects! It is a point of honour for the business to create objects that often source recycled materials, as seen in the insulation in her lunch boxes, made of wool and cotton scraps from Ontario mattress manufacturer Obasan. What a beautiful example of the circular economy! Because certain quintessential elements remain at the heart of the business: the manufacturing of high-quality, ethical, environmentally friendly products.

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