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Saturday, December 2, 2023
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Repurposed hot air balloon material helps entrepreneurial refugees

TERN – the entrepreneurial refugee network has partnered with Shropshire’s Virgin Balloon Flights to repurpose retired hot air balloons.

Maria Khan is working with The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network repurposing old balloon material into aprons, picnic blankets, bags, bikinis and picnic blankets,

This week Virgin Balloon Flights launched a campaign to give its retired balloons a second lease of life. In collaboration with TERN – The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network – an exclusive range of upcycled products was launched on Virgin Red to mark World Refugee Day on Monday.

Based in Telford, Shropshire, Virgin Balloon Flights flies from more than 100 locations across the UK.

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Each Virgin balloon hosts 10,000 passengers with 600 hours of flying before being retired. One balloon consists of 34,000 square feet of nylon material, which is enough to cover 16 football pitches.

In the past, the company has been finding other ways to use its retired balloons – the durable, lightweight, and tear-resistant fabric makes for great covers for the balloon baskets and extra insulation for the walls of its large barn workshops. Wiltshire artisan, Lisa Crick, has also used the material to create large bags.

Upcycled products

More recently, Maria and Teem Khan, whose enterprises are part of TERN, have used the material to create upcycled products including picnic blankets, aprons, hair bows, tote bags, capes and bikinis.

Powered by TERN, Maria and Teem both currently sell their upcycled products via the ANQA Collective, Europe’s first online marketplace selling products from refugee-led businesses.

Founder of TERN, Charlie Fraser, commented: “We believe that recognising and supporting the entrepreneurial talent of refugees is essential to building more inclusive societies, and we’re really proud to partner with Virgin Balloon Flights and Virgin Red to launch this special Anqa Collective range. Teem and Maria are both creative, resourceful and determined entrepreneurs and we’re so excited to share their creations!”

Virgin Red is Virgin’s Group-wide rewards programme – it’s free to sign up. All profits from sales are going to the refugee founders who created these products, helping them grow their budding businesses.

Craft makers can pitch ideas

Alongside this, Virgin Balloon Flights is giving the UK’s craft makers, entrepreneurs and community groups an opportunity to pitch ideas as to how they would give retired balloons a second life. The balloon company plans to give away as much of the material as it can.

Virgin Balloon Flights is also calling on the British public to pitch ideas for re-purposing retired balloon envelopes, which are made up of 34,000 square feet of resistant material

Inspired by the creative ways in which these Balloons can be repurposed, individuals across the UK can pitch ideas on how to use the material via Virgin Balloon Flight’s website at: https://www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/up-upcycled-and-away.

Virgin Balloon Flights plans to distribute as much of the material as it can.

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