Founder of ethical fashion accessories brand Ravinala - Rebecca Barber

Course: BA (Hons) Three Dimensional Design - Product Design

Spending a large chunk of her childhood on the now sought-after holiday-destination island of Madagascar, Rebecca’s playground was none other than the remote rural villages that would go on to shape her future as an award winning product design entrepreneur.

For Rebecca went back to her roots for inspiration while studying a BA (Hons) in 3D Design when she produced a solar-powered radio made from Madagascan bamboo.

She says, “Growing up in a developing country with limited resources, it is much easier to become creative by learning to adapt to using what is around you. It also makes you more appreciative of preserving and protecting the environment.”

With much media acclamation for her work with renewable energy products, including an umbrella that provides shelter from the sun in the day while powering up a solar-fuelled light for use at night, Rebecca saw the opportunity to build a business grounded in sound ethical practice. And it was in 2010 that she founded BOO Enterprise (Beginning Other Opportunities for Enterprise).

“My degree has enabled me to bring my ideas to life, identify and build on what I am good at,” says Rebecca. “When I first came to Plymouth, I didn't know what direction to take. I initially thought I would end up behind a desk in an office in London, but I soon realised I had a real passion for product design. It has been hard work but with the right support and determination, the opportunities it has created just keep growing.”

Rebecca has achieved a number of accolades for her work, including the Social Enterprise Award in the University's 2010 Business Ideas Challenge, a finalist for the 2010 South West Universities Enterprise Awards, followed by Social Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2011 Vice-Chancellor’s Enterprise Awards. She’s also exhibited at the New Designers show in London.

Rebecca is now reinventing BOO as Ravinala (www.ravinala.co.uk), in honour of the species of tropical palm from Madagascar, branching into fashion accessories along with the hand bags and beach bags, keeping to the unique brief of being able to trace back each hand-crafted item to its team of makers with a 100 per cent Fairtrade policy.

Rebecca says, “I was really motivated to develop a project that would use the education I have been lucky enough to enjoy, and the resources of the University, to provide opportunities for those not so lucky. My life has completely changed and through this I have been able to make a difference to other people’s lives as well.”