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Banana Leather wins first place

Student Startup Wins Top Place in Wege Prize Global Competition

Banofi Leather, which turns banana plant waste into an alternative leather product, won Kendall Laws ’23 and her teammates a $30,000 prize.

Kendall Laws ’23 was part of a team that won first place in the 2023 Wege Prize, a global competition for student entrepreneurs on June 6. The team pitched a startup that turns banana plant waste into an eco-friendly leather alternative.

Banofi Leather, founded by Yale School of the Environment graduate Jinali Mody ’23, was awarded the $30,000 top spot in the prestigious competition. Teammates included co-founder Isobel Campbell ’23, a School of the Environment graduate; Laws; and  School of the Environment graduates Kyle Richmond-Crosset ’23 and Maggie Thompson ’23. Sponsored by Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, the Wege Prize asks student teams to create ventures that address today’s most pressing sustainability challenges in ways that promote a circular economy. 

This year’s top three teams hail from five countries and six academic institutions. The competition drew an initial pool of 50 teams representing 37 countries. Teams employ an interdisciplinary process that takes diverse fields of study, cultures, and institutions into account. Proposals are supported and refined through direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges during the competition’s nine-month process.

Over the past decade, Wege Prize teams have made real-world impact. The 2019 finalist Rutopia’s eco-sensitive tourism concepts, covered by Forbes, gained funding and support. The 2020 Wege Prize winner, Hya Bioplasticsm, and the 2021 team The Chilensis have advanced to prestigious business incubators to lay the groundwork to implement their ideas.

 Watch Banofi Leather's Wege Prize presentation at the competition.