Hweol Innovations: Pioneering Sustainable Solutions for Waste Management 

What started as a creative university project of manufacturing a pizza vending machine that was later patented, laid the foundation for a manufacturing company for three visionary friends who established a waste management company named Hweol. 

Hweol was one of the six winning startups to join the first phase of the DAWERR Innovation Challenge 2023, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with Berytech.  

This innovative startup was founded by three engineers: Bassem Khaddaj, Haitham Fayad, and Nizar Souki. In an interview with Bassem, we explored the story of Hweol and gained insights into their participation in the competition. 

Q: What can you tell us about Hweol? 

A: Hweol, established in 2019, originated from the success of a patented pizza vending machine created during our university years. Inspired by innovation, we envisioned a manufacturing company dedicated to revolutionizing the waste management sector. Our production facility in Chwayfet reflects our commitment to cutting-edge technology and eco-friendly solutions, driving our mission to transform waste processing and minimize environmental impact. 

Q: What is the inspiration behind the name of your startup? 

A: The name of our startup, Hweol (pronounced as wheel), draws inspiration from the historical significance of the wheel, the first-ever mechanical creation. In Old English, dating back to pre-7th century, the term for the wheel was “hweol.” 

Q: Who is the team behind Hweol? 

A: Hweol’s team comprises adept mechanical engineers skilled at transforming intricate challenges into practical solutions. I, Bassem Khaddaj, lead product innovation and sales, Nizar Souki serves as our consultation expert, and Haitham Fayad, our third Co-Founder, oversees design and engineering. Haitham excels in crafting machinery that not only meets but exceeds industry standards. 

Q: What types of products do you manufacture? 

A: We specialize in a diverse array of machinery that are all designed to enhance efficiency and eco-friendliness in waste management. Some of our products are: 

  • High-performance woodchippers and log splitters come in a variety of models that adapt to different settings from domestic to industrial applications. 
  • Glass crushers transform glass waste into reusable materials that contribute significantly to environmental conservation efforts. 
  • Plastic granulators are designed for effective plastic waste management and streamlining recycling processes. 
  • Bale compactors are engineered for optimal compaction; thus, facilitating the efficient handling and transportation of waste materials.  
  • Organic waste shredder whereby we treat 90% of the waste in Lebanon. 

Q: What differentiates you from your competitors? 

A: At the core of our operations are quality craftsmanship and exceptional customer service. We build machines that last, using high-quality materials and adhering to European quality standards. We take pride in designing all our machinery comprehensively. Additionally, our customer service team guarantees enduring satisfaction and support through 24-hour after-sales assistance. 

Q: What are some of the challenges that you have faced and how did you overcome them?

A: There were two main challenges that we faced when first started: Marketing and sales. It was very difficult to sell our first machine when we started because we didn’t have a track record. We were a startup that literally started its operations from a workshop at home; therefore, earning the trust of any potential client was difficult. We got our first break from another entrepreneur who knew the struggles of an entrepreneur and he decided to give us a chance. That’s how we sold our first food dehydrator. The second piece of machinery, a glass crusher, was sold to a local municipality after a long time of convincing. Even though those two sales were sold at a relatively large loss, they were the steppingstone in launching our business because through word of mouth, we were able to grow our business to now include over 40 customers.  

The second challenge revolved around convincing customers of the higher quality of our products, even though they came at a higher price compared to counterparts from the Eastern part of the world. However, by constantly showcasing the quality of our products and comparing them to the European products that are much more expensive than ours, we eventually succeeded in convincing them that our products are more cost-effective.

Q: Was there a time when you thought of giving up? 

A: Yes. That moment was approximately two years ago when Lebanon was going through the financial crisis, the outbreak of corona, and the revolution. We found ourselves on the verge of bankruptcy and almost ready to give up. However, we were able to create a partnership with another local startup that helped us overcome this obstacle.  

Q: What’s next for Hweol? 

A: Our long-term plan is to expand our operations to the MENA region not only through exporting but also by establishing offices abroad. Also, for us, innovation is continuous. We also look for new possibilities and new types of machinery that reflect our dedication to a sustainable and innovative future. 

Q: Why did you apply to the USAID DAWERR Innovation Challenge? 

A: We had this idea where we wanted to install bottle crushers in a mobile truck that can go around to various locations instead of transporting this waste to specialized facilities to be treated. Our aim was to cut down on transportation costs and increase the volume of treated waste. The reason why we applied to the program is because even though we had the idea, we lacked the resources to implement and validate our product. The DAWERR Innovation Challenge provided us with this opportunity.  

Q: How did you benefit the most from the DAWERR Innovation Challenge? 

A: The significance of training and mentorship in advancing through various product stages cannot be overstated. With the valuable support from USAID, we experienced substantial benefits from the networking opportunities provided. This enabled us to connect with numerous potential clients and investors. Furthermore, participation in the DAWERR Innovation Challenge enhanced our understanding of market needs and clarified how our product serves diverse communities. 

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering starting a business in the waste management industry? 

A: Prioritize sales over innovation. As engineers, we often come up with many ideas that seem valuable, yet their significance might not resonate with the market. Understanding the market’s demands is important; if your product isn’t marketable, pursuing it may not be worthwhile. 

Picture of Raghid Jarrah

Raghid Jarrah

Raghid Jarrah joined Berytech in July 2021 and is currently a Communication and Outreach Coordinator. He supports the team on various ongoing projects such as ARYAF, DAWERR, REAF, SAFI, WE4F, and others.

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