VIU grad hopes to inspire business students

Alex (Mrinal) Casewa developed a new business idea while completing his degree at VIU. He now imports and sells a product called Earthens, bio-­‐degradable dinnerware made from fallen palm leaves from India.

Meet Alex (Mrinal) Casewa. He represents a new breed of business leaders.

A recent graduate of Vancouver Island University’s Bachelor of Business Administration program (BBA) Casewa is making a name for himself importing and selling a new biodegradable product called Earthens.

The environmentally friendly product consists of dinner plates and bowls of various sizes made with fallen palm leaves from India.

“It’s strong, sturdy and almost looks and feels like wood,” he explained. “The product is 100 percent organic and natural, and completely compostable and bio-degradable. Nothing has to be cut down to make it. The product can be used for both hot and cold food, it is freezer proof and safe to use in the microwave.”

So far, Casewa said the product is available on store shelves in Victoria and on the mainland.

“Everything I’ve learned about business I learned at VIU,” said the budding entrepreneur, who completed his BBA degree in 2007 with double majors in marketing and management. “I don’t think I could have done this without the support of my teachers. They helped me develop the concept from many different angles. I had no previous business experience until I studied at VIU.”

Casewa will share his story with new BBA students at a special day-long orientation session next Wednesday, Sept. 2 called Jump Start.

“Hearing stories from former graduates makes a big impact on new students,” said VIU instructor Tracy Gillis. “Our orientation day is meant to introduce new students to our program and to the campus. Hearing stories from graduates like Alex helps get them excited about their educational experience.”

Instructor Duane Weaver said Casewa is a good example of the success students can have immediately after graduating.

“Our business degree has academic caliber with obvious applied components,” he said. “I remember our marketing Distribution Channels course where Alex was always striving to understand the finer points of marketing. I am proud to see that he is directly applying this knowledge to his business enterprise.”

Casewa wants to tell new students that “anything is possible” if they work hard at their studies. He developed the initial concept for Earthens while completing his degree.

“During my coursework in the BBA program, I put a lot of thought into how to market and sell this product,” he said. “The original idea was born out of a sustainable development project in instructor Don Miskiman’s class in 2005. We had to develop a business plan around a sustainable idea. I was researching online and saw this particular product in India, dinnerware made out of fallen palm leaves. Don convinced me that sustainable business is the future.”

Casewa ordered some product samples and used them during a class presentation. “That’s where the idea really took off,” he said. “It suddenly hit me that this could be an excellent product to import, market and sell in Canada.”

Once Casewa had a business plan drafted, his instructors encouraged him to continue developing it further. “For the next two years while completing my degree, I focused all my assignments around this product,” he said. “For example, I fine-tuned the business plan, developed a marketing plan and financial projections. In other classes, I looked at the rules for importing products into Canada. It just grew from there.”

After graduating, Casewa continued learning how to set up a corporation, how tax laws work and related food safety/environmental regulations. In 2008, his first container of product was shipped to Canada.

After a few adjustments to improve the packaging, Casewa’s business venture is going well. “I’ve got the product in most retail stores in Victoria, and now on the mainland,” he said. “The response has been great. People love the concept. I’ve now got over 100 stores selling the product, including IGA and Thrifty Foods. “Hopefully, interest will grow.”

To find out more about VIU’s BBA program and other courses offered in the Business faculty, visit the website at

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