Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

September 25, 2023

Yale banana-based leather startup wins $1M international prize


Banofi Leather, a startup focused on crafting leather from banana crop waste for use in handbags and apparel, recently won the 2023 Hult Prize.

The Hult Prize Foundation on Friday awarded the $1 million prize to the venture of student entrepreneurs from Yale University.

The annual contest, funded by the Hult family, challenges student entrepreneurs worldwide to create and launch businesses that tackle social issues. 

Banofi Leather’s products are vegan, sustainable and cruelty-free, compared to traditional animal-derived leather, according to its website. The name “Banofi” is a mashup of the words “banana” and “fiber.”

The venture was inspired by founder Jinali Mody, who struggled to find a sustainable leather bag. Mody, who is from India and has a master’s degree in sustainability from the Yale School of the Environment, wanted to find an alternative that wouldn’t harm the planet. Her search led to the launch of Banofi Leather. Its website notes its products come from “materials that make you go bananas.”

The team that pitched for Banofi Leather included Mody, Isobel Campbell and Margaret Boreham.

The contest has a different challenge or theme each year, and this year’s focus was on “redesigning fashion.” According to the foundation, fashion is the world’s third-largest manufacturing sector, and is responsible for up to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Banofi Leather beat five other finalists who competed in the competition’s global finals in Paris. The other ventures hailed from Egypt, England, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United States. 

More than 40,000 students participated in the year-long competition, which featured several regional elimination rounds. In August, 20 remaining teams participated in a virtual program aimed at helping students turn their ideas into investment-ready social ventures. Banofi Leather and the five other finalists subsequently participated in mentorship programs in France at the Hult Prize Accelerator.

Lori van Dam, CEO of the Hult Prize Foundation, said she is excited about the impact participants will have on the fashion industry.

“The ingenuity and optimism that is representative of the more than 40,000 students who have engaged in this process is nothing short of an inspiration,” she said.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF