READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LAUREN GROPPER (FOUNDER AND CEO) & COREY SCHOLIBO (CO-FOUNDER & CMO) OF @REPURPOSE AND LOOK OUT FOR 'THE ENTREPRENEUR'S PLAYLIST' TO SEE WHAT TUNES THEY'RE CURRENTLY LISTENING TO!
Photography: GREY & ELLE
WORDS: Lauren Gropper, Corey Scholibo, & Nazz Ebrahimi
What motivated you to start a business and how did you choose the name of your company?
LG: I spent my whole career working in sustainability - specifically sustainable design and architecture. As I learned more and more about the problems of disposable plastic and styrofoam waste and how pervasive a problem it is, I felt compelled to do something. I was so excited by the innovation in plant based disposables as an alternative and was very naive at the same time - I wanted to provide a solution to the problem and thought that it would be easy to do....I had no idea what lay ahead! The name REPURPOSE seemed to fit perfectly with the mission of our company - we are a purpose driven company and we are using plants for a totally new purpose - 'repurposing' them into our products.
CS: We started a business to change the amount of paper and plastic in the environment and the way people think about disposable.
Who are your ideal customers?
LG: Our ideal customers are really those who want to make the environmentally friendly choice without having to make compromises on quality or price. We want to appeal widely and provide a solution for everyone.
CS: We feel everyone is our customer. Everyone needs disposable options so we offer them the cleanest greenest option available.
How many retailers can Repurpose be found in? Any advice on getting your product in front of retailers?
LG: We're in over 5,000 stores across the US! Getting a new product in front of retailers is tough. It helps to go after local or small retailers first so that you can demonstrate success and take those examples to the bigger retailers.
CS: Over 5K. You need to have a quality product and a story people can believe in. Then it is just persistence.
What makes Repurpose products sustainable?
LG: All of our products are 100% plant based, not toxic, renewable and compostable. We are a zero waste solution!
CS: Our products are made from compostable, plant-based materials, are non-toxic and can return to the earth in 90-180 days.
What do you hope your customers can take away and learn most about our environment?
LG: We hope that our customers can learn that there are innovative solutions to our environmental problems and that they have the choice and the power to really make a difference with their purchasing decisions.
CS: We hope they learn that it is a finite resource. Our products are sustainable but most products are linear, designed to be used once and then last forever. We cannot continue to use products like that and must move to a circular product ecosystem.
How can we do our part to help save the environment?
LG: I think it's just about educating ourselves and becoming more conscious - so that we can make better choices on an everyday basis. These small changes do make a big difference. As Oprah says...when we know better, we do better ; )
CS: There are many things you can do, but mostly it is about being keenly aware of the resources you are using at all times. How much water, how much gas, and of course what kind of single use disposables. Then limit these resources or choose more sustainable alternatives.
Your new stemless wine cups are lovely! What was your initial inspiration?
CS: We really wanted to make a higher end feeling cold cup, something that would be at home at parties and get togethers. So we saw the glass wine and beer cups on the market and thought, what if we did the same thing without a stem.
How do you feel one should approach potential investors, or ask for funds?
LG: It's essential to have a one pager and a deck that you can share with a potential investor. It always helps to have an introduction from a mutual friend or a colleague but if it's a cold intro, I will often send the deck in an email and follow up with a request for a call or an in person meeting. From there it's just about developing a relationship and deciding if there is a fit.
CS: You should only work with investors you feel support your brand and your mission, then approaching them is easier because they are already the type of people you should be talking to and they will understand what you are talking about.
How important do you think customer reviews are, such as the ones posted on Yelp and Facebook?
LG: These are crucial! But only ones that are organic.
CS: Customer reviews are very important. For us the most important are on Amazon. Consumers want to hear from other consumers and feel that their purchases are verified.
Your 3 keys tips for negotiating a deal:
LG: It's a give and take to get to the middle ground!
CS: 1.) Know what you are trying to accomplish before you go in.
2.) Know everything you can about your audience.
3.) Ask for what you want. Most people don't do this, they don't feel they can. There are no soft sells. You have to ask for what you want.
Advice on standing out in a crowd and maintaining a competitive edge?
LG: Staying ahead of the curve on your product offering, packaging, and branding is super important. But it really goes back to having a great product.
CS: Never be afraid of what you don't know. We had a hunch that this category was something that customers needed and we set about building the demand. Having something unique can sometimes be harder, but you have to believe in your idea. Then of course you have to maintain your uniqueness and tell your story.
Best lesson you've learned in business:
LG: There are so many! Really the lessons are endless. Stick to your word, treat others the way you want to be treated - these are fundamental. We have a diverse leadership team and it really has helped us to achieve better outcomes - we don't always agree on everything but we do put the company first and this helps us to make the best decisions.
CS: Be sure you can trust your team. Spend a lot of time figuring out who you want to be in business with. These people will make or break your business. Don't move to fast on that front and always take your time when it comes to people.