These Brooklyn Social Entrepreneurs Want You To Party Hard, Party Without Red Plastic Cups

Mar 15 2014, 6:26pm CDT | by

These Brooklyn Social Entrepreneurs Want You To Party Hard, Party Without Red Plastic Cups
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

The plastic red cup is a true icon of American culture. It’s there for the high school keg party, the college pizza study party, the awkward office holiday party and every milestone in between. And that’s reflected in the figures. The red solo cup – ubiquitous beer pong receptacle of choice – is part of a gargantuan industry of disposable plastics. Solo Cup, the almost-80 year old company that makes the cherished red cup was gobbled up by Dart Container in a $1 billion sale in 2012. The tableware industry alone is worth $5.5 billion.

It’s an industry two twenty-something social entrepreneurs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn are trying to shake up as demand for sustainable alternatives grows. The market for sustainable tableware is now worth around $700 million and growing, says Susty Party CEO Emily Doubilet.

The daughter of two National Geographic underwater photographers, Doubilet grew up swimming around stunning coral reefs and concerned about environmental destruction. She also loved performing and produced global warming themed burlesque shows and performed in a band in Brooklyn while working as a sustainability advisor. At a party one night she met Jessica Holsey, a Credit Suisse private equity Wall Streeter who’d studied economics at Harvard where she’d captained the basketball team. “It was awesome, I had the great dream job,” says Holsey. But she’d started thinking more about investing her time in a project that involved social as well as financial gains. “It’s funny – it took me two years working on Wall Street to even come across the term ‘social entrepreneur’,” she says.

“I wanted to be involved in the environmental movement as a person who loves parties and entertaining in Brooklyn,” says Doubilet. Noticing the amount of plastic waste that often accompanies a good shindig, Doubilet wanted to find a fun way to make her events match up with her ideals. “I started thinking, how can we have a really positive event or show without creating all this waste?” says Doubilet. “We’re environmentalists who love a good party.”

She’d “scoured the earth for compostable tableware,” but found there was no seamless way to order online. Holsey and Doubilet decided to join forces to launch a webstore and later their own branded products. The duo also partnered with U.S. factories who employ blind and visually impaired people. 

“We wanted to create value locally,” says Doubilet. The National Industry For The Blind powered initiative employs 12 people to make Susty’s line of colorful compostable tableware in the USA, unlike lots of other compostable tableware, which is imported from overseas. Last year, Doubilet and Hosley, who were named in FORBES’ 2014 30 under 30 list, won a $40,ooo award for social impact from the Hitachi Foundation, allowing them to expand and continue to create jobs for the blind.

Susty was self-funded and bootstrapped for four years. Expenses were low at first as they were just running an online store, but after a nerve wracking meeting with Whole Foods in 2012 Susty got placed in stores at first regionally but then nationally last year. They began expanding their own designs and hunting down new materials. They’ve recently launched the world’s first biodegradable plastic tablecloth, says Doubilet. To keep up momentum and increase research and development into innovative materials like tapioca starch, Susty closed at $500,000 seed round led by Radicle Capital, an investor focused on early stage sustainable companies.

“We’ve launched a ton of new products,” says Holsey. Sales have jumped from $500,000 in 2012 to $1.2 million in 2013, she added. The deal with Whole Foods came about because the supermarket is running an initiative that supports millenial social entrepreneurs, says Doubilet. “The meeting with Whole Foods was the start of launching our own brand,” she says. “They’ve been a dream partner,” providing mentorship and guidance. So too have United Natural Foods, Inc. a national distributor of all things to do with organic food and packaging.

Another key advisor is Julie Bell, a Partner at San Francisco Equity Partners. Bell’s portfolio company, Method Products, which makes naturally-derived, biodegradable household cleaners, laundry detergents and soaps merged with Belgian firm Ecover to create a $200 million company in 2012. “She sees a lot of similarity,” says Doubilet. “It’s approaching a product that might seem boring or stale and thinking, let’s make this a really fun experience and good for environment and community as well.”

So far, so sunny but dangers lurk. Susty’s products are still much more expensive than their plastic equivalents. A box of their wooden cutlery is $8.99 for 50 vs Dixie’s $4.99 for 100 price point. Also, some of the products can only be broken down through industrial composting, an option only really accessible in a few cities like Portland, Seattle and San Francisco (although Doubilet thinks a change in legislation will make curbside composting pickup a reality in NYC soon too).It’s hard to know what would happen if one of the plastic giants started offering a viable compostable alternative themselves at a much lower premium. But Doubilet and Holsey remain upbeat, determined to party on. They’re  gearing up to appear on Shark Tank on April 4th determined to bring Susty Party to the attention of millions of Americans in time for picnic season.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said.
 
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92.
 
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of the precious natural resource, suggests research.
 
 
Oceans were always there on Earth: Scientists
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Debunking previous theories that water came late to Earth well after the planet had formed, researchers have significantly moved back the clock for the first evidence of water on Earth and in the inner solar system.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Orson Welles last film to be released
Orson Welles' final movie will finally be released next year. The acclaimed filmmaker had worked on 'The Other Side of the Wind' - which chronicles a temperamental film director battling with the Hollywood establishment...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Game of Thrones stars get pay rise
'Games of Thrones' cast members will be paid $300,000 an episode. Five of the shows biggest stars - Peter Dinklage, Kit Harington, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - have landed bumper payrises after...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Mike Tyson: I was abused
Mike Tyson claims he was sexually abused as a child. The 48-year-old retired boxer was ''snatched'' off the street when he was seven by an ''old man'', who he never saw again after the shocking one-time incident....
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Amanda Bynes released from psychiatric facility
Amanda Bynes has been released from a psychiatric treatment facility. The 'Easy A' actress was spotted walking around Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, last night (30.10.14), 19 days after she was admitted to the hospital...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Lindsay Lohan sued for 60m
Lindsay Lohan is being sued for over $60 million. A website developer has filed a case against the 'Mean Girls' actress and her brother Michael in which he accused them of stealing one of his ideas. According to Fima...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Russell Brand to give money away
Russell Brand plans to give away his future earnings. The 39-year-old star insists he ''doesn't need'' to make money for himself anymore so wants to use his fortune to help those in need. He told Vanity Fair magazine...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Koji Uerhara Signs 2-Year, $18M Deal With Boston Red Sox
Ace Japanese closer Koji Uehara signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 30.According to MLB.com's Ian Browne, Uehara's deal is worth $18 million:"Perhaps it was fitting that the Red Sox announced a two-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Finnish scientists identify new type of black hole
Helsinki, Oct 31 (IANS) Finnish researchers have discovered a new type of low-mass black hole, which is a bright celestial body that emits X-ray, the University of Turku has said. Researchers at the Finnish university...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Union Carbide ex-chief Warren Anderson is dead
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Warren Anderson, former chief executive officer of the Union Carbide Corporation, is dead, a media report said Friday. He was 92. His death revived memories of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. He...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Himalayan Viagra fuels gold rush for local Tibetans
Washington, Oct 31 (IANS) Overwhelmed by people trying to find the prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to implement a successful system for the sustainable...
Read more on Business Balla