Have you ever repurposed a plastic bag from the grocery store as a liner for your trashcan?
Yeah? That’s great!
That is just one step you can take to extend the life of a product.
Now, what if companies did this on a mass scale? As a consumer, you would purchase an item and instead of tossing it into the trash after use, a company could take the item and convert it into an entirely new product thus extending that product’s life cycle. This is the premise behind the circular economy.
Circular economy “describes innovative strategies that work in tandem to design out and eliminate waste throughout product life cycles by making use of existing biological matter, reusable or recycled materials, and shared resources. In contrast to a linear ‘take-make-waste’ economy, a circular economy results in financial savings and efficiency within organizations that in turn benefits the communities that they serve” (Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, Circular Economy 2019).
Now more than ever, it is important that founders include sustainable practices and think circularly while developing their ideas.
By incorporating these principles, founders can create leaner efficient models that will help their business grow as well as contribute to protecting the environment.
Our Venture Development team recently hosted a panel with ventures that are working directly in the circular economy space:
- Ryan Smith, CEO, and Founder of Recyclops
- Svankia Balasubramanian, CEO, and Co-Founder of rePurpose Global
- Zaheer Ali, CEO, and Co-Founder of Material Mind
- Amanda Jordan, Host and Moderator, Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and Walton Sustainability Solutions Services
Below are excerpts from the panel:
Amanda Jordan: “How and why was the circular economy an important aspect of your venture?”
Ryan Smith: “Sustainability has always been at the core of what we do… but where this all came from for me was when I was growing up, I kind of lived in a fairy tale world where I thought everyone had access to recycling. It wasn’t until I was in college living in an apartment that did not have recycling that I realized the reality. That kind of blew my mind! This made me realize that there was an opportunity for me to help solve a problem. People were already providing recycling on a micro level, I can try and take it to a macro level.”
Amanda Jordan: “I wanted to ask what are some of the challenges you have faced in your entrepreneurial journey, particularly in the time of COVID?”
Svanika Balasubramanian: “Although COVID has created many obstacles, it has also created opportunities. One example has been the virtual work environment. In the last two years (prior to the pandemic) I’d been in six different cities and I had to keep trekking from place to place depending on where rePurpose Global needed me to be. Now, it is no longer a barrier for me to work with businesses across five different continents. This barrier has helped rePurpose Global be properly structured as a global solution for a global problem.
Amanda Jordan: “What is one piece of advice as an entrepreneur that you wish you had received on your entrepreneurial journey?”
Zaheer Ali: “The one thing that I had underestimated is that you are not going to do it alone. Your team is more important than you are and your ability to put that team together, to motivate them is super important. Lastly, keeping them together is extremely important and very hard to do. I think so many great ideas falter and fail because founders can’t keep the band together. So my one piece of advice would be to focus on your team.”
Recyclops team members collecting recyclables. Photo courtesy of Recyclops.
To hear more from these amazing entrepreneurs and to watch the full recording of the panel, click here.
This summer, our Venture Development team will be launching a pilot program that will provide direct support to ventures in the circular economy and sustainability sector. It will also provide resources to founders who would like to incorporate sustainable practices into their venture’s development. If you would like to receive communication on these opportunities please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find all upcoming events and workshops at https://entrepreneurship.asu.edu/events/.