Since we got started in 2015, we’ve come across all kinds of social enterprises, covering causes from humanitarian to environmental, and everything in between. Being firm believers in collaborative efforts, we’re always interested to learn about others and how we could potentially work together towards our common goal of making the planet a better place. That’s why, when we came across EcoEnclose, the leading supplier of eco-friendly shipping supplies in the United States, we couldn’t wait to interview them about their successful, innovative, and impactful initiative.
EcoEnclose, a Green America Certified Business, provides both small and large businesses with environmentally-friendly shipping solutions across the US. EcoEnclose aims to bring innovation, eco-solutions and beautiful designs to an otherwise archaic industry. Their earth friendly packaging has allowed them to work with pretty incredible group of companies. In 2016, EcoEnclose served over five thousand small-to-medium-sized businesses across the US in addition to 23 countries internationally, most of whom have stated a commitment to the environment. Many of them are true eco-innovators, finding new, more earth-conscious ways to make and sell their products.
PATHFINDER interviewed Saloni Doshi and Kyle Wente, co-owners of EcoEnclose to find out more about the growing industry
Searching to Make a Positive Economic Impact
Kyle and Saloni purchased EcoEnclose in September 2015, after three years of searching for an entrepreneurial opportunity that aligned with their moral compass, their commitment to the environment, and their desire to create a positive economic impact. Their decision as a couple, to acquire the business, meant leaving stable professions and lifestyles (as is the case for many entrepreneurs) at time when they were just starting a family. Still, that didn’t stop them from pursuing this exciting opportunity, on the contrary, they recall the past two years with fondness, “The past two years have been incredible. We’ve learned more than we ever thought possible about packaging, shipping, pros and cons of different materials as it relates to functionality and sustainability, and operating a small business. Every day we are inspired by yet another company we work with who pushes us and teaches us how we can be better. We’ve doubled the size of our team and our warehouse. We’ve added new products to our line, and have custom designed so many fun and eye-catching packages for our customers. And, the best part, we both feel like we have created real value for the environment and for many fantastic businesses.”
How did you get your idea or concept for the business? What motivated you to do so?
We actually acquired EcoEnclose in September of 2015 after searching for a business opportunity for over three years. Our goal was to find a business that a) fit our values, and b) we could apply our skills to improve and grow. When we found EcoEnclose, it was love at first sight. It was almost a perfect a match given our strong commitment the environment and to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The interesting part – that we did not foresee – is that with each day we become more passionate about both, the environment and entrepreneurship. So just as our business grows, our motivation to do more grows as well.
What are your most valuable lessons learned since launching EcoEnclose?
Know and support your customers: Understand who they are, what they want, what makes them tick. What are they seeking when they come to you and how can you help solve their problems as easily as possible? Make the time to meet their needs, regardless of how big of a customer they are. We serve quite a few small businesses – individuals and artisans running an online shop out of their home. They are trying to run their businesses ethically and sustainably, but small business owners have no time to put in-depth research into shipping. So when they come to us, they need easy to digest advice (on packaging and sustainability), and the ability to order that packaging as quickly and seamlessly as possible. We actually often find ourselves spending more time with these folks, who ultimately may place much smaller orders than the resource-rich big companies we work with.
For us, this approach and ethos is a no-brainer. It strengthens our business, our mission and has helped build a pretty incredible community of eco minded companies we work with.
Delegate: Our operations aren’t necessarily simple. Early on, it was easy to get in the weeds and jump into the fray when shipments arrived, a machine was down or a warehouse team member was struggling with his or her role. Additionally, tasks like bookkeeping and payroll management could easily take up several hours per week. At the end of the week, we found ourselves wondering why we couldn’t execute so many of our strategic, growth and mission oriented priorities.
Almost two years later, it is still easy to get caught up, but a lot of progress has been made! Our warehouse manager does a stellar job managing the floor and our operations, and this gives us time to focus on strategy, sales and growth. Other similarly important positions have been created and filled, bookkeeping has been outsourced, and help has been secured for digital marketing.
Not only are we better focused on EcoEnclose’s vision, strategy, growth and sales now, but we also have discovered just how much better our business operates when the right people are in charge of the right things.
What was your mission at the outset, what are your major goals and where do you want EcoEnclose to be in 5 years-time?
Our mission is to enable e-commerce businesses to ship their goods with minimal impact on the environment. We work hard to make this an easy and fun choice for companies of all sizes.
Our major goals are to (1) be an innovator within shipping and packaging, and (2) help thoughtful, values-based businesses (our customers) grow and showcase their eco ways to the world.
1) To us, being an innovator means pushing the industry to go further, exploring new materials, and eventually overhauling the linear life-cycle of packaging and bringing the “cradle-to-cradle” concept to the industry. We work in partnership with our manufacturing partners, visiting their facilities, and verifying the claims being made with respect to recycled content.
2) Helping customers showcase their values is critical. Market research has shown that 77% of customers believe packaging should reflect a company’s eco practices and 48% would leave a company because of unsustainable packaging. Many of the companies we work with are so committed to the environment, but aren’t getting credit for their work. We are introducing new printed product lines, brochures and campaigns to help our customers gain the loyalty and admiration they deserve for thinking beyond dollars alone and considering the planet in all of their actions.
In five years, we hope EcoEnclose is the leading voice in eco-friendly packaging and an extremely valuable resource to e-commerce businesses looking to build an eco-minded and ethical company.
We hope we have brought innovations to the shipping world and have helped the entire industry adopt more earth-minded practices as a norm, not the exception.
And we hope we have helped spur a movement among consumers to demand green packaging, and to not take the “conventional” option.
Where, in your opinion, is the future of eco-friendly shipping headed? Is it a growing industry?
The shipping products industry is growing rapidly with the long term trend towards online purchasing. This demands a huge amount of packaging. Because boxes and bags sitting on your doorstep is such a visual reminder of packaging, more and more consumers are aware of and annoyed at wasteful packaging. With eco topping the major concerns for shipping within the rapidly growing e-commerce industry, we think the future of eco-friendly shipping is strong.
To us, the key is that this focus on eco within e-commerce packaging be grounded in what is truly better for the planet, and that we help encourage authentic and productive behavior.
We want to move beyond the green washing that is quite common, and help companies make the best decisions for the planet.
To what do you attribute your success?
• An honest and deep commitment to the core mission of sustainability and helping protect the planet.
• An honest and deep commitment to supporting businesses and entrepreneurs that want to make an positive impact on the environment.
• Recognition that the only way to achieve our mission is to also operate strategically, with sound business practices.
• An awesome team of diverse, passionate and quirky people.
• Amazing companies we work with who are so committed to the environment that they are eager to tell others about us.
What is unique about your Startup story?
The classic, inspiring entrepreneur is focused on creating and building their own idea in their own niche market or product. We were much more focused on finding an opportunity where our experience and skills in business could help move a great company forward.
Does your company give back to the community where it is located or in other communities, if so, then how?
Yes, recently we have volunteered in our community on several occasions: we volunteered with The Nature Conservancy / Greenway Fund on Earth Day (river cleanup), we volunteered with EcoCycle for our team holiday party, we have done an Earth Month campaign donating to The Arbor Day Foundation, and have done a Veterans Day donation campaign to Homes for Wounded Warriors. We also recently became an EcoCycle Green Star Business. Through this program, EcoEnclose supports EcoCycle and gains valuable advice on how to run a more sustainable business.
If you had one piece of advice to an entrepreneur just starting out, what would it be?
Live in the present and take in the moments – especially the messy, fraught, and challenging ones. It is easy to get caught up in envisioning the future, developing your strategy, and potentially selling an exit to an investor.
Becoming an entrepreneur is mainly a choice about how you are going to live your life (not just a focus on the end game). Be ready to live in the clutter and uncertainty!