Podcast Transcript – Series THREE, Episode 53
Chantal Emmanuel, Limeloop novemeber 2022
[00:00:00] Chantal Emmanuel: I’m not a stranger to tough questions actually, If you don’t ask me tough questions during the due diligence process, that raises a red flag. But there’s a way that someone does it when they’re truly trying to understand and wanna get to a yes in a way, versus someone who is almost trying to set up gotcha moments.
[00:00:20] You know, that kind of vibe of, Okay, let me get to the question you’re gonna answer in the way that’s gonna verify the fact that I don’t. For this investment, right? Every five minutes [00:00:30] we ship 20,000 packages worldwide. And today, keep in mind e-commerce retail is only 13% of retail. So what happens when that becomes 15% of the way we saw and 20% of the way we saw it, and we’re already having so many kind of negative side effects of that today, right?
[00:00:46] If you go to any waste management center today, they would tell you that 20 years ago, this pile would’ve been black and white. Cause it would’ve been newspaper. Newspaper was the prevalent, recycled material or garbage disposal material. Today [00:01:00] that’s all brown boxes.
[00:01:02] Dan: What’s up Unfound Nation? Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound. I know it’s been a little while, but we’re back with another great conversation. That was Chantal Emmanuel, co-founder and CTO of LimeLoop, a company that is delivering a world without waste with their reusable, smart packing. Chantel grew up in Queens in a neighborhood without many people of color, but with a strong sense of her Caribbean heritage, [00:01:30] surrounded by a large extended family.
[00:01:31] She brought a calling to serve with her after college, leading to work in AmeriCorps, but it was her analytical and logic driven intellect that soon brought her to data and software. With a pivot through coating camp and a relocation to the Bay Area, Chantel found herself working for Red Clay Design. A company developing software to bring together industrial designers and retail companies. It was that Red Clay that Chantal would come across both a core idea for LimeLoop and her co-founder [00:02:00] Ashley. This would lead to the start of her founder journey. Years later.
[00:02:03] Chantal has a great story you’ll wanna listen in.
[00:02:06] Her episode is sponsored by Entrepreneurs Struggle, a compelling podcast with host Chris Colbert from DCP Entertainment. If you’re looking for powerful conversations that explore the mental and emotional health challenges that face entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs Struggle is for you. Chris does a great job unpacking issues, finding wisdom and sharing stories. Check out Entrepreneurs Struggle anywhere you listen to podcasts or look for link in the show [00:02:30] notes.
[00:02:30] Before we continue, please make sure to like and subscribe to Founders Unfound. We are also available anywhere you get your podcasts, even YouTube. Of course you can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound. And if you like what you hear, please drop us a review on Apple or at podchaser.com.
[00:02:49] Now on with the episode. Stay safe and hope you enjoy.[00:03:00]
[00:03:02] Hello and welcome to Founders Unfound. Spotlighting the best startups you don’t know. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent.
[00:03:17] I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.
[00:03:20] Today we have Chantal Emmanuel, co-founder and CTO of LimeLoop, a company that is delivering a world without waste with that reusable, smart package. [00:03:30] Welcome to the show, Chantal, and super excited to have you on. Thanks so much for making the time,
[00:03:34] Chantal Emmanuel: Like wise. I’m really excited to be here.
[00:03:36] Dan: Awesome. So I gave a brief introduction to the company, but could you tell us exactly what Lime Loop is and what are you trying to solve?
[00:03:44] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, definitely. So especially through the pandemic, we’ve seen that e-commerce has really exploded as the way that we. And what we realize very quickly is that if we’re gonna continue down this path, we’re gonna see a large amount of waste piling up, both in the packaging that you’re getting when you’re getting something delivered at the [00:04:00] home, but also in what’s moving those packages around.
[00:04:03] And so we’ve created a solution to that with a smart pack that could be used over and over again. So instead of having a cardboard box or poly mailer mailed out to you once you have a package that you can send back and use that same exact packaging over 200 times. And then we’ve built a whole technology platform around learning more about what’s going on in and.
[00:04:20] Dan: And I’m so excited to dig more into this because I actually have a personal passion around sustainability. So, but before we dive more into the [00:04:30] company, let’s learn a little bit about you. Can you tell us about where you’re from, where you grew up?
[00:04:34] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, So I was born and raised in Queens. My parents are both from the Caribbean, my dad’s Haiti, and my mom’s from St. Vincent. So first generation, me, my brother, and my sister just grew up learning a lot from both the cultures that they brought here. And then of course, uh, growing up here in America as well.
[00:04:50] Dan: That must have been interesting. Did you have a strong sense of being an American or was it a situation where it’s maybe much more of a enclosed community with the [00:05:00] community from your parents’ heritage?
[00:05:02] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, a lot of both. I grew up in Jamaica State, which is a really nice area of Queens. Not many people of color lived there, and so it was kind of this dichotomy constantly of, you know, being the only one or one of two or three in a class, but then coming home and having a really strong identity of what it means to be black and West Indian and the food and the culture.
[00:05:22] I have a really big extended family at last count, at least 31st cousins on my mom’s side alone. So there were holidays and there were [00:05:30] dinners, and there were parties that always reinforced what important culture was to us. But there was definitely this kind of tug of war, if you will, between that and, and being fully immersed in a, in a culture that was completely different from that which they grew up in as well.
[00:05:43] Dan: That’s an interesting navigation, right, That you, you would seem to have where you’re in one environment, like you said, where maybe you are one of many different types of people and maybe one of a few of what you represent. Going into these home environments where [00:06:00] it’s kind of full on, Was that challenging to you or did that just, that was life and that you just sort of learned to live that?
[00:06:07] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah. And I think when you’re a kid and you’re in it, it is the norm. And I, I’m very lucky to grow up in New York City because a lot of other kids were feeling that with their own culture, right? And so there, there was definitely the mixed bags of different immigrants. And so I could only imagine what that would be like if it wasn’t the case.
[00:06:23] It’s something, of course, you reflect on more as you, you look back on it and you realize, before you even knew the concept was you were co [00:06:30] twitching as like a, as an eight year. And those kind of things come into play very, very quickly. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I pride myself on being able to kinda be a chameleon in any situation and figure out who the people are and what their challenges are and, and how I can help and, and just have that adaptability.
[00:06:45] And I think a lot of that comes from the way that I was raised and, and where I was raised.
[00:06:49] Dan: That’s really interesting. So I’m curious, did you have a sense of what you want to do? You know when kids are growing up, they know they want to be an athlete or a pop star or [00:07:00] something, but when you got to that point where you started to think about, what do I like to do? What could I possibly do for a living? Do you remember the first thoughts that you had around that?
[00:07:10] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, definitely changed over time. It started out as acting and I wanted to be a famous actress, but then I had terrible, terrible stage fright, which is ironic because now I’m on the stage all the time doing pitches and, and all those things, and so I ended up having to do it anyway.
[00:07:24] But yeah, the stage fright scared me out of acting, and then it was, Law and I wanted to be a lawyer, and then I did an [00:07:30] internship in high school and was turned off from law very, very quickly. , I would never forget, it was at this corporate law firm, and I feel like the whole first day was just so I knew the different billing machine.
[00:07:40] Like this is where you put your number into Bill for paper, print . This is where you put your number into Bill for phone calls. I’m like, this is not, what is it? ? What is going on? So, yeah, I kind of went through a lot of different phases and then ended up having no idea after going through all of those different phases, and so it was, it’s a quite the windy road as it were to, to end up here.
[00:07:59] Dan: A common [00:08:00] thread of ambition, though. Those are not easy, easy things to take on. So, As you are coming out of high school and thinking about university or the next step, what was drawing you? What was interesting to you at that point? Were you technical or analytical at that point?
[00:08:15] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah. Not in kind of conventional coder ways. I’m not gonna say that. I was like sitting in my mom’s basement knocking out code at 15. I grew up in the age of AOL discs coming to the house, the new version every couple of months and dial up and things like that. And I would make [00:08:30] my hometown homepage if I, I wish I could see what it looked like. Now I remember there being a lot of like do hickeys and things moving and music playing and That’s right.
[00:08:38] And my space. And I realize, looking back now, I was doing some HTML and CSS at a very young age, but not thinking about it in terms. Bigger applications besides like, you know, my personal homepages and things like that. But I was always craving knowledge. I was, I mean, I’m the youngest of three, so I was, I was the little kid.
[00:08:55] I was always like, Why, how come, why not? And wanting to understand how [00:09:00] everything worked and why everything was the way it was. And that’s something that I still hold onto to this day. So even when I went to college, you know, I didn’t, even though I, what I wanted to major in, so I just took a ton of different classes and a ton of different things and just figured out what was bringing me the most joy and, and went in that direct.
[00:09:15] Dan: Nice. Well, that’s quite an opportunity to do that. I actually think that’s what college should be for everybody. It’s just definitely ability to explore what’s out there and what do I like to do, What am I good at, who do I like to be around? And sometimes it gets a little too [00:09:30] prescriptive, like I’m taking this major and this minor and these many courses and it’s, it’s kinda laid out.
[00:09:36] So you were at AmeriCorps, is that right.
[00:09:38] Chantal Emmanuel: So I did a year of AmeriCorps. So out of college, I still hadn’t figured out the answer of what I wanted to do, and, but I didn’t wanna waste time and I also felt this really strong urge to give back very early on. I grew up very fortunate and have a lot of opportunities just my way, just for the luck of draw, of where I was born and who I was born too.
[00:09:57] And so AmeriCorps felt like a really great opportunity while I [00:10:00] still figured out to still do something. And so for those who are unfamiliar with it, most people know about the Peace Corps, where you go overseas and you do service in a different country. AmeriCorps is kind like the localized version of that, where there’s different opportunities at nonprofits here in the states that you can devote a of service to in, in lieu of kinda a, a regular job if you.
[00:10:19] Dan: Tremendous. Thank you for that service. I mean, I don’t think, Thank you. It’s appreciated enough and I’m sure that was a great grounding too, of what the real world is like and what are some of the things that [00:10:30] you like, again about what you’re doing, the activities, so help us bridge that gap to software. How did you go from AmeriCorps to software?
[00:10:39] Chantal Emmanuel: So my AmeriCorps placement was at a non-profit, uh, in New York City called New York Cares. And so they do volunteer management organizations, so they have partnerships with thousands of non-profits throughout New York City and help them to get volunteers, so walking dogs, serving meals, the whole nine.
[00:10:55] And so at that job I fell in love with the database, which I [00:11:00] realized not everyone falls in love with databases. For some reason, I don’t, I don’t understand what it was, but to be able to sit behind the computer and say it build out what I now know is an algorithm, at the time, it was just like a means to an end and say, I need five people to walk dogs in this zip code who have availability from this time to this time.
[00:11:16] Just like build up that thing to be, spit out 10 emails so I can say, Hey, do you wanna go walk dogs in your neighborhood? But like the road to get there is what I realized I was falling in love with and that that was the technology part of it. And then not just the technology part of it, but I, [00:11:30] even from that time, I, I realized the way that I can, exponential.
[00:11:34] Grow my ability to make impact because I was using computer, right? So I wasn’t having to like call up hundreds of people to try to figure out who the right person was for this volunteer opportunity. I was able to use the power of technology to get what I needed, which then in turn helped the service projects that that needed those volunteers.
[00:11:51] And I remember I was talking to a friend of mine at a party who is a software engineer who explained to me that what I was describing, Programming [00:12:00] and I’m like, No, no, no, no. Programmings ones and twos and math and big chalkboards full of equations. I can never figure, like I had no, I was completely ignorant of what it meant to program and I, and I still have it to this day.
[00:12:11] He left that party and he sent me a Facebook message with, Tutorials that I should do to start understanding what programming is and and different languages. And I literally cop, I screen printed it out because I’m like, this message completely changed the trajectory of my personal and professional career.
[00:12:27] And just like that opportunity. So I tell this story cause I’m always like, [00:12:30] you never know whose life you’re changing, just by kind opening up opportunities like that. And not to say like, Oh, you should look into this, but like, here is the first step that you can take to move in this direction. And I was able to just kinda take it from there and run with it.
[00:12:43] Dan: That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing that. And it’s so right. Probably if you had somebody told you in high school or maybe even during college, like, Hey, here’s a coding opportunity. Or even using the word coding, like you said, you have these immediate assumptions and connotations [00:13:00] that go with that.
[00:13:01] But basically you started to do the things and think the way a coder or a programmer thinks. It just wasn’t called that until this person helped us tell you like, Hey, This is kinda what you do if you’re a coder. So that’s a really great story. And so you, I mean, you dove in and you became a coder, as they say.
[00:13:24] Chantal Emmanuel: I did, yeah. I went to Dev Bootcamp. I know there’s a ton of programming boot camps, but this was back in [00:13:30] like 20 11, 20 12 times so that it was like the start of the bootcamp. So no one really. They were, I think it was one of the first ones, if not the first one. I was one of the first cohorts to go through it. So it was definitely a brave new world. I moved out to the Bay Area. I knew I wanted to be able to focus all of my time on it, and if I was here in New York, there’d be way too many distractions. Like I said, I have a big family, I have a lot of friends out here. I wanted to just kind of like close off the world and just really fast forward the process of making this transition, cuz I, I didn’t [00:14:00] wanna have to go back to school and spend years and years and.
[00:14:02] Making this transition I want to do as quickly as possible. So yeah, moved out to the Bay Area, did the program, and then at the end of the program, if I had a return ticket back to New York, and it was in two days after the program, when I said, if I can find a place to live in the Bay Area that I can afford in two days, I will stay.
[00:14:20] Otherwise, I will go back to New York and go back to my parents’ house, figure out a plan from there. I kid you not, which if anyone who’s lived in the Bay Area or spent time there knows this [00:14:30] is virtually impossible, but I found an apartment within one day in the Bay Area and stayed there and just kind of the, the rest is history.
[00:14:37] Dan: That’s definitely a meant to be story. I’ve lived in the Bay Area and I don’t care what kind of like you’re buying in a $5 million house or just rented an apartment. Housing is tough.
[00:14:47] Chantal Emmanuel: It’s a rat race. Yeah. .
[00:14:49] Dan: Talk about creating a forcing function too. Really just, Oh yeah. Two days after the course and you say, Okay, if I can find a place. That’s great. So you obviously stayed. Did you find [00:15:00] your goal was to sort of find that immersion? And I think people know the mythology around the Bay Area, but did you find what you were looking for in terms of like, I can really dive into not just the job or an opportunity, but like the ecosystem here in the community?
[00:15:16] Chantal Emmanuel: Definitely, I mean, it, it’s unparalleled to what’s going on in the Bay Area in terms of technology. And you can’t turn a corner without running into someone who’s either in technology or a direct developer themselves or somehow affiliated in tech. There’s [00:15:30] meetups all the time. There’s, there’s just so many opportunities to immerse yourself in it.
[00:15:34] And I always tell people, cause people ask me now about boot camps and. Boot camps are great, but you have to know what they’re great for. You’re not gonna go from zero to zero in a boot camp. You’re not gonna come outta there knowing how to be the best coder or even a proficient coder when it comes to especially production level coding.
[00:15:50] All it will do is make you a really, really good beginner. And then it’s up to you to take that and turn that into something that is actually marketable and useful to the real world when it comes to [00:16:00] technology. And so for me to be able to stay in the Bay after my program was done, and do the meetups, to do the tutorials, I would meet up with friends and we’d just sit there and we’d say, Okay, we’re gonna make this app in the next two hours.
[00:16:13] You’re doing this, you’re doing this, I’m doing that. And go. And then we meet up again the next day and throw that all away, Start again, and do a different thing. , you can find things like that In other places, it’s, it’s not as easy as it was there, right? Like you’d have to like probably go on forums and try to find a community and find other people, [00:16:30] but you can’t throw a rock in the Bay area without hitting someone who would join you to, to build a toy at in a day.
[00:16:36] Dan: It’s definitely unique, uh, in my experience. And like you said, it’s because of that density of people who are thinking this way, who are looking to collaborate or are looking for ways to help each other around the mission of like, how do we take technology and make impact? How do we move the the world forward?
[00:16:54] Well, we are gonna take a short break and we’ll be right back with Chantel from [00:17:00] LimeLoop.
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[00:17:31] Dan: We’re back with Chantal Emmanuel from LimeLoop.
[00:17:35] So Chantal, tell me about how does someone who’s deep in the tech world, as we just talked about in the Bay Area, end up working on a packaging company?
[00:17:47] Chantal Emmanuel: Another one of those things, if you would’ve told me as a kid that I’d be making packaging for a living, I would’ve been like, Uh, I think you have the wrong person, but the road does make. So the first job that I got out of the bootcamp was for a startup called Red [00:18:00] Clay Design, which was essentially creating software to bring together industrial designers and retail companies. So if you’re, let’s say Walmart and you need to design a new mugs for your next year’s collection, you can go onto our platform.
[00:18:13] You can find a designer, go through the whole iteration process of design, and then have like a ready to manufacture design. Come outta that. Further down the supply chain than packaging, but part of that same ecosystem. It was great for so many reasons. Of course, as that first full-time job after doing the program and then [00:18:30] doing some more independent studying, it was a great affirmation for me that like, you know, this is, I did make that transition, right?
[00:18:36] It’s one thing to say you’re a computer scientist. Another thing to go in and actually have a programming job. Two, it introduced me to that world of a supply chain ecosystem, which I would then, of course be very ingrained. And then three. And the most important one is that I met my now co-founder Ashley there, So she was a co-founder of that company, and it’s a really amazing experience to know someone [00:19:00] in both of those contexts, to be an employee of someone that you’re then gonna work alongside of.
[00:19:04] It’s, it’s really an optic and visual into that person understanding who they are in a way that I, I couldn’t imagine. Any other way in terms, because I feel like you understand that kind of power dynamic and how it can shift and for us it didn’t shift like I was considered an equal even as an employee and I loved working with her so much that it was a no brainer when it came time to start to start Lime Loop, but kind of in between Red Clay and Lime Loop.
[00:19:28] I actually went into consulting for a [00:19:30] while and worked with a really great consulting firm that teamed up with some of the biggest name in technology and I think that was another really great experience for me. There’s something about consulting for someone like the top 10 companies in the world that removes any imposter syndrome that you have, right?
[00:19:46] There’s like, there’s just that, There’s that element of like, yes, these are some of the most brilliant people in the world, but when you’re able to sit in a room and sit at the same table with them and have conversations and only have conversations with them by like bring them insights that they didn’t have, bring [00:20:00] them new thoughts and ideas that they didn’t have.
[00:20:01] Kinda like, Oh wait, like I, I can do this too. Like there’s really nothing separating me and you. The time and the focus that you’re putting into what you’re doing. And so I can find the equivalent thing for myself and build a company in the same way that you have. And so this idea of understanding that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time, it’s just kinda like, how do you then get rid of any imposter syndrome?
[00:20:22] You have to say, What is the thing that I can do that has the same level of greatness? Cause you understand that you have it within yourself to begin with.
[00:20:29] Dan: a great [00:20:30] insight. This idea that if you can be in those environments and people are looking to you for insights, analysis, suggestions, proposals, and you can confidently deliver that and see people’s reactions, like, Wow, this is really useful, or This is stuff we didn’t think of ourselves. Yeah. That builds the confidence real fast. That’s awesome.
[00:20:53] Chantal Emmanuel: Definitely. There’s part of me that I wish we would’ve just run straight into Lime Loop from Red Clay, but I definitely feel like I needed that in [00:21:00] between time to develop those skills and develop that confidence. And so then by the time Ashley reached out to me with the opportunity for Lime Loop, not only did I have that, but I had also started feeling this kind of pull back to kind of the beginning days of being in AmeriCorps and, and using technology for good.
[00:21:16] Um, and we were doing a lot of great work at the consulting firm, but I just really felt like there was an opportunity. Do more for the world through technology. And I was trying to figure out how to kind of scratch that itch. And so it was very serendipitous. Ashley reached out to me and [00:21:30] described what her vision was for Lime Loop, and I’m like, This is it.
[00:21:33] Like I love everything about this cause I shop online all the time, so I’m definitely part of the problem. I’m looking for a way to bring technology and doing better for the world together. And I’m looking for a way also, Cause I think one of the things you realize very quickly in the Bay Area, there’s almost like a hierarchy in the types of products that people build, right?
[00:21:51] And there’s the glitz and glamor ones, the dating apps of the world that get funded really quickly and everyone loves. And there, there are all these poster trials. And then, [00:22:00] but for some reason, things that are helpful for society are almost kind of put into this subcategory, almost similar to their like, Oh, the Cute Knight nonprofit.
[00:22:09] Or, that’s not, I’m not gonna see a return in this, but I’ll, I’ll put some of my revenue behind that just to say that I’m doing something. And what I loved about the way that both As and I thought about Lime Loop from the very beginning is like, no, we’re gonna show people that doing the right thing is profitable.
[00:22:25] And it’s not just nice to have, but actually the core functionality to have to make something [00:22:30] big and make something really profitable outta it.
[00:22:32] Dan: I love that. And you’re so right. The irony of things is like the stuff that’s hard to do, that’s hard to change, that moves us forward as a society in a marketplace.
[00:22:44] That stuff that has that impact is the stuff that people seem to have the most skepticism about, or it’s harder for them to envision how this business can be so impactful both financially and otherwise. And does the world need another dating app or recruiting app [00:23:00] or photo app? Those models are easy to understand and they’re opportunistic.
[00:23:04] So I applaud that you, you looked at it that way and still decided to enter in, because I’m sure the two of you could have done anything. Tell us what was the kernel of the, Is there almost like an idea or a spark or what was the idea? Origin for LimeLoop.
[00:23:20] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, so even going back to the Red Clay days, so as I described, we helped retailers make the physical products, and as part of the process, we were sending [00:23:30] out samples. And so going back to the example of the cup, if we had like, you know, 10 different variations of the cup being made, We would mail samples back and forth, and so we actually started using reusable packaging then to send our samples, so it was completely for personal use. Ashley’s sister literally sold one up in home me class, and we were using that to send products around and send samples around, and so, As you literally came across an old version of, of the bag when she was going through some things and the light bulb moment went off of like, [00:24:00] Hey, is there there something to replacing packaging with a reusable option?
[00:24:05] And then from there we were able to kind of just go, Okay, if we have a packet that’s gonna last so long, what else? Like what other ROI can we add to it? Going back to this idea of sustainability being an amazing thing, but not always enough of a sell or something like, how can we take the fact that this package is gonna last as long as it does to enhance that experience overall and create a higher ROI by leveraging technology within that system as [00:24:30] well.
[00:24:30] Dan: Tell us how does it actually work? Give us an overview of the product and how it actually.
[00:24:35] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, so we have a suite of reusable packaging, so you can kind of, The easiest way to think about it is if you were to go online and order from one of our partners, your product would come in a LimeLoop reusable bag.
[00:24:46] There is a prepaid label in there. So you could flip over that label and then you’d drop the empty package in the mailbox and would go back to the retailer and then they would use that same package over and over and over again. So the mental model that people think [00:25:00] about is like the milkman kind of approach to sending.
[00:25:03] And then from the technology standpoint is throughout that whole process that I described, you can log onto the portal and see, you know, where is that package, When is it coming back? I forgot my label. I need to print out a new one. I wanna understand the environmental impact savings that I have. So what are those numbers?
[00:25:17] The more that I send packages out that I’m accumulating in terms of CO2 savings, water trees, oil. All of that lives in a hub. And then to complicate things a little bit more, we’ve added a hardware center into it as well. Right? And so we [00:25:30] can understand things like more specifically where that package is for security purposes, when has that been open?
[00:25:35] And then for more coal chain uses the temperature inside of it. So we’re, we’re really trying to understand everything that goes on, in and around, throughout the journey.
[00:25:44] Dan: Temperature. That sounds interesting. So that will eventually then maybe allow you to do things like food or pharmaceuticals or these things that have very stringent temperature control needs.
[00:25:55] Chantal Emmanuel: Definitely, yeah. Our goal is to be the way that you ship anything, whether it’s [00:26:00] internally B2B or B to C or gift to your grandmother for Christmas. For us, there’s no reason that all of those different activities should be accumulating as much waste and and resources as they are today.
[00:26:11] Dan: That’s an interesting to think about a, a consumer side of things. I remember when I was younger, my parents would always encourage us to use old newspaper to wrap presents. They weren’t necessarily thinking sustainability, but they just, wastefulness was the thing with them, like, don’t wanna waste anything. I had an immigrant parent too. So tell me [00:26:30] about who’s the prime customer? I imagine it’s either retailers or brands that are shipping. Is there particular types of companies that you’re focused on?
[00:26:40] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, it definitely is in on the retail space, both on the e-commerce side, when we talk about direct to consumer, so those folks who are shipping out products directly to a consumer. And then on the brick and mortar side, we can support you in your packaging that you’re using from warehouse to store in terms of kind of like how we think about it. And how we think about expansion might be the easiest way to [00:27:00] think about it. So you have different industries. So we launched with soft goods in apparel, Obviously the easiest thing to ship cause nothing breaks, nothing needs to be held at a different temperature.
[00:27:08] So that was a really easy way to enter the market. We were quickly able to expand from there into spotty care, sporting goods and foods today, and eventually pharmaceuticals. So we kinda had this roadmap of industries and based on the the slight adjustments that we need to make to the packaging to make sure that we’re able to safely get those from point A to point.
[00:27:26] And then another thing that we think about in terms of location. And so we we’re [00:27:30] focused today in the US It’s a nice big market. That’s a really great learning ground for us because we have every single thing to think of in terms of, you know, different carriers. All of those different industries that I mentioned.
[00:27:42] A lot of last mile delivery services that we can implement to help get those packages back. It was a really nice market for us to really master before we expand for international use. Cause eventually we’ll be a completely global company as well.
[00:27:54] Dan: Give us a, a sense of, I know single use really is the packaging problem you’re trying to [00:28:00] solve. Give us a sense of what the scope of single use packaging.
[00:28:06] Chantal Emmanuel: The last thought that I saw, which was probably updated and even more now, but every five minutes, we ship 20,000 packages worldwide. And today, keep in mind e-commerce retail is only 13% of retail, so a market that’s only 13% today. Of the way that we shop is 20,000 packages every five minutes.
[00:28:26] So what happens when that becomes 15% of the way we shop and [00:28:30] 20% of the way we shop? And we’re already having so many kind of negative side effects of that today, right? If you go to any waste management center today, they would tell you that 20 years ago if this pile would’ve been black and white, cause it would’ve been newspaper.
[00:28:44] Newspaper was the prevalent. To your point about giftwrapping with the prevalent recycled material or garbage disposal material today, that’s all brown boxes and that’s a sheerer volume and how much we’re shipping things and shipping items both individually and in a warehouse kind of wholesale [00:29:00] way. And so it, it’s a problem today and it’s a problem that’s only continue to grow the way that the trends are showing. And
[00:29:06] Dan: I’m not an expert on this, but my sense is from the packages I get, it’s designed and optimized around speed pack, ability, transportability, and not sustainability. Sometimes you get these used boxes and there’s like something really small in it and. So that’s man, 20,000 packages every five minutes. That’s insane. So you are trying to solve that in a [00:29:30] sustainable way. Do you have to also think about your supply chain, your product design, your sustainability footprint for the packaging, and for how you deal with the transportation and co2.
[00:29:43] Chantal Emmanuel: Absolutely. Yeah, it’s, it’s huge for us. We actually had a life cycle analysis done before we even launched the company. Cause we’re like, if the numbers aren’t there, if this doesn’t make sense from a sustainability standpoint, it’s back to the drawing board. We have to figure something else out. And we looked at it from literally the [00:30:00] start and the materials and the manufacturing that goes into our packets.
[00:30:03] Every single transportation route that it has to do that back and forth trip that it’s. To the retail and, and back to the customer and back and forth compared to both single use. And then we’ve also looked at it compared to recycling. And we ran the numbers ourselves initially and found about a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions.
[00:30:21] We ran the number ourselves. About a year ago, we actually had a third party, uh, company come in and do the analysis, and they found a 92% reduction. So , [00:30:30] so we were, we were in the ballpark of what it, what it should have been, actually turned out to be a little bit better than, than we even thought it was.
[00:30:36] And so armed with those numbers, it, it’s really off to the races. And then it’s about how do we make this work at scale? And that, and that’s the thing that, you know, people need to understand. I think everyone that I explained it to is like, Oh, this makes so much sense. Why don’t we just do this now and just do it?
[00:30:48] And why don’t everyone just do it this. But what people also have to understand, and this is where the technology comes into play, like it is a huge logistical shift, like we are a logistics company at the core, not a packaging company. [00:31:00] Our goal is to create a system that allows for reuse to happen, and we’re focused today as a medium on packaging.
[00:31:07] But the same system that we’re creating today can be used for anything. It could be the food containers you have. It could be the ink cartridges that you need to send back. These all need a system to make that back and forth, work at scale, and work in a way that is financially feasible and work in a way that is sustainable through the whole process.
[00:31:24] Dan: Well, I’m excited to see how this grows. So one more question about Lime Loop. I’d like to ask the [00:31:30] question this way. Chantel, you and I bump into each other in five years, 10 years, whatever you wanna say the horizon is, and I say, Was lime blue successful? And you say, Yes, of course it was. Dan, what would you say if I say, why? How? How did you measure that? How would you consider this success? What is the ultimate vision for the company that you and Ashley have?
[00:31:52] Chantal Emmanuel: I would say that I, I think in five years if I were to bump into you the street, you’d probably be telling like, Oh, I’m actually on my way to drop off my line loop package at [00:32:00] Starbucks. Cause uh, there’s a dropoff center there and they’re giving me a dollar off my coffee when I, when I drop it off there. Or you’ll say some variation if I just got a package dropped off yesterday and I’m getting ready to mail that back. And what I mean by that, it is, Become such an understanding about the way that we send packaging is reused, like reuse is the default.
[00:32:18] And so it’s not a question of is Lime Loop working? Like the optics are there because it’s the way that you’re receiving packages, the way that I’m receiving packages. It’s just a no brainer for people, and it’s in such a way that’s so easy that it. It’s [00:32:30] even easier actually than recycling your cardboard box.
[00:32:32] So success for us looks like we’ve moved into all of those different industries that I’ve mentioned. The recollection of those packages and putting them back into the system is very simple and very easy and very profitable for companies. And companies not only kind of see it as a way to check off the sustainability box, but they’re looking at their PNL and they’re like, Wow, thank God we switched the line loop. Cause we were spending so much more on packaging before when we were throwing it away every single time. So that’s, that’s what success.
[00:32:56] Dan: I love that, and I like this thought of like the [00:33:00] ubiquity, almost like Kleenex or something, right? It’s like it’ll be everywhere until people won’t think about it, except when you ask them, they’ll say, Of course. That’s the way everybody does it.
[00:33:09] Chantal Emmanuel: Exactly. Yeah. I have a two year old nephew and I just think about the day in the future when I get to tell him like, Oh, back in my day we used to send things around in these boxes and then we just threw them away every single time and he would look at me so confused like that is the ultimate goal is just for it to be like such a memory that we were doing things in such an inefficient way for so long.
[00:33:28] Dan: Well, we’re gonna take another short [00:33:30] break and we’ll be right back. Chantal Manuel from LimeLoop.
[00:33:34] Entrepreneur Struggle spot: If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or just starting a business of your own, then you definitely need to be listening to Entrepreneur Struggle. I’m Chris Colbert and I love having fun conversations with fellow entrepreneurs about their struggles. You have good years, you have bad years. I mean, and it is not like weeks or it’s like years, right? , because let’s be honest, we all face challenges, but there’s no reason that we have to overcome them alone. Just [00:34:00] search for Entrepreneur Struggle anywhere you get your podcasts.
[00:34:04] Dan: So we are back with Chantel, Emmanuel from LimeLoop. So let’s switch gears a little bit, Chantel. Let’s talk a little bit about the founder journey. Can you tell us a little bit about your investment experience? Has the company raised money? What was that like? How you raising money now and the future? Tell us a little bit about that journey.
[00:34:23] Chantal Emmanuel: So we’re currently wrapping up our seed round, so it’s our third fundraising round. We did a friend and family, which was very [00:34:30] literally friends, family, some folks that we had worked with in the red play days, and we did a pree round, which had some more general speaking investors and, and angel investors. And right now our seed round is kind of a, a mixture of all of those and some follow ons as well. And so our, our third round of fundraising, this will bring us to about 2 million in, in total fundraising.
[00:34:49] Dan: Tell us a little bit about how. Found thee investors. What was the connection that you had with them that resulted them being on your cap table [00:35:00]
[00:35:00] Chantal Emmanuel: Every single kind of way that you could think of Getting introductions, a lot of talking to someone, asking them for an intro, creating a lot of spreadsheet.
[00:35:07] We’re big. We’re big on spreadsheets. Here at Lime Loop, we have a list of everything. Luckily we’ve moved into CRMs now, but at the time it was definitely more of a spreadsheet way of organizing. And we’d look for different folks, like in our space, and luckily for us, or, um, luckily depending on how you look at it, we, we fit into a lot of different categories, right?
[00:35:24] So there’s kinda like the social impact side of what we’re doing. We have the data play, we have the logistics that [00:35:30] we’re doing. We’re in the retail space. And so we kind of created all of those different categories and just created lists of funds that fit those thesis and how they invest. And so we’re able to kinda just start knocking down the list. One person at a time.
[00:35:43] Dan: So you’re both women founders, you’re a founder of African descent as. Is that something that you found there was some advantages to or on the other side where there’s some disadvantages that were put directly in your face through the process? [00:36:00]
[00:36:01] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, you, It’s an interesting question cause I think yes and no. I mean, the numbers show that it’s not an advantage and I’m a data person. In, I’m an engineer, so I always look at the numbers and so the numbers say very, very clearly that it is not helpful to be a woman raising money, and it is especially not helpful to be a black woman raising money. I think just over a hundred black women, myself included, raised over a million dollars last year.
[00:36:25] I think a hundred not in the other counterpart probably raised a million in one [00:36:30] day. Right. Like so the numbers are, are saying very clearly that it is not an advantage. I will say that it, it could potentially be an advantage in getting meetings. Cause there’s this kind of, this notion sometimes of people wanting to open their pipeline and having conversations, but, Debate as to whether or not that’s as helpful if the outcome is not there.
[00:36:50] Right? So like it’s one thing to take a meeting, but nothing to take a meeting when you really have no intentions of saying, saying yes as I, I think sometimes it’s what happened. And so I would say that the numbers say this very [00:37:00] clearly. It’s not an advantage, but I think there’s. For me personally, I can’t dwell on those kind of things.
[00:37:05] It’s just not helpful. I’m a action oriented person I wanna go out and do, and so to kind get stuck in the mindset of, Oh, maybe they don’t invest in women of color, maybe this, it’s just not helpful. That’s help me. It’s not business, not from that place.
[00:37:20] Dan: Makes a lot of sense. And sometimes you just have to have that sort of, we’re gonna build the best business and we’re gonna bring the right investors who wanna support. Are there [00:37:30] things that you, from your precede experience, that are sort of informing how you’re doing the Seed Hacks guides or like, I wish we did it this way last time. We’re definitely gonna do it this way, this time.
[00:37:41] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, I mean, I think a couple of different things. One is just like understanding the numbers game of it, right? So if it takes the average founder and was gonna make up numbers, 51st round pitches to close a million dollars, there’s an understanding that it might. Take us 301st round conversations to [00:38:00] do the same thing, right? And so then it’s about like, okay, how do we pump in 500 names into this list? How do we get to the 300?
[00:38:06] How do we make sure that we’re showing up, keeping the energy and keeping the momentum in for 300 times? Cause that is what it takes to make it happen, right? I can’t sit there and complain that it’s not fair. That’s not 50. The reality is it might be 300. So that’s what we’re gonna do. And so just having that understanding.
[00:38:22] Two, is that understanding of not only is it a numbers game, but it’s, it’s about really understanding. And the company, of course, [00:38:30] which I think sounds like a no brainer, but I’m ready for every question that comes at me about my company, and not only my company, but every company. In the kind of adjacent spaces around it, where things are going the next five years, where things are going the next 10 years.
[00:38:42] And I think that’s a lot of what was instilled in me from a child, right? Every black child has heard you have to be twice as good to retap as far. And so this understanding of like really, really rooting myself and understanding every aspect of the business and the industry and be ready for any question that’s coming my way.
[00:38:57] And so, um, and not say that I didn’t know that [00:39:00] in other rounds, but it, it just, each round that you do, you, you really realize that you just show up A1. Every single meeting, every single time. And you have to do that while continuing to build your business, right? Cause the numbers have to be there, the company has to make sense and it has to continue to grow the whole time.
[00:39:15] And so, while fundraising is a full time job in itself, you need to figure out how to find magical hours in the day and keep the company growing, keep it successful so that that narrative always continues to be a positive story of
[00:39:27] Dan: growth. Makes a lot of sense. And this [00:39:30] idea of the thinking about the journey as somebody else put it to me. You gotta get through the no’s to get to the Yes. So every no you get is just getting you closer to that. Yes. Finding those investors who are aligned with being able to have a good working relationship with that. Get what you’re doing. They wanna support you as the founder, not just the opportunity. And I, I wish there was a much more efficient way to do it.
[00:39:55] Chantal Emmanuel: Well, I will say on the positive side, and going back to yours, Net Advantage because of [00:40:00] the rigor that’s involved in it, the people who come out on the yes side tend to be the most amazing people you’ll ever meet. Like our cap table, there’s not a single name on it That doesn’t bring a smile to my face when I think about conversations that we’ve had, even the process of fundraising to like the 3:00 AM emails that I’m sending them now for.
[00:40:18] The crem de la creme of investors rise to the top of those kind of experiences because they’re people who not only understand you and what you’re working on, but they’re enthusiastic about it and they’re able [00:40:30] to turn off all the societal biases that are coming their way that might tell them like not to say yes.
[00:40:35] And so I will say that that is definitely advantage is that we are able to create the most amazing list of investor that you’ll ever, ever.
[00:40:42] Dan: Were there things that you recognized in the deal process about those characteristics that you just mentioned, or it’s just sort of revealed itself even more so as you’ve entered the relationship with them?
[00:40:53] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, I mean, I think even when you’re in the conversation, and again, like I’m not a stranger to tough questions, actually, if you don’t ask me [00:41:00] tough questions during the due diligence process, that raises a red flag. But there’s a way that someone does it when they’re truly trying to understand and wanna get to a yes in a way, versus someone who.
[00:41:11] Is almost trying to set up gotcha moments, you know, that kind of vibe of like, Okay, let me get to the question that you’re gonna answer in the way that’s gonna verify the fact that I don’t wanna support this investment. Right? And so you, you get that vibe very, very early on in the conversation as to, am I here to understand or am I here to like, check this off the [00:41:30] list as one that’s not happening? And, and I think that it’s a feeling that comes in pretty early on in those due diligence processes.
[00:41:37] Dan: That’s super high EQ to have that, uh, radar. That’s, uh, that’s a great insight. So one, one of the things we also like to ask, cuz we have other founders who are listening in our audience, are there organizations or specific people that have been particularly meaningful in terms of helping you on your journey? As a founder or as a black woman founder in [00:42:00] particular?
[00:42:04] Chantal Emmanuel: You know, one of the things I think, especially founders of color and women founders have had to do as part of their journey, because fundraising can be so much more challenging is. To do more accelerators, do more pitch competitions, kind of figure out ways to make their fundraising journey whole, in lieu of having that kind of conventional fundraising.
[00:42:22] And so we’ve been able to participate in some really world class accelerators, like UrbanX. We were in the target tech accelerator, so we had [00:42:30] a couple of different experiences like that with folks who really help to, not only from a financial standpoint, but from kind of a business day to day accelerate our growth.
[00:42:38] Almost become additional team members for us throughout our journey and help to supplement some of the things that we, we needed help with along the way. And so I am a big proponent for the right accelerator at the right time. You know, they’re not all created equally, but I think depending on where you are on your founder journey and, and the focus of the particular accelerator, they can really do, as a name suggests, is accelerate you in [00:43:00] your.
[00:43:00] I’ve also found, so I’ve, I’ve moved from the Bay Area back to New York during the pandemic, and so kind of just reintroducing myself to the supportive organizations here in New York. Like I said, in the Bay Area, there’s so many things related around tech and it was very easy for us to find kind of connections on that side.
[00:43:16] And I’m starting to understand the equivalent for New York here is like the retail side of things and the hardware side. There’s a lot of really exciting things happening with manufacturing here in New York State. And so that would be my other recommendation is like figure out what’s. Great. And that’s [00:43:30] going on locally in, in the place that you’re doing the business in because there’s a lot of organizations that are looking to support startups in specific areas.
[00:43:37] So if you can align yourself with the local government areas of growth, you’ll find that there’s really a lot of opportunity to help accelerate what you’re working with there as well.
[00:43:46] Dan: That’s great. It sounds like I’m hearing a definitely common theme of the ability to plug in. And it’s interesting. I, I also did the same thing and went back to where I lived or I grew up later in my career. And so do you have to sort of like reframe your, your world around? [00:44:00] Yes, I know the streets and I know the neighborhoods, but I don’t, I don’t know the business ecosystem here yet as well, particularly from a tech startup point. Definitely. I got one more question. We always like to end with the retrospective question of essentially, if you could go back to, let’s just say your early Red Clay days, the pre entrepreneurial version of you, what would this Chantel’s tell that Chantelle? What to do, what not to do, what to look out for, what to [00:44:30] prioritize on your entrepreneurship.
[00:44:32] Chantal Emmanuel: I mean, I’ve been able to develop some now, but it was definitely more like building a plan, wealth flying, but to implement more wellness practices early on. The founder journey is tough. It’s mentally and physically tough. I, I go back and forth with my co-founder. I’m like, Oh, well, what woke you up at 2:00 AM this morning? And it, it sounds like a joke, but there are literally the 2:00 AM wake up calls of like, Oh, we gotta get this deck out. We gotta get. Master service agreement [00:45:00] out, and I wish I would’ve started earlier in implementing the things that would’ve made that easier for me, whether it’s a workout regimen or journaling and the things that I’m starting to do now as kind of a post , you know, stress kind of situation that I, I wish would, were part of my everyday journey.
[00:45:17] So I would recommend anyone who. Anyone should be having some kind of mental practice and mental exercise working into their system, but especially those who tend to be in high stress situations on a frequent basis like entrepreneurship. [00:45:30]
[00:45:30] Dan: That’s great. And we tend to hear a common theme when I ask that question around mental health, wellness and also the idea of patience and sort of the freneticness that you enter your startup journey with.
[00:45:43] Like just go, go, go. And like you said, your 2:00 AM and the to-do list is never done to, you know, this is really a long journey and I gotta build myself with the resilience of that. So Great. Uh, advice.
[00:45:55] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, no, patience is a good one, but I, I know past me wouldn’t listen to current me about that [00:46:00] anyway, so , that is the irony, isn’t it? It would’ve, It would’ve fell on deaf ears, .
[00:46:06] Dan: Well, this has been a great conversation, so we always like to leave our audience with a call to action. Chantal, what can we do for you? What can we do for Lime Loop? Is there any way we can be.
[00:46:16] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, so if you wanna know more information, we’re at the Limeloop.com. But the best thing that you can do is reach out to your favorite brand and ask them why they’re not using Lime Loop. And, and we’ll get them set up on that.
[00:46:26] Dan: Nice. And, uh, do you have any social media handles or LinkedIn or anything [00:46:30] you wanna share?
[00:46:31] Chantal Emmanuel: Yeah, so we’re on all the platform as theLimeLoop.
[00:46:34] Dan: Terrific. Well, this has been a, a really, really wonderful conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time today, Chantal.
[00:46:41] Chantal Emmanuel: Likewise. It was such a pleasure. Thank you so.
[00:46:44] Dan: We’d like to thank our guests, Chantal Emmanuel, and our sponsor, The Entrepreneur Struggle Podcast.
[00:46:49] This podcast was produced by me, Dan Kihanya,
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[00:47:13] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:47:14] I am Dan Kihanya, and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.[00:47:30]