2020 Summer Catalyst Startup Profile: ReServe
According to Plastic Oceans International, we produce “over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single use purposes…More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.” Alarmed by the deleterious environmental effects of single use plastics, Mild Suwanpimolkul MBA’21 was eager to make a difference, and, in her own words, “tackle the plastic waste problem from the upstream.”
So, she leveraged the core competencies of her family business in rubber manufacturing, S.K. Polymer Co, to create ReServe, a company offering innovative, stylish, and sustainable rubber products. Their first product is a reusable straw, and upcoming products include reusable boba straws, cups, containers, and more. Mild explains how she coined the term, ReServe: “In addition to environmental preservation, Re plus Serve also refers to serving with the same products over and over again instead of serving with single use plastic products.”
In Summer Catalyst, Mild has appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with a community of ambitious entrepreneurs and talented mentors. Throughout the summer, the ReServe team has worked hard to incorporate in the U.S., develop new products, connect with customers, and build B2B co-branding partnerships. Their advisor David Chang has provided invaluable feedback and guidance as they work toward those goals.
While starting a venture amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Mild and her team have dealt with several challenges. Although there’s a lot you can do online, engineering a whole new product virtually is challenging. The product development process is very interactive and hands on, which makes it quite difficult to replicate in a remote setting, Mild explains, “Our team wants to be in a room all together, sketching out ideas, developing prototypes, and using the whiteboard. We want to watch the users interact with the product and get feedback from them.”
Demonstrating resilience and being able to pivot when faced with obstacles are essential parts of the entrepreneurial journey. The ReServe team developed innovative ways to continue the product development process. For instance, they held virtual focus groups to demo prototypes and receive feedback from customers. They built prototypes using materials that are easily accessible at home to demonstrate a proof of concept. Additionally, they are actively working to turn those prototypes into finished products that address consumer interests and needs.
What advice does Mild have for aspiring entrepreneurs? One: be strong, resilient, and find unique ways to deal with challenges. Two: be curious, ask a lot of questions, and reach out to others when you need help. Three: collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs and learn from one another. Four: lead your team with respect and diplomacy, rather than domination. Five: prioritize your health and wellbeing; it will help you feel better and can increase productivity.
What is one thing Mild wished she knew before starting her entrepreneurial journey? “No matter how fast you want the process to go, things constantly get delayed and challenges arise. Now more than ever, it’s important to focus on what you can control and think through potential solutions when you feel stuck. It’s okay to adapt, try new things, and pivot.”
As the Creative Artist and Writer in Residence at Summer Catalyst, I agree with Mild and believe in the importance of thinking through creative solutions when faced with challenges. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, I believe it’s helpful to try and find innovative ways to move forward. So, I would encourage you to leverage your innovative mindset and focus on finding the silver lining. Don’t give up.