founder

Stojo Founder Jurrien Swarts on Ending Disposable Culture

Summary

Humans produce more than 300 million tons of plastic every year. And, 50% of that plastic is single-use. The production and consumption of this much plastic has extremely harmful effects on the environment. More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year. Plastic derivatives, including chemicals and microplastics, seep into the ocean, then ocean wildlife, and ultimately into our bodies, which may be harming our health.

More and more people are seeking reusable products as a way to address this issue. And Stojo is answering that demand. Stojo produces compact, reusable beverage containers — including water bottles and coffee-mug-esque cups with lids and straws. Stojo’s upcoming product launches include beverage containers for kids, food storage containers, and a “premium” line of beverage containers made from recycled ocean plastic. We sat down with Stojo founder Jurrien Swarts to learn about why ending disposable culture is so important to him.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Olivia Strobl
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Jurrien Swarts

Stojo creates products that solve the world’s waste problem and give consumers the products they need to make sustainable lifestyle changes. We created a collection of reusable, collapsible cups, bottles, and (coming soon!) food storage containers for the whole family. Stojo is on a mission to end disposable culture — one convenient, collapsible, reusable container at a time.

Olivia Strobl
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
Jurrien Swarts

The birth of my son Magnus. I wanted to lead by example, leave the world a better place for kids. The oceans are being trashed with plastic and other waste. It seems extremely short sighted and selfish that our current generation continues to destroy the planet for profit without considering future generations. I want to be part of the solution.

Olivia Strobl
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
Jurrien Swarts

Prior to Stojo, I started two companies: a dumpling stand and an organic farm-to-table home delivery service. I also spent 15 years in private equity where I held various roles across business development, investments, M&A and operations.

Olivia Strobl
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
Jurrien Swarts

That we employ smart circular design principles to replace all of our single use containers and packaging, phasing the entire practice out and achieving as close to 100% reuse or recycling of non-compostable consumer and industrial waste. Instead of just collecting trash and dumping it into landfills, shipping it overseas, or tossing it in the ocean, we collect that trash and sort into compost or into distinct recycling streams to be utilized locally by industry to create new products. 

We know this can be done because countries like Sweden recycle over 90% of all their non-compostable trash. It just needs to be envisioned, coordinated, and demanded by not only consumers but by business leaders.   

At the same time, I see this as being a pillar of the Green Collar economy where folks who need meaningful, good jobs can become eco-heroes, and get all the benefits and perks afforded to the employees of tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple. All it takes is some innovative thinking, will and determination.

Olivia Strobl
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
Jurrien Swarts

We have a team of 12 (including me) of really talented, dedicated employees and consultants. 

We have done a fair amount of hiring using LinkedIn job postings — but we’ve also found team members through industry introductions and startup accelerator labs. The Stojo team is full of amazing talent, mad creativity, and a commitment to make the world a better place.

Olivia Strobl
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Jurrien Swarts

The travel tumbler, water bottle and food storage industry is about $165 billion. It’s a highly fragmented market with lots of strategic acquirers who are always looking for access to new customers or for ways to differentiate themselves. There is a lot of competition, but most of our competitors compete in only one or two of the three categories. 

  • In travel tumbler you have Yeti, Oxo, Thermos, Stanley, Contigo, Hydroflask, Kleen Kanteen, Aladdin, and a number of other generics.
  • In water bottles you have Swell, Contigo, Hydroflask, Kleen Kanteem, Aladdin, Oxo, Life Factory, some other smaller niche brands, and generics. 
  • In food storage you have Oxo, Rubbermaid, Tupperware, Glad, Stasher, Ziptop, Rezip, some other smaller niche brands, and generics. 

Stojo is different in that it focuses on the reusable container (food AND beverage) space and combines unique functionality (collapsibility & leak proof) with premium sustainable materials and design. Our customers see us as a fashion accessory similar to what Swell used to be. And unlike some older established brands who are unable to innovate and remain relevant to Millennial and Gen Z consumers, Stojo is resonating with these consumers because of our functionality, brand voice, and the authenticity of our mission to help people live more sustainably.

Olivia Strobl
What does your business model look like?
Jurrien Swarts

I’d describe Stojo as an omnichannel business. We sell to consumers directly via stojo.co and Amazon Seller Central, to retailers like Whole Foods, Anthropology, Urban Outfitters, Food 52, Madewell, internationally to distributors in 40+ countries, and to corporate partners like WeWork, British Airways, the UN, National Geographic, KPMG, Goldman Sachs, Facebook and others.

Olivia Strobl
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
Jurrien Swarts

It just felt like a natural way to go. We got our start on Kickstarter. Launched our second product on Indiegogo. I love the democratization that crowdfunding offers: giving access to investors who don’t otherwise have the ability to invest in these types of opportunities, while also providing a funding platform for companies trying to bring new ideas like ours to life.

The money will be used to launch our 2021 innovation, grow our e-commerce business, and take us to consistent profitability.   

Olivia Strobl
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Jurrien Swarts

In terms of the company — unlike many sustainability focused businesses that fail to scale — we have taken $1 million in investment and turned it into $15 million in revenue. We have been profitable in August and September and will be profitable for Q4. We already have incredible market penetration with some of the best retailers (Whole Foods, Amazon, Anthropology, Urban Outfitter), are expanding into more categories like food storage and kids, have highly enviable customer base (Millennial and Gen Z women) and are poised for continued, rapid growth and profitability. And we make a highly attractive acquisition target in a space that also has plenty of publicly traded comparables (Yeti, Newell Rubbermaid, Helen of Troy). This means there are many paths to exit for Stojo. 

In terms of me… I’m a hard driving optimist who doesn’t ever quit. I think that capitalism is a force for good and that sound fundamentals are the key to success. I believe that corporate culture can shift overall culture — that many of our best commercial innovations helped society advance, here at home and abroad. I’m motivated by a desire to create, solve problems, change the world for the better. And I take my fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and other stakeholders very seriously. I’m a winning horse that you want to bet on.

Olivia Strobl
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
Jurrien Swarts

I think there are three great avenues Stojo could follow to success. At this time, I don’t have a preference for any of them as they all have their pros and cons. And as a realist, I can’t possibly know which one it will be.

First, Stojo could continue to grow on a similar trajectory to companies like Swell or Life Factory that broke $100 million in revenue, backed by growth capital investors, maintaining their status as founder-led privately owned companies. With attractive gross margins and free cash flow, investors could earn attractive returns from stock buybacks and dividends. 

Second, Stojo makes an attractive acquisition target. The industry has many larger companies that would pay for our customer base and innovation. Companies historically trade at multiples of 2.5-4x trailing 12-month revenue. Our projected growth combined with those multiples provide really nice outcomes. 

Third, in our industry there are plenty of examples of companies growing in sufficient scale to IPO. Stojo’s vision is big and bold and resonates with the next generation of consumers in ways that our larger, older incumbents don’t. Given my private equity background, as we continue to scale and grow, there will be an opportunity to partner with the right investors to take Stojo to the next level. 

We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Jurrien and his team take the company. Stojo is currently raising on Republic.

72
About: Olivia Strobl

Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.

View Olivia Strobl's founders