SaaS Founder Interview with Kylee Guenther, Founder & CEO of Pivot Materials
Tony Zayas 0:05
Hey, everybody, welcome to the tech founders show where we talk to founders who are doing doing amazing work that are driving innovations and really changing the way that we live and work. And so this week, I’m excited. Our co-host, Andy is not here today. He’s actually playing with Buffalo and bison out in Yellowstone this week. So I’ve always enjoyed his time off with his family. So it’ll just be me. But we have an exciting guest, we have Kylee Guenther, She’s the founder and CEO of pivot materials. Her materials is a woman owned business, Michigan, a social impact business. That’s reforming the plastics industry. And the main pivot comes from their goal to change or pivot the plastics industry. So pretty big undertaking. With that I will bring Kylee. Kylee, how are you doing? Fine, live in the quarantine dream. How about you the same here? Same here. Well, thank you for joining us. Super excited to hear what you have going on. I would love if you could just tell us a little bit about pivot and just tell us tell us you know what you guys are doing what the organization is all about?
Kylee Guenther 1:15
Yeah, great. So even before we get to pivot, I think my co founder Raggio and I’s life stories kind of define what our businesses and why we got here. So we’re actually both following in our father’s career footsteps, so my dad worked in the plastics industry as a whole life. And he was actually on the founding team to create the first plastic bottles with handles on them. So those milk jugs we all use, yeah, those gallon milk jugs, those are daddy’s so I was always going to work with my dad, my parents were really hands on with my brother Dusty and I. So we learned about plastics from the bottom up just growing up on the shop floor. And I was always amazed at all the things daddy can do. But like my dad made those little, little lemon bottles that have lemon juice in them that you get the deli for like, that’s awesome is developments. That’s very cool. Pretty cool stuff. So we saw the stuff more just mesmerized. But even as a kid, I was just mortified by the amount of plastic waste that was created. So my co founder Raggio his dad is like the umpteenth generation rice farmer in rural India. So he grew up on the farm learning about agriculture and all the waste that’s actually created from agricultural production. And a lot of that waste, the leftover land race is burned at the end of the season, which causes tons of air pollution. So him and I actually met in a grocery store parking lot, and paired up our ideas and founded a company thinking that we could take plastic or bio resins and combine them with plant waste, and then make material that can be an alternative traditional plastics. And we did it.
Tony Zayas 3:13
That is awesome. So where did the idea for that? So that’s really cool that you grew up kind of in the you know, learning about the plastics industry and all the things that your dad was doing, and your co founder are kind of similar? Where did you come up with the at? Where did you formulate the idea?
Kylee Guenther 3:35
I don’t even know how that even exactly came to be. But one day, we were just like, I wonder if we could mix these two things together, what would happen? And yeah, it didn’t blow up in our face. So
Tony Zayas 3:47
well. So what was your background prior to pivot materials? What What were you working on? What was the point of the career look like? I’d be curious to hear what your kind of skill set and background is.
Kylee Guenther 4:00
So I’m a product of the recession, I was a university fellow studying management and graduated at the height of the economic recession from my second master’s program. So I took any job I could that prevented me from living in my parents basement, and I actually became an enforcement officer at a court. So that wasn’t my first, like real grown up job. Yeah, nothing to do with what I ever wanted to do in life, which since I was a kid, I wanted to be president. So court officer is really, really different. But it actually really prepared me for business and a lot of ways because I worked with a lot of difficult people in a lot of difficult situations. And it really taught me to be tough and be strong, which is also paid off well this past year. So I don’t really I don’t really think it was bad thing, it was just very different than what I had expected to do. And my co founders, a mechanical engineer, and my dad’s also an engineer, who has been able to help us with this project. So we use my management skills, and my co founders engineering skills, and it worked out pretty well.
Tony Zayas 5:17
Cool. So that’s kind of the pairing, you know, we talked to a lot of founders who are co founders. And typically the ones that have the best dynamic is one, they really have those complimentary skill sets. So you brought kind of the management side, and your co founder brought the engineering side. So that sounds great, um, in your LinkedIn profile, it lists you know, storyteller and your headline. So I’d love to hear more about that.
Kylee Guenther 5:45
Yeah, so actually, when I started this business, one of us knew that we had to become a storyteller. Both of us were incredibly shy. And one of my greatest fears in life, most people, so I knew if this business was gonna succeed, and I was the one who wasn’t doing the engineering, I had to really suck it up and learn how to communicate. So I decided I was going to rip the band aid off. And I tried to book a speaking event, but I was so bad and so awkward, but nobody would even hire me. So I made it my new year’s resolution to just get over my fear of people. And I kept auditioning for speaking events. And finally, I booked one. And wouldn’t you know, it was at the stadium in Detroit, where the Detroit the Detroit football ones, I don’t follow sports. So, Lions? Yeah, maybe Yeah, we’ll go Lions. They they played there. So it was this big venue, speaking event there, and I have never been more sweaty in my life. To get up on stage. I was so nervous and just terrified. And I was afraid I was gonna pull up Kelsey Grammer and walk off the stage or something, but I did it. And after maybe a minute on stage, it was borderline okay. And by the end of my talk, I was like, This isn’t too bad. So since then, I’ve really honed in my skill and actually became an international keynote speaker. So something I hated. And for me was the absolute worst part of being a business owner is now one of my absolute favorites. And I have my own website for speaking Kylee Guenther dot com. And I do a lot of different things. And I’ve really honed in on storytelling, because as a startup founder, that’s what people are interested in, they want to hear the story behind your brand, and how you came to be.
Tony Zayas 7:45
That is pretty awesome. I love hearing that story. I once took a job early in my career in my early 20s. As a seminar instructor, because of that reason, I you know, always heard you take a job for experience that he gained, I thought what more powerful than if I became really good and really effective at speaking. So, you know, I get it. And that’s amazing to hear that story that you went from, you know, having the fear, being on the big stage. And then now that being a part of what you do is being a keynote speaker, so pretty awesome.
Kylee Guenther 8:17
And it’s so empowering. Like, I was always so nervous, oh my god, I’m gonna have to get this meeting, I’m going to have to talk to somebody, like the first time I ever went to a business meeting. For some reason, I’m more shy in business when I was in my work life, but like, I was so nervous. After the meeting over I had to go to Kroger and drying my shirt out in the dryer in the bathroom because I was just like, I was so sweaty and so nervous from having to talk to people in that meeting.
Tony Zayas 8:46
So do you are you would you say you’re an introvert? No, I’m an extrovert. extrovert. Okay. That’s curious about that. Yeah, that’s interesting. So you are extroverted. But that’s been a challenge for you. And, and now it’s been an area that you’ve grown significantly, so pretty cool. Um, so as a storyteller, and I love and I assume that that’s how I would play into the role. You know, just that’s why I mentioned that. How has that helped? Being able to articulate the vision you have for pivot materials? You’re getting buy in from people both, you know, externally, internally, potential investors, perhaps, how has it done for you?
Kylee Guenther 9:35
Oh, it was incredible. Before COVID hit his pivot is a b2b business and you won’t find most of our customers using Instagram or other social media format. They connect with each other in person. Our average customer is a little bit older. Definitely someone in a management position position someone who’s technical. So they are willing that online looking to connect with people. So I would go to constantly be doing speaking events at conferences, and I share our story about who we are and what we’re doing and our plan for complete world domination. And people really love that. Like, they loved hearing that we didn’t start this business with a plan of making money. Really, our plan was to make a difference. Yeah. And through making that difference. That’s how the business grows and makes money. And sometimes I do events, and people stand for 45 minutes to talk to me after my talk. I feel terrible about that, that they’re waiting that long. But like, it’s just how involved our story is, and how important it is to so many people. So that was, like, huge for us before COVID hit to be out there on the road train that story.
Tony Zayas 10:52
Yeah, that’s cool. I don’t plan to go back just to hear you know, you met your co founder ran into each other at the grocery store right? How did the conversation start? How did you discover that you guys had, you know, an area of interest in common? And then where did that turn into actual business idea.
Kylee Guenther 11:12
So we had some mutual friends, interestingly, so that that kind of helped move things along. And I love strangers, like mom always says, don’t talk to strangers. And I talked to all strangers everywhere, to the point where I’m usually the person in the elevator that scares people like think. Like, I just love talking to people. And we started talking about that, and our similar interests, and then it just kind of buttoned from there.
Tony Zayas 11:42
So when did you start talking about the business idea?
Kylee Guenther 11:46
probably pretty early on, he was pretty obvious that he wanted to start a business and do something. And we tried some other things first, that kind of didn’t work out. Because you know, as a startup founder, your first startup almost never works. Your first startup is usually your precursor precursor to something that kind of works. And then by the third or fourth startup, you’ll actually have startup. Yeah. So we started this carpooling website together first, which, like, Uber kind of moved in on that. So that was kind of what it was kind of similar to, we just kept trying, because that’s all you can do is try, you’re never gonna really be that successful. And the first time I think Mark Zuckerberg kind of set the standards insanely high, or actually, I think he had another startup beforehand, too. But yeah, so just trying and just moving along with things. And this, I think, ended up working because it was something we were both incredibly passionate about. And we had spent our whole lives working and
Tony Zayas 12:49
yeah, that’s very cool. When did or I’ll ask first, so the other startup that you had, what were some of the lessons that you learned going through that that helped you with, with pivot?
Kylee Guenther 13:02
Well, they were so different. So one was like a software platform. And the other one was, you know, pivot, which is, you know, a b2b hardware type startup, so they didn’t really have very many similarities. But definitely, I learned early on, that it’s gonna take you 20 times longer to get to where you want it to be and cost 10 times more than you ever thought possible. So, Word to the wise.
Tony Zayas 13:27
Yeah, yeah. Um, what, what played into so with the idea for pivot materials? Was there anything related to so that’s an area of passion for you both? Was there anything as far as timing was that it was the right time for you to start and launch that business?
Kylee Guenther 13:49
We’re a little ahead of the curve here. timewise. So I think that positions as well in the future, so we were one of the first sustainable materials startups. And we’re also the only one who uses natural fibers that haven’t been treated with harsh chemicals or other substances to keep them as natural as possible. So I don’t I think timing sometimes, is what you make of it, you can make it your time. And that’s kind of what we have been pushing. So in the last couple years, the plastics crisis has really grown. And that’s immensely helpful to us. And I think people are realizing through COVID how interconnected everybody in the world is like how everything you do or I do affects people on the other side of the planet. So I think that is going to push timing for our product as well. So we’ll see here, but it’s definitely the right time.
Tony Zayas 14:50
Yeah, so as far as the plastics industry, what does that look like right now and the need for sustainable solutions like What’s being done in the industry right now, obviously, you’re there at the forefront. But is this a time of like, significant change for them? I would imagine that it is. But
Kylee Guenther 15:10
yes. And that’s why our company’s name is pivot, because we’re all about change and disrupting the industry. And there are other small players out there as well. So we’re thankful that there are other companies working in the same or similar space. And the big multinational plastics manufacturers, they’re some of the largest businesses in the world. And they’re ingrained, if you think about it, everything we do, like as soon as you woke up this morning, you probably put on glasses that had plastic in them or slipped up into slippers or plastic, or you’re already sleeping on sheets of plastic, and then that you didn’t even realize. So it’s just just everywhere, in every single thing we touch. So that’s really the thing that people are thinking about, especially us who are millennials and younger, they were really driven by different wants and different needs. And the plastics industry is starting to see this. And they are incorporating some materials similar to what we’re doing in their product lineup. But there’s still a long, long way to go.
Tony Zayas 16:17
So what are some of the innovations that are currently driving that change in the plastics industry?
Kylee Guenther 16:24
More than innovation? I think, first and foremost, it was the desire and the realization of the plastics crisis. So now that people have realized what’s happening, that video of a turtle with a straw of its nose was horrible and graphic, but that really drove the plastics industry, or people in the plastics industry that realize there has to be changed. And people recognizing the threats of climate change has also immensely push forward the agenda to make real change.
Tony Zayas 16:58
So how do you go and make change in an industry that’s so massive? That’s I’m imagining done things the same way, for quite some time. What is that, like? I imagine that’s a pretty steep, you know, battle you’re fighting.
Kylee Guenther 17:16
It is a steep battle. And actually, the first time I ever pitched my business, it was one of the worst, most challenging days of my life. Because one of the pitch competition judges told me to sit down and be quiet, because what I was taking on was too big. And there was no way I was ever, ever going to be able to make it happen or make a difference. And he’s telling me my product couldn’t even exist. And I’m like, Hello, I’m holding something we made. So like I was, I’ve been up against that really sensitive beginning. And in our industry, space, material science is. Most people in the field are also older and male. So what I walk into a meeting, and I’m the only 20, some year old woman in the room, and I’m telling them how to change things that they’ve been doing for 30 or 40 years. Sometimes that doesn’t go over well. But now we’ve really been focusing on storytelling and sharing everything that our brand does. And that has made a huge, huge impact. Like one day, I was just studying here working on something, I could look in my computer and I answered an unknown color. And it was the manufacturing engineering manager for the larger field producer in the world. Wow. So these, yeah, these brands are reaching out to us. And, you know, as a founder at this stage, I’m really proud to share that four of our initial customers are fortune 100 companies.
Tony Zayas 18:51
So amazing. Yes, graduations on just asked, you know, just one more question on the topic of industry, what other disruptions? Do you see coming? Obviously, with all the change that’s needed? the direction that things are going? Is there anything that you specifically have your eye on outside of plastics or just got what impact the plastics industry and what you’re doing? Well, I
Kylee Guenther 19:19
think there’s going to be huge changes to the logistics industry, there has to be logistics was a mess before COVID hit and now it’s become a disaster. So I’m hoping that people recognize the supply chain and logistics issues and someone who’s not me because I hate that now that I’m good with public speaking logistics is my least favorite thing. Yeah, I hope someone else can disrupt this industry and fix the logistics supply chain because sometimes I think it would be easier to hire dolphins to drag my cargo containers across the ocean, then go through some of these logistics supply chains.
Tony Zayas 19:59
That’s great. Point is, you know, the pandemic has highlighted some challenges that we have and I think allowed us to see inner workings of certain industries. And that’s, that’s a huge one. So supply chain, those challenges became really evident and kind of where we were sourcing and getting things from. And I think that was a real eye opener for a lot of people. So yeah, that’s that’s fantastic. Fantastic point that you’re making there. You mentioned, you know, that you were told while you were pitching that, that your product is something that couldn’t be done. And you had you know, you had it in your hand. You do you have some products that you can show.
Kylee Guenther 20:42
Yeah, so. So here is a wineglass made out of our material. And typically, one of my pandemic products or projects is launching my own home one housewares line called looby products, which is launching this week. And this wineglass will be one of my first products. And this is something I’m exceptionally proud of this is a coffee mug made with a waste of coffee manufacturing.
Tony Zayas 21:12
That’s interesting. I saw that a website, that that’s an area of focus. And I didn’t even realize that coffee manufacturing industry, there was so much waste involved in that. So I’d love to hear if you want to share with the viewers, that would be interesting.
Kylee Guenther 21:29
Yeah, so coffee grows on our fruit. But all we want is a little tiny bean inside to make a cup of coffee. So there’s tons of ways 30 to 50% by volume, and there’s really no use for it after the coffee is harvested. So we’re able to take that material, which was called a haul and process it to get the fibers out and then compound it with either traditional plastics or bio resins to make these little tiny pellets that look like a bunny food if you’ve ever had a pet Bunny, and that’s our actual product. That’s what we saw a pivot. But we can sell those little pellets to manufacturers, who can make products like this, that are out of the leftover waste. So you can actually drink your coffee out of a mug made of coffee waste.
Tony Zayas 22:17
That’s pretty great. Pretty cool. And so what is the line that you’re launching?
Kylee Guenther 22:24
It’s called lluvia products, because it’s I love a good double entendre. So it’s loopy because it’s complete product to use is complete use of the material. And it’s also loopy because I’m crazy about sustainability. So you can find us oops, I keep knocking this stupid desk. Sorry, everybody who gets motion sickness. You can find us at loopy. products.com or on Instagram at looby products. And we’re launching this week. So it’s a really, really huge week for me.
Tony Zayas 22:55
Oh, that’s exciting. Wow. But that’s your don’t matter? You probably not a full four week plan. I’m sure what that launch going on.
Kylee Guenther 23:04
I am sure by the end of the week, they’ll be a little something stiffer than ice T and Mike.
Tony Zayas 23:10
Yeah. I would love to hear a little bit about just some of the people that you’ve leaned on through your entrepreneurial journey. And obviously, you have your co founder. But we’re the people that have you know, helped you. And really the people you’ve turned to the most, you know, as you’ve gone through the process, whether that’s mentors or support group, or mastermind masterminds, or would love to hear.
Kylee Guenther 23:40
So I have a really incredible team of mentors. I’ve had people that have supported me since my business was just an idea. And I had no clue like what it was going to be yet. Spencer and Tom, they’ve been amazing. And now we just meet for coffee sometimes. And we like Hey, remember when I couldn’t even do this. But so that was great. And actually one of my mentors, and this is the best part about being in business, you need the craziest, coolest people will ever one of my mentors was one of the first guys to work on the Mars rover project. Wow. So when you are a nerdy girl like me, working with him is like working with Justin Bieber. It’s so much fun, like all these people you meet, like my co founder, we were out in Silicon Valley doing something out there. And he met like, one of the top guys at IBM and like went for sushi and beer, like just these cool kinds of once in a lifetime people meeting opportunities. So we have a lot of that. And then some of these people become our mentors and we have the most incredible group of mentors and they check on us a lot just to make sure we were okay because you know founding and growing this business is serious, very hard work. And we depend on them. A lot. And one thing I also did that was really important is early on, I was really struggling because all my friends were getting married and having babies and kind of living your normal life. And I was like jet setting off to Silicon Valley and learning how to talk in front of people and pitching my business. And like, we just started to not have that much in common anymore. And it was really, really challenging because I needed somebody who really understood what I was doing. And like, sometimes they tried, but it just, it didn’t work so well anymore. So I made friends, with people who are also business owners. And those are the people that I lean on now to and we lean on each other and support each other. Because, like one of my friends are out, my old friends are out, you know, at the bar on Friday night, they don’t understand why I’m sitting at home and working on Excel sheets. So it’s a different kind of support group. So anybody who’s founding a business, definitely make sure you make friends who are starting businesses.
Tony Zayas 26:02
So where did you find those people? And like your the mentors that you you have? Did you seek them out? Or was that just kind of chance encounters? or What did that look like?
Kylee Guenther 26:12
The mentors mostly came from accelerators. So I tried to join every accelerator and different type of group here in Michigan. And they mostly came out of there, the friends, some of them came out of there. One of the guys I met him and I are always together in pitch competitions. So we met through that. And I also started a meetup group called social engineers, which is now defunct because of the pandemic. But I had some, like women who were engineers here in the Metro Detroit area, they joined it, and then we became like best friends. So it’s been really, really cool and interesting in that way.
Tony Zayas 26:54
So what is the entrepreneurial community, like in the Detroit area? I know that there are some, you know, accelerators there. But is that? Is there a community that you’ve gotten real involved with?
Kylee Guenther 27:09
Yeah, I mean, they’re like second family. Now, the Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem has really grown a lot since I started. There’s all kinds of new stuff like there’s the sun tribalists accelerator LTU, which is now just for hardware startups, is what we do. And it’s the first of their kind around here. And then there is the Small Business Development Center, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, there’s they’re trying really hard to make it really cohesive, and robust.
Tony Zayas 27:40
Great. So your business? Did you raise funding or bootstrap? Or was what’s the process?
Kylee Guenther 27:49
I’m really proud to share that we’re fully funded?
Tony Zayas 27:52
Kylee Guenther 27:54
yes, and there’s a lot of reasons for that. First and foremost, I didn’t want to take on anybody’s money until we had a product in the market that was growing. And secondly, venture capital for women owned companies, as you might know, is not that friendly. Only 2.3% of all funding that’s raised for venture capital goes to women led companies.
Tony Zayas 28:19
Wow, that’s crazy number. I was gonna actually ask you a bit about that. Just challenges as a female founder and entrepreneur. What have you faced? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered? And, and how have you address the situations,
Kylee Guenther 28:38
it’s been really challenging, honestly, it’s been really disappointing. So 2019 was the year the record year more funds going to women led startups and it was 2.8%. And last year, it was down to 2.3%, even though women own 40%, or more of all businesses in the United States. And I made a decision early on that this was probably going to be the case, I probably wasn’t going to get funding or as friendly of funding, as a lot of my friends who were male, and especially white male founders. And I was just going to have to do this myself if I really wanted to make it happen. So I’m pretty good with finance. And I’ve just made things work on my own. And a lot of my friends who are female, are experiencing the same, same struggles. So you know, I think we have to talk about it. I don’t think everybody knows about it. I don’t think people even realize sometimes the things they say or do that are different to women found in companies. So for example, I was in a pitch competition. And there were six finalists, five males and then myself and the one of the judges kept like all the judges got to ask One question. And they asked all the men like a very similar question. And it was like, oh, about how you’re doing great, and how your company is going to grow? And my question was more of like, oh, it seems like your company is going to grow fast, are you sure you’re going to be able to handle it? So there’s a lot of research out there that shows the differences in how men and women are even asked questions differently when it comes down to funding. So I think that’s something that needs to be addressed. And additionally, there needs to be more female representation at these investment firms. Like when I talked to an investment firm, and they have no women on our team, or they have one woman on their team as an administrative assistant, that really not really not the partner that I would be looking for, because I want to see minorities on the team, I want to see underrepresented classes and women.
Tony Zayas 31:00
Um, so what we’ve made our point I think, to, to your point, we’ve made a point to invite female founders, we have two shows, there’s our tech founders show and our SAS founders show. And, you know, we’ve heard so much of that challenge. But there’s people like you that are out there blazing the trail, that are speaking up that are, you know, doing amazing things. So I commend you for that, despite those, those challenges, and those barriers that are still there. So that says a lot about you and other women founders that are pushing ahead and have all the ambition and keep marching forward. So
Kylee Guenther 31:41
let’s have to do it. Sometimes that makes us not people’s favorite. But I mean, we have no choice.
Tony Zayas 31:48
Yeah, you’re blazing trails. So that’s impressive work. I would love to hear just a bit about the team. I know there’s you and your co founder, anybody else that’s that’s involved?
Kylee Guenther 32:02
Yeah, we have a small team. And we’re really close knit, I’m proud to share also that all our activities identify as female, minority immigrant, or a combination of the above. So our team is really diverse. And we’re very, very proud of that. And we also work with interns, so if anybody’s ever looking for internships, to reach out to us, and so it’s a few of us, some interns and a dedicated team of mentors and advisors.
Tony Zayas 32:35
What is the How would you describe the culture of within the business?
Kylee Guenther 32:40
So I don’t know that we describe our culture in term of terms. I know for branding, we’re supposed to, but we really haven’t. But we just try to be a really open team, a really caring team, like right now. We’re just like, focusing on making sure everybody’s okay, because of everything that’s going on around the world, my co founders from India, so his family is back in India, and the last week has been really challenging, because basically, every single day, somebody he knows has passed away from COVID, and India. So we try to be a really supportive team, a really caring team, a really open team, like my team can tell me anything at any time. And there’s never any judgment. And that’s one reason we like working with interns as well, because we like them to work in an environment that’s really positive. So they see that and they see how they should be treated before they go out into the work world and sometimes work in situations that aren’t that.
Tony Zayas 33:44
So how do you look for for candidates, given that you are, you know, mission focused? business, I would think that that’s really important that people buy into the change that you guys are trying to deliver. And like you said, something that you and your co founder are really passionate about? How does that come up in the process?
Kylee Guenther 34:06
That’s actually key. I am less concerned about degrees. I’m not concerned at all about fancy schools, like I am concerned and looking for are people who aren’t thinking about making a change, but who are making a change, and people who are committed to living a more sustainable lifestyle. And people, people you can just tell sometimes, like people have a spirit of disruption within them. And that’s what we’re looking for. It doesn’t have to be loud and proud and screaming from the rooftops. But you can you can usually tell that this person is going to do something.
Tony Zayas 34:45
I love that. The way standard that spirit of disruption. What what, how do you identify that because I think that’s a great quality for someone to have. I take it as someone that you know, looks at thing, different things. differently and out of the box. And how do you how do you sense that when you’re talking to someone?
Kylee Guenther 35:07
I had a former intern reach out to me later a couple of weeks ago and was like, Hey, I imagine you’re doing Mother’s Day shopping soon. And I was at Target and I saw these reusable Ziploc bags. And I thought of them and thought like, this would be something you would get your mom. And I just texted her back. I was like, Yes, you know, me. So Well, those are in my target cart at the moment. So like, you just you feel this within people that they want to make the change, or they bring up topics. Like I saw, like a meme one day that was like, so and so been reusing the same Ziploc bag since 1989. And I was like, Yes, those are our kind of people.
Tony Zayas 35:51
That’s cool. Um, we touched on the pandemic a little bit, just a moment ago. And obviously a hard topic to avoid. How did that impact you personally, and your business over the last year plus, now?
Kylee Guenther 36:08
It was berdahl was a really, really dark time. So at the beginning of the pandemic, I was I think, what before it even happened, I was the person who was not worried about it. I thought, well, they’re always telling us on the news that the hurricane is coming, and we’re all gonna die, and we don’t. So at first I thought, maybe it’s just the news going a little crazy. But then, like, I started to realize how serious it was, and things started shutting down. And I kind of blamed myself for a little bit that I didn’t see this coming. For some reason, I thought I was supposed to see this pandemic coming and save the world. But so it was a lot. It was really difficult at the beginning and Detroit where we’re at was one of the hardest hit areas in the world first. So it was just like a mini New York City. So that was hard to see people dying, and things just shut down. And like we were shut down for a very long time, because manufacturing was not permitted. And manufacturing companies were not permitted to be open in our state. So we were shut down, which leaves a lot of time on your hand to think about everything you’ve been busting your ass for. And working your whole life floor is just a sinking ship that’s out of your control. So that was really, really, really hard. But I think out of that I learned a lesson. Now I’m not afraid of anything, anything at all, is I’ve gotten so tough in the last What is it like 1415 months now. So I’m not afraid of anything. And it also gave me some free time to start thinking about loopy. I’ve wanted to start this home and housewares line for years, because I see so much plastic waste all over the place. So that gave me the time to start thinking about that product line and to really get it off the ground.
Tony Zayas 38:02
So is that where that came from? This the new product line that you’re working on? Was that born out of, you know, the slowdown from last year?
Kylee Guenther 38:12
Not really, a couple years ago, I was out waiting in the ocean in California and thinking like, I just found chunks of plastic on the beach like this is not cool. And there’s just like crap everywhere. And I was like, I just need some time to do something about this. And then all of a sudden, a sea lion swam up to me while I was out in the ocean. And I ran screaming shark all the way up the beach because I thought it was a shark. But once I realized it was a sea lion. I was like, okay, that’s the sign I need to think about this. So then I started thinking about the products that I see that are like the most detrimental or cannot be recycled, because even though something has a recycle symbol on it, that in the United States does not mean at all that it’s actually going to get recycled, which I think is one of the greatest travesties that we have in this country. So I thought of some products that we could make with more sustainable materials. And I’ve seen people marketing glass as really sustainable lately, which just irritates me to no end. Because it takes so much energy to make glass. That’s really not that sustainable. So that’s why I went for the wine glasses and the whiskey tumblers that I started because even though they do have some plastic in them, they’re made with the plant waste and they have less of a carbon footprint than glass. So product that’s made to, you know, illustrate things to people.
Tony Zayas 39:46
Yeah. So what’s on the horizon for heavy materials for the next 12 months, let’s say
Kylee Guenther 39:54
complete domination. That’s just always my plan. So we’re just we’re keeping Moving with our customers, a lot of them are coming back online. Now I’m getting back to work. So we’re starting back slowly. I’m also making sure that our team is not as Super exhausted, like some of my friends that work for other companies, they’re just so exhausted right now. Because the expectations for them are just insane. from working from home and dealing with family and the pressures that everyone has going on. So I’m really trying to balance things and make it an easy transition back to doing things for our team.
Tony Zayas 40:35
Speaking of balance, we like to ask our founders about kind of their work life balance or work life integration. Obviously, when you’re a founder or a company, it’s, you know, it’s a huge part of your life. How do you find that you, you know, create harmony with, you know, the work life side of things, and what do you do for fun, and decompress, and all that kind of stuff.
Kylee Guenther 40:59
I’m the worst person ever to talk to about work life balance, I have none. That’s fair enough. I’ve been trying to exercise more during the pandemic, because I’ve just felt like so much stress in my body. So I’m working towards running again, before the business, I used to run a lot like sometimes nine miles a day. So now I’m trying to understand how to virtually buy running shoes. And once I figure that out, I will start running again. And then I’m just trying to, like, I started appreciating my parents a lot more during the pandemic, I actually moved an hour away from where I was living, so I could live closer to them and take care of them and my grandma more. So I think, you know, that’s been an important part of the pandemic, I taught them how to do video calls, which some days I regret. But we’ve been able to video chat a lot more. And just like spend time together like that and spend a lot more time with my husband. We haven’t killed each other yet. So I think you know, our relationships pretty solid. That’s good. We’re actually celebrating our 10 year anniversary in a couple
Tony Zayas 42:12
of weeks. Congrats, that’s fantastic. Yeah, I would say just to add on to that, I do think that something that’s been that I’ve seen, for a lot of people a little bit of a silver lining of you know, this challenging, you know, year that we’ve spent here is that it seems like a lot of people have had a chance in certain ways to slow down in certain ways to spend more time with family and, you know, people close to them. We can’t go out a whole lot and see people elsewhere. But I have seen that in a lot of ways. That’s good to hear that you’ve been able to do some of that. So that’s fantastic. Um, before we wrap up here, Kylie, I would love to hear as far as you know, this is our tech founder show. What is there a particular This is open, this doesn’t have to be anything that you’re particularly dealing with and in your business or industry. Is there a technology that’s out there that you’re really excited to see, you know, kind of come to fruition and, and kind of hit critical mass and that’s going to change the way we live or work?
Kylee Guenther 43:20
Oh my gosh, so me being as nerdy as I am, I could say like 95 things right now.
Tony Zayas 43:27
Three of them. were usually asked for one but I would love to hear your top three.
Kylee Guenther 43:32
Okay, so I think cryptocurrencies gonna be interesting. I think during the pandemic, a lot of people have avoided touching cash. Yeah, I think that’s going to be one thing for sure. blockchain blockchain technology I’m obsessed with. I think it can be useful all over the place, it can make logistics a lot better. So whoever is going to disrupt this digit, the logistics industry, please give me something go to the blockchain. And I’m also excited about how it can prevent illness from food either from food contamination or food getting, not the optimal Tom temperatures. And also for people like me with food allergies, I think there’s a lot there that it can do. And my third one I’m going to say is biomimicry, which is really not a technology, but I am obsessed with bees and how they work with biomimicry and the number three in nature. And I think if people listen to nature, a lot more than a lot of our issues with technology would be solved. I’m convinced that everything we need is already on this earth. We don’t have to make it we just have to figure out how to use it.
Tony Zayas 44:51
Very interesting. Very cool. Well, Kylie, for those of those of our viewers that want to learn more about you more about pivot cereal isn’t even your new project. Tell us where we can find more.
Kylee Guenther 45:04
Yeah, so you can find me on LinkedIn, Kylie Guenther, there’s like three of us in the United States. So odds are, you’ll find me. And then pivot and loopy are both on LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. So you can find [email protected] o dot Ico, or at loopy products calm.
Tony Zayas 45:24
Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This has been fascinating. I appreciate you taking the time to spend with with our audience here on the show. And I’m excited for you know what you guys have had ahead of you in the future. So really cool stuff you’re doing. Kylie, I commend you on it. And I got to thank you for your time here with us.
Kylee Guenther 45:44
Yeah, anytime. Thanks for having me.
Tony Zayas 45:47
Awesome. Well, thank everybody. We will see you next time. Take care. Bye.