In the latest episode of the She Mentors podcast, KeepCup Managing Director and Co-Founder Abigail Forsyth spoke to Founder of She Mentors, Ali Adey, about the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on businesses and the environment.
Following #PlasticFreeJuly last month and mounting concern for how Australia’s small businesses will survive the pandemic, this podcast episode offers advice to both eco- conscious and business-owning audiences from one of Australia’s most successful businesses.
Advice for small businesses
Abigail said most business owners in “survival mode” will need to “think really hard” about what will happen in the next one or two years.
“You’ve got to be brutally realistic about what the changes and challenges are going to be. Most businesses, to a certain extent, will be in survival mode. What’s it going to take for your business to survive? And are you prepared to do that?” she asked.
“Lots of cafés just will not survive. I know from working there, margins are super tight. It must be incredibly stressful for them. They just won’t make it through.”
Abigail said the KeepCup team has also been impacted by COVID-19. She was on the cusp of signing a new lease in the United States when the pandemic hit.
“We just shut that office down back. There was some sadness about that, because we were in there for seven years, and it was our most challenging market. But for me personally, when the business isn’t doing so well, there’s always a sick feeling in your stomach that you could be doing it better. And that feeling has gone away. So there’s some silver linings, for me personally,” she said.
The KeepCup team, which stood at 100 employees pre-COVID, “will end up at around 35”.
“That’s just the way it goes. KeepCup has done a great job establishing a brand category of reusable cups and now there’s a truck tonne of competitors,” Abigail said.
Abigail also spoke on what it’s like to lead the eco-conscious consumer trend that’s now part of our everyday lives and scale a business to 65 countries; dealing with copycat competitors, finding a place in overseas markets, partnering with the “cool kids” for success, and hiring the right – and wrong – people for a “purpose before profit” company.
The Environmental Impact Of COVID-19
“Something like this had to happen. Following behind this pandemic is the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse. And even for a business like KeepCup, the growth we had and the cups we were selling. It was making me feel sick. Who’s using all these products and where are they going?” Abigail asked.
“With a system still predicated on limitless growth, KeepCup’s goal to reshape the way we consume our planet’s resources is far from complete.”
She added that “we can’t consume our way to a more equitable and greener society”.
“We’ll continue to keep pushing hard on the banning of single-use plastic,” Abigail said.
“There are going to be a lot of changes. In some way, they could be positive changes for the environment if we can get our act together about what a ‘green recovery’ could look like, as opposed to just turning back on the fossil fuel and gas tap.”
When asked what’s new in the pipelines for KeepCup, Abigail says that consumers should look out for some exciting new alternatives to single-use plastic in the new year.
This podcast episode is will be made available on iTunes and via shementors.com.au