The amount of plastic produced and thrown away each year has reached staggering levels. In fact, the United Nations estimates that some 400 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into landfills each year.
Julia and Jordy Kay wanted to help reduce this number.
Their idea? Create a plastic-free version of traditional cling wrap, the kind found in kitchen cabinets around the globe. “We were essentially the customers, and we just wanted a better product than plastic wrap,” Julia says.
In 2019, Julia and Jordy launched Great Wrap, a materials science company that’s turning potatoes into compostable stretch wrap. Since its inception, the duo has raised over $24 million and built their own production facility.
But it wasn’t easy.
Julia sat down with the Shopify team to share her tips for starting her own production facility.
Find partners with beneficial resources for your brand
Julia and Jordy partnered with Monash University, a research-intensive university in Australia, welcomed angel investors, and received government grants in order to fund their business. “We kicked off a research project with Monash University converting food waste into a pathway to make a biopolymer, it’s been about a 2-3 year process and we’ve learned a lot,” Julia says.
On top of working with students and faculty at the university, the pair has investors and mentors like Simon Griffiths, founder of Who Gives A Crap, who served as guides along their development process. “We've really always been attracted to investors who have built things themselves and have a really great understanding of what it takes to start from an idea and get it into a process,” Julia says.
Understand what your business needs from a production facility
Julia and Jordy found it was easier to set up their own manufacturing facility rather than contract with one. “We wanted to be able to experiment, and we were really excited about creating jobs too,” Julia says.
With their own facility, they not only have control over what goes into their product, but what is happening to the waste created after their product is made. “It's important to zoom out from the product and think about that whole process,” Julia says.
By opening their own facility, Great Wrap is able to map out the entire life cycle of its products, from what’s happening to the waste, to how that waste is being processed and discarded. The pair have been able to alter their formulas to improve the quality overtime, and design pathways with Monash University to begin setting up their own biorefinery on site.
Turn to your community to create excitement around your production facility launch
"When you’re building your factory you need to garner the support of your community as well as the larger network of business owners who can potentially use your product," Julia says.
Julia and Jordy designed social media content around the development and growth of their factory. 24 hours after posting the content Great Wrap had done nearly $30,000 in sales.
By sharing your facility progress on social media, your audience can feel like they are a part of the building process. In turn, they will be more likely to make a purchase—and come back for more.
With the proper resources, support, and marketing strategies, Great Wrap has been able to operate out of their own facility for a little over three years now, with plans to open a US-based factory in the near future.
Tune in to the full Shopify Masters episode to discover what it takes to build your own production facility, and scale to gain international recognition.