Town Haul Podcast | Episode 14

  • Host: Amy Koonin (Rubicon)
  • Guest: Miles Pepper (Co-Founder of Final Straw)
  • Listen Here!

Single-use plastic is plaguing our environment. Utilized for just minutes before spending centuries in landfills (or our oceans), it’s obvious that single-use waste really sucks. That’s exactly why Miles Pepper created Final Straw, a collapsible straw that fits on your keychain and which can be used thousands of times.

Town Haul host Amy Koonin sat down with Miles Pepper to talk through building a startup, reducing waste through innovation, and maintaining social responsibility in business. And don’t worry—the information they shared can be used again and again.

On how Final Straw got its start:

PEPPER: “The entire world is sort of focusing on single-use plastic straws right now because it’s a really easy thing to cut out of your life. It’s easy to do and it makes the world a little greener. In the U.S., we use 500 million single-use plastic straws every single day, which really freaks me out. That comes down to 1.6 straws per person per day. And there’s no point in really having a straw, as it’s simply a convenience item.

I went online to search for a reusable straw, but nothing I could find was convenient. I figured that someone must have already made a collapsible reusable straw. But there was nothing on the market. And that sort of sparked this little fire in me.”

On building a brand:

PEPPER: “And as it sort of progressed, Final Straw started to grow into a much larger project. [My co-founder and I] both quit our jobs full-time and started working on Final Straw and getting everything ready to launch this Kickstarter project.

I knew that other plastic straw alternatives had some issues. I knew that this straw had to be super convenient, but also extremely easy to clean. So in every Final Straw case, there is a squeegee that lives inside of it. And you can take that out and have a cleaning device that you can use anywhere when you’re out on the go, so you can clean out the inside of your straw to make sure it’s sparkly clean.

We knew that we could have some fun with this product. It’s not like we’re selling accounting software or something sort of boring. We’re selling a drinking straw, and we’re trying to help the ocean. So we can have a little bit of fun with it. And we were really able to capitalize on that and build a brand that we wanted to bring to the world.

For the entire four months that we were working on building up the Kickstarter project, we worked on getting a voice together and getting imagery, getting a really compact story that we’re easily able to tell. And I think it paid off big because people really resonated with our Kickstarter video.”

On combining social responsibility and business:

PEPPER: “We are in this position of providing an alternative to a single-use plastic item, and we’re being very green about it. But we still have to make a physical product. And with any creation of any physical product, there is an environmental impact. But we are working our hardest to be as true to our mission as possible. We’re working to really uphold the values this company has been built on, which is to help our environment.

We’re trying to build a company that has a social responsibility and environmental responsibility built into its core foundation. And we’re able to back up and stand behind our products. And that’s one of the reasons why we are releasing our straws this winter, instead of in a few weeks. It’s because we’re testing, and testing, and testing, and doing ideation, and really figuring out the best way to make this folding straw work and be almost bullet-proof. We’re building this to be a very durable straw. And the straw acts as a catalyst to get people to cut out other single-use plastics.”

On the quote that’s stuck with Pepper while launching a startup:

PEPPER: “There is no such thing as luck. Luck is only a combination of opportunity and preparedness.”