“Impossible”. “Complicated”. “Challenging”
These are the words people use when discussing the sustainable use of plastic. These words also popped into my head when I was asked to write an article about the first 5 years of Searious Business. But when I review 5 whole years of what has proven to be the adventure of a lifetime, I’d have to add two more: “Rewarding” and encouragingly “Possible”.
By Willemijn Peeters, CEO of Searious Business
I started the company Searious Business determined to make a difference in the world of plastics. Starting as a digital nomad, I focused on the essentials to get started by myself with just the bare minimum. For me, that meant spotting a clear opportunity, steer my passion and determination to fill that niche, and use my skills to build a network and capture the attention of potential clients.
But for all my positivity, many didn’t believe it could be done. They told me I couldn’t make a career out of protecting the environment and that society was too set in its ways – better to wait for legislation to drive change. Being convinced of the opposite, I stuck to my beliefs that business is the catalyst of change and countered the scepticism by booking concrete results and exceeding expectations time and again.
- A “recycling disaster” too hard to tackle? We turned it into fully-recyclable packaging, including 80% recycled content.
- Making high-end furniture from a manufacturer’s own waste? We developed a solution that achieved a Dutch Design Award.
- Working with a material that is currently not recyclable in Europe? We helped to set up an industry-led consortium to engage producers and recyclers to make it happen.
The statistics on start-up companies are fairly gruelling. As of 2019, start-up failure rates are around 90%. So, what is the secret? How do you run a successful social enterprise with such an overwhelmingly challenging mission? How do you turn your passion into a business which grows organically?
Here’s my rule of 5:
Focus on what you’re good at and where you can make a difference. I didn’t just start a business for the money – I choose my projects wisely. I only work on things that have a durable, positive impact. When asked to do interesting things on the side, I check my checklist, and if it doesn’t tick 3 out of my 4 boxes, I say no.
2. Go the extra mile
If you intend to make a definite positive impact, as I am on closing the plastic tap, you do not have the luxury of holding back. You HAVE to take that extra step. Chase people down, try other ways. Whether you like it or not. The cause is simply bigger than you.
And then. DO NOT STOP. There is a reason fellow start-up entrepreneurs gave me the hashtag #unstoppable. I’m known for finding alternative options to get things done, and the more projects we complete, my arsenal of tactics continues to grow.
3. Find Allies
Surround yourself with the most brilliant minds and hands-on go-getters you can find. I am only as good as the sum of my talents and stamina. But by working together with others, you can move mountains. Get the right people in your team and create partnerships/supporters in the areas where they can complement you.
4. Get results
Deliver your promises by listening to your stakeholders and meeting their needs. It’s not just about providing information. It’s really about booking results and implementing a business plan which works. Their business strategy must improve by making it part of the circular economy.
- Measure your success
And celebrate it!
Searious Business aims to double our positive impact year on year. Having a clear mission and ‘theory of change’ will help you focus and drive you and your team. Also, take time to recognize interim achievements. This will help keep the momentum going for long-term goals.
For a circular economy to work, we need to get entrepreneurial spirits and the Leaders of Change to join forces. We can see good things happening across the globe, but in truth, we need more governmental push and public pressure. The system will not change by itself. Society needs to take advantage of the momentum which is building now. Your business needs a license to operate. If you want to still be operating in ten years from now, follow my tips above and be part of the Leaders of Change.
This article was written for the 5th Anniversary of Searious Business.
Searious Business was founded in March 2016 and aims to prevent plastic pollution. Searious Business helps major users and producers of plastic to make their plastic use more sustainable. In this, the company sees the greatest potential to bring about change and tackle the plastic waste problem at source. The Searious Business team advises companies on where and how they can reduce their plastic consumption, for example by switching to circular products, packaging or business models.