April 13, 2020 Product

Reusable bamboo straws.

Jamie and Len live by the beautiful beaches of the Mornington Peninsula where they constantly see plastic straws washed up on the shore. This waste and pollution really registered with the two entrepreneurs. A single-use plastic straw takes over a hundred years to break down; and here they were, washing up day after day. Jamie and Len decided to build a business that offered a solution.

People need straws, they don’t need them to be made of plastic. The environmental answer, the sustainable answer, was bamboo! This abundant crop is fast-growing and thrives without the need for fertilisers, pesticides or chemicals. By choosing the right bamboo variety, a finished drinking straw requires only a small amount of manufacturing.

Jamie knew there would be complexity in bringing a marketable product together. She decided to get some assistance. “I first became aware of NEIS from a friend who undertook the training for her small business. She raved about the program and the support it offered to entrepreneurs,” says Jamie. “I researched and then applied for New Business assistance with NEIS at Holmesglen straight away.”

“During the NEIS program, I had access to some incredible industry experts, professionals and successful entrepreneurs who really supported me and gave me great advice to help grow and scale my business,” explains Jamie. “I learnt how valuable it is to have a supportive network and community around you.”

Jamie launched her company The other straw with her partner Len in 2018. They sell bamboo straws directly to consumers via their eCommerce store and also supply bulk wholesale orders. As businesses are the biggest users of plastic straws, they are the company’s main focus. Current forward-thinking B2B clients who have ditched the plastic straw in favour of The other straw include Johnson & Johnson, Hilton Hotels, Ko Olina Marriott Hotels, University of Missouri, Deakin University, ING Bank, Bendigo Bank, Christmas Island Tourism Association and the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium amongst others.

To meet the growing demand from their clients The other straw needed to grow more product. “Our first farm is about 60km outside of Hanoi and our second farm is in the beautiful Quảng Bình Province. Both farms are run by local families and provide job opportunities for ethnic minority groups. We work closely with our farmers and producers in Vietnam. We feel proud to call our work colleagues our friends. From harvest to design, we rely on local expert knowledge, skills and creativity to deliver the perfect straw,” says Jamie with a smile.

The other straw have also just launched Eco Essentials, a range of new sustainable products to replace single-use plastic products. The range includes bamboo cutlery sets, coconut bowls, bamboo spoons and bamboo knives.

To really champion their environmental message, The other straw donate 50% of their profits to ocean cleanups. Jamie and Len also offset the transport emissions from sending out products. Online orders are sent out carbon-neutral and zero-waste, in packaging materials that are 100% recycled or post-consumer materials. There is no plastic and no virgin paper.

The message is very positive and very focused, reflected in their strong, visually cohesive branding.

Their efficient website is focused on answering the questions customers would ask, with a clear visual hierarchy of information; making the purchasing experience as easy and straightforward as possible.

On Facebook The other straw delivers environmental posts, links and videos as well as their own products here and there; set in eco friendly and tropical scenes. Photography is always nicely styled, presenting the other straw as part of a relaxed lifestyle. The environmental and sustainability challenges are included in this communication with a light touch, noted with some statistics and recommended viewing. This considered approach is winning over a growing audience.

“I’ve been able to grow and scale my business into overseas markets,” says Jamie. “This has provided an additional revenue stream and furthered my understanding and experience of global logistics, freight and international trade.”

“Since launching in 2018, we’ve sold over 50,000 reusable bamboo straws and prevented over 4 million plastic straws from entering our landfills, natural environments and oceans. We’ve also educated over 12,000 businesses and individuals on the impacts of single-use plastics and supported over 45 beach cleanups.”

Lets all drink to that!

If you have a new business idea, take the first step to self-employment with free NEIS training. NEIS is an Australian Government sponsored new business training program, to assist with self-employment. Use the postcode finder for your local provider and contact them for a chat. 

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