Her CEO Journey™: The Business Finance Podcast for Mission-Driven Women Entrepreneurs

Weekly show where my featured guests and I explore the financial and business challenges women face on the entrepreneurial journey to success. You'll hear them talk about the money side of their businesses in ways you've always wanted to know about, but wouldn't dare ask. They openly share their disappointments, failures, successes, and everything in-between as they grew sales ranging from 6 to 9 figures. Knowing where your business stands financially helps you make critical decisions with confidence. It's simply the best way to be sure you grow a business that fuels the life you want to live.

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episode 124: The Circular Approach: Decreasing Plastic Waste with a Sustainable Business — The Journey of Plaine Products (Business for Good Series) [transcript]


All businesses begin with a purpose. Purpose serves as the heart of your business. Your business and the decisions you make should always reflect that purpose. Thus, it significantly impacts the entirety of your business — from the materials you choose for your products to the financial decisions you need to make.

For Lindsey and Alison, their purpose of providing an environment-friendly alternative to plastic bottles and their desire to reduce their carbon footprint forms the core of their company, Plaine Products. They kept their goal in mind from start to finish, and you can see it reflected in all of their business decisions.

Tune in to the episode for an insightful discussion on creating long-term profit and supporting your business with alternative financing. In this activity, you will gain a clearer perspective on making decisions that will benefit your purpose and profits.

3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. You will find out how much plastic waste has been damaging our planet and how we can make a difference.
  2. Learn how to face the challenges of innovating and financing your product, from research to development.
  3. Take inspiration from Lindsey and Alison's business journey — from scaling a sustainable business to providing solutions!

Episode Highlights

  • [05:57] The Beginning of Plaine Products
  • [09:31] The Issues Plaine Products Addresses
  • [10:13] Lindsey’s Blind Side
  • [11:34] What Was Going on Before the Launch
  • [13:27] The Biggest Challenge During Research Phase
  • [14:23] The Beginning of a Sustainable Business
  • [18:39] Managing Finances During Research 
  • [21:17] Challenges in Terms of Innovation, Product, and Process
  • [24:24] Step-By-Step Processes in Scaling
  • [25:35] Keeping a Sustainable Pace
  • [27:28] Why a Loan and Not Investors? 
  • [28:50] The Structure of Debt Financing 
  • [30:46] Vision for Plaine Products
  • [31:32] Metrics to Measure Progress 
  • [32:08] Going Global
  • [32:32] When Your Business Needs a Part-Time CFO
  • [34:45] Their Advice for Female Founders

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Connect With Me

Ready to transform your purpose into an impactful business financial story, profit, and joy? Schedule a chat with me at any time.

Resources

  • Visit Christina Sjahli's website for more insights on business finance on the Her CEO Journey podcast.
  • Download this Action Guide to help you make clearer business decisions that balance your purpose and profits.
  • Identify the financial gaps that can stop you from building a profitable and sustainable business. Download this quiz!


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 2021-07-15  38m
 
 
00:02  Lindsey Plaine
My vision is to
00:02
just see more and more products
00:05
and more and more companies
00:05
thinking about things in a
00:08
circular way. And I hope that
00:08
we're right in there mixing it
00:11
up with everybody else that's
00:11
doing it. We count how many
00:15
classic bottles we've eliminated
00:15
or replaced. So we're just about
00:18
to hit 300,000 since we started.
00:18
That's probably our main sort of
00:23
impact metric.
00:25  Christina Sjahli
Most of us
00:25
likely aware that the earth's
00:28
surface is 71% water, and 96.5%
00:28
of this water exists in oceans.
00:35
And I remember learning this
00:35
back in elementary school, but
00:38
honestly, I was oblivious;
00:38
oblivious to the fact how we
00:43
live everyday had an impact on
00:43
the oceans. The sad part is, I
00:48
grew up in a third-world
00:48
country. And there was this one
00:52
big river going across the city
00:52
where I live, but instead of a
00:56
blue clean water, the river was
00:56
filled with plastics and
01:01
garbage, the water looked
01:01
filthy. It didn't occur to me at
01:06
the time, the damage done by
01:06
plastics to our planet,
01:10
including the oceans. 17.6
01:10
billion pounds of plastic end up
01:15
in the marine environment every
01:15
year. Toxic chemicals used in
01:20
our day-to-day life end up in
01:20
the ocean, one way or another.
01:24
We are learning as we go. And at
01:24
a personal level, I tried to
01:29
make changes in how my family
01:29
lives everyday to be more
01:32
conscious of the impact we have
01:32
on our planet. But in our humble
01:37
opinion, the best learning tool
01:37
to create this change is
01:41
actually by talking to female
01:41
founders who create the future
01:45
we want. That's why we are
01:45
curating this podcast series
01:49
featuring female founders who
01:49
are building businesses to
01:53
create the future we want and
01:53
the future we need. They also
01:57
consciously choose long term
01:57
viability over short term
02:01
profit; they bootstrap. And all
02:01
of them are scaling and building
02:06
meaningful profit. These female
02:06
founders are also part of a
02:10
global community of 4000 B-Corp
02:10
certified businesses. If you are
02:17
not familiar with B-Corp
02:17
certification, in that case, I
02:20
encourage you to listen to
02:20
Episode 101 at
02:24
christinasjahli.com/herceojourneypodcast
02:24
where you can learn about
02:29
B-Corp; why it matters and the
02:29
certification process.
02:34
Throughout this podcast series,
02:34
you will learn that having a
02:37
social mission means the
02:37
company's long term viability
02:41
takes precedent over short-term
02:41
profits. As a result, these
02:45
founders and CEO do not take
02:45
investors' money. Instead, they
02:50
bootstrapped and found
02:50
alternative financing to support
02:54
their growth. Today's episode is
02:54
part one of three of the
02:58
Business For Good series.
02:58
Lindsay and Alison Delaplaine
03:03
are the co-founders of Plaine
03:03
Products. They are on a mission
03:07
to get all the plastic bottles
03:07
out of the bathroom. They share
03:11
the innovation Plaine Products
03:11
continue to undertake; not only
03:15
to remove plastic bottles out of
03:15
the bathroom, but also to create
03:18
non-toxic products and reduce
03:18
plastic waste overall, how they
03:23
create profitability within four
03:23
years, the type of alternative
03:27
financing they choose to support
03:27
their business growth and the
03:31
benefits of having a part-time
03:31
CFO. You're listening to Her CEO
03:36
Journey, the business finance
03:36
podcast for mission-driven women
03:39
entrepreneurs. I'm your host,
03:39
Christina Sjahli. If you are new
03:44
here, a big warm welcome. If we
03:44
are not connected on LinkedIn,
03:48
please reach out and say hi
03:48
because that's where I hang out
03:52
and share my business finance
03:52
steps. If you have been
03:56
listening to this podcast for a
03:56
while and you are a regular
04:00
listener, I want you to know I
04:00
appreciate you. My podcast won't
04:05
be around without your support.
04:05
This is a free weekly show where
04:10
my guests and I want to inspires
04:10
you to balance between mission
04:14
and profit to create an impact
04:14
in this world and to achieve
04:18
financial equality through your
04:18
business for good. When you
04:23
choose to build a long-term
04:23
viable business over a
04:27
short-term profit, knowing where
04:27
the financial gaps are in your
04:31
business becomes more important
04:31
than ever. This is where the
04:35
quiz I have created for you
04:35
comes in handy. This quiz can
04:39
help you identify the financial
04:39
gaps that may stop you from
04:43
building a long-term viable
04:43
business that is profitable. You
04:47
can find the link to the quiz in
04:47
the show notes. And I encourage
04:51
you to take this quiz, then take
04:51
action to fill in the financial
04:56
gaps. We are here to partner
04:56
with you. We understand business
05:01
finance can be confusing, but it
05:01
doesn't have to be complicated.
05:05
You want someone who is as
05:05
passionate as you are, and takes
05:09
your business to the next level.
05:09
Once we show it to you, you will
05:13
understand and trust your
05:13
financial numbers. We make sure
05:17
you are making business decision
05:17
with your purpose, front, and
05:21
center. Connect with us at
05:21
christinasjahli.com/let-s-chat.
05:27
Now, let's find out Lindsey and
05:27
Alison's CEO journey. Lindsay
05:33
and Ali, welcome to Her CEO
05:33
Journey. It's a pleasure to have
05:37
you both here.
05:39  Lindsey Plaine
Thank you. We're
05:39
thrilled to be here.
05:41  Alison Plaine
Thank you.
05:42  Christina Sjahli
I'm excited
05:42
because two sisters, co-founders
05:45
talking about sustainable
05:45
products, plastic waste, and
05:49
everything else. So before we
05:49
get started and dive into more
05:53
details, I'm going to let you
05:53
share what is your journey like.
05:58  Lindsey Plaine
It's been quite
05:58
a journey. Either one of us took
06:01
a direct route here. My
06:01
background is actually in
06:04
nonprofit management. That's
06:04
what I did for 20 years before
06:07
we started this, and Allie has a
06:07
design degree and did interior
06:12
design. I was working for an
06:12
environmental education
06:16
nonprofit. So we were doing a
06:16
lot of cleanups and you
06:18
physically see all the plastic
06:18
in the islands. There's not the
06:21
same infrastructure there that
06:21
there is here to make things
06:24
disappear. So you'd see the
06:24
plastic on the beaches and the
06:28
waterways. And I heard this
06:28
back, there may be more plastic
06:32
than fish in the ocean by 2050.
06:32
And that just hit me hard. So I
06:38
started doing the things that
06:38
we're all doing now carrying the
06:42
reusable water bottles and the
06:42
straws, escaping the straws,
06:46
carrying the reusable bags. One
06:46
place I couldn't find a solution
06:49
was all of those little plastic
06:49
bottles in my shower. And it
06:52
really started to bug me
06:52
honestly. So I think my
06:55
lightbulb moment was in the
06:55
shower. And this is gonna betray
06:58
my age a little bit but I
06:58
started thinking about Netflix.
07:01
I don't know if you remember
07:01
when they used to like send you
07:04
the DVD, and then you'd watch
07:04
it.
07:05  Christina Sjahli
Oh, yes. I
07:05
remember that. I still remember
07:08
Blockbuster, so...
07:10  Lindsey Plaine
There you go.
07:10
We're in the same category. But
07:13
I was like, "Why can't we just
07:13
do that with bottles? Why can't
07:16
I just use a bottle and send it
07:16
back?" And I was like, "That's
07:18
actually not a bad idea." And my
07:18
husband's from the Bahamas. But
07:22
as a family, we were talking
07:22
about moving back to the US. And
07:25
I wanted to take a break from
07:25
nonprofits. And I was pretty
07:29
clear about where my blind sides
07:29
were getting into something like
07:33
this. So I called my sister and
07:33
asked her if she would do it
07:37
with me because we are an
07:37
incredible balance of skills
07:41
together. Together we make the
07:41
perfect person.
07:45  Alison Plaine
And I, of course,
07:45
said yes because anything my
07:49
sister does is successful
07:49
because she's such a hard
07:51
worker. So I was running a
07:51
business with my husband, just a
07:55
small business. We already had
07:55
UPS coming to our house every
07:58
day to pick up packages, I was
07:58
like, "Sure, I can help. I'll
08:01
just pick up. Well, if I ship a
08:01
few boxes a day, it won't be a
08:05
big deal. We can turn the garage
08:05
into the warehouse, no big deal
08:09
at all." But four and a half
08:09
years later, we are way beyond
08:14
that. And it is very successful.
08:16  Christina Sjahli
I know. It's
08:16
exciting because
08:17  Alison Plaine
I had no idea
08:17
what I was agreeing to. But as I
08:20
predicted, she would make a huge
08:20
success of it.
08:24  Christina Sjahli
So okay, I'm
08:24
curious, though, Ali, did you
08:27
see the same issue? How did
08:27
Lindsey even pitch to you to
08:32
join this journey? I'm curious
08:32
about that.
08:35  Alison Plaine
That is
08:35
interesting. I was kind of like,
08:37
"Well, I could see..." And I'm a
08:37
much more practical hands-on
08:42
person. So I was like, "Well,
08:42
how are you going to design
08:45
these bottles to last? And it's
08:45
got to be aesthetically pleasing
08:49
for someone to want it in their
08:49
shower." And I grew up visiting
08:53
the Bahamas as well and visiting
08:53
her so I could... I knew this
08:57
was an issue. And, I think, I
08:57
took it from... Well, even if
09:02
this isn't as successful as it
09:02
would hopefully be, it'll be a
09:06
great educational tool to teach
09:06
people that this is a problem.
09:10
And we just wanted to make
09:10
people aware of what's going on.
09:17
And here in America, "Yay! I
09:17
just put my trash out today, got
09:20
picked up. I'll never see it
09:20
again." But that's not what's
09:24
happening on these small islands
09:24
and ocean communities. And who
09:27
knows where my trash is actually
09:27
ending up today?
09:31  Lindsey Plaine
I feel like
09:31
we're really conditioned to not
09:34
think about it. I mean, there's
09:34
a whole industry that's trying
09:38
to make sure that we don't think
09:38
about it, that's convinced us
09:42
that disposability and
09:42
convenience are the most
09:45
important things, and we
09:45
shouldn't have to worry about
09:48
it. And so I really feel like,
09:48
especially, when we're getting
09:52
started, we were swimming
09:52
upstream a little bit and asking
09:55
people to think about these
09:55
things. But I do think once you
09:58
do start to think about it, once
09:58
you see it, you can't unsee it.
10:01
And you start to realize all the
10:01
things that are going on. So
10:05
what Ali said is true, we really
10:05
consider this as an awareness
10:09
campaign. And maybe that's the
10:09
nonprofit girl in me as much as
10:12
the business.
10:13  Christina Sjahli
So what was
10:13
your blind sight, Lindsey, that
10:16
you've realized that you had to
10:16
ask Ali to join you?
10:21  Lindsey Plaine
Well, when she
10:21
said it's important that the
10:23
bottles look good and are
10:23
aesthetically pleasing, that
10:26
would be a blindside for me. I'm
10:26
about problem-solving but I'm
10:30
probably a little too pragmatic.
10:30
And Ali, also, has this amazing
10:35
sense of smell and this amazing
10:35
sense of what's the right
10:39
product and how well it works.
10:39
So I would have probably gone
10:43
with the first manufacturer we
10:43
tried who it was terrible but I
10:46
was just so excited to get
10:46
started. "We'll figure that out.
10:49
It'll be good." She's like, "No,
10:49
this is terrible. Nobody wants
10:52
to put this in their hair, we
10:52
have to keep going." And she
10:56
forced me to go through four or
10:56
five different manufacturers
10:58
before we found a good one. And
10:58
it took time, and I was
11:01
impatient. And I threw together
11:01
a bottle, and she's like, "That
11:05
looks like a five-year old drew
11:05
it. Let's hire designer. And
11:08
that's gonna take time to and
11:08
you're gonna have to be okay
11:10
with it." And so that balance
11:10
made a huge difference. There's
11:16
no way we would have been this
11:16
successful with what I probably
11:20
would have originally put on the
11:20
market.
11:21  Alison Plaine
And if it was all
11:21
me, it still wouldn't have
11:23
launched yet because I'm
11:23
definitely the brakes and it's
11:26
got to be perfect. And we can't
11:26
do this yet. And she's like, she
11:29
says, "Go," and I say, "Stop."
11:29
So we meet in the middle, and
11:33
it's worked out.
11:34  Christina Sjahli
Okay, so from
11:34
May 2015 until you launch on
11:38
Valentine's Day 2017, what was
11:38
going on in between there?
11:44  Alison Plaine
There was never
11:44
an agreement that we were going
11:45
to launch on Valentine's Day
11:45
2017. We were supposed to launch
11:49
in October. First of all, I will
11:49
just say we spent most of the
11:52
time just learning; asking
11:52
questions, calling people,
11:56
realizing we ask the wrong
11:56
questions, calling back emailing
11:59
people, got to know a lot of the
11:59
bloggers in this space. Neither
12:02
one of us had a personal care
12:02
background. We were making up
12:06
the reuse of bottles as we went
12:06
along, just trying to figure it
12:10
out. Everything we did was the
12:10
first time anyone had ever done
12:13
it. So we were inventing
12:13
everything, how that how to
12:17
teach this process because,
12:17
really, our consumers are
12:21
educated on what they are
12:21
supposed to do with the bottle
12:24
when they're done with it, how
12:24
they can send it back. It's this
12:26
whole language that we created,
12:26
and the product. My hair went
12:31
through terrible times of really
12:31
bad product. My poor family, I
12:37
feel like, "Now try this one."
12:37
And they were like, "Ugh." It's
12:41
been nuts. Maybe it was fun. We
12:41
always can laugh about it but it
12:45
was fun learning. Everything we
12:45
have done is starting from
12:52
scratch because no one's ever
12:52
done anything like this so it
12:55
all took way longer than we
12:55
anticipated it would.
12:59  Christina Sjahli
And then that
12:59
was only about six years ago.
13:02
And nobody realized this. Nobody
13:02
had done this.
13:05  Lindsey Plaine
It was just
13:05
really coming on the scene. I
13:08
would say plastic really only
13:08
started to make international
13:12
news just in the last few years.
13:12
I think we were incredibly lucky
13:15
in our timing. But nobody was
13:15
really talking about this much
13:19
when we were getting started.
13:19
And then since then, happily,
13:22
we've become a part of a really
13:22
amazing community of sustainable
13:25
businesses.
13:27  Christina Sjahli
What were the
13:27
biggest challenge during this
13:30
research phase? Is it figuring
13:30
out the material to use for
13:35
refillable bottle? Is it finding
13:35
the right manufacturer to
13:39
formulate the ingredients? Is it
13:39
finding the right suppliers for
13:43
bottles?
13:44  Alison Plaine
It was all of
13:44
that. They were all a huge
13:48
hurdle. And we're all going on
13:48
simultaneously in that pre-stage
13:54
of launching.
13:55  Lindsey Plaine
We actually
13:55
originally thought we were going
13:57
to use stainless steel. And we
13:57
have these adorable mason jars
14:02
made. And we got them and then
14:02
they rested. So we had to pivot.
14:09
And that is how we ended up at
14:09
aluminum. It turns out not all
14:11
stainless steel is created
14:11
equal. So we couldn't afford an
14:15
even higher quality of stainless
14:15
steel and the prices would have
14:18
been crazy for the products. So
14:18
that's when we were going to
14:22
launch in October. It was with
14:22
stainless steel mason jars. And
14:24
then we had to redesign
14:24
everything. And so we ended up
14:29
on Valentine's Day just because,
14:29
literally, it all finally came
14:32
together. We have the bottles,
14:32
the website, then we have
14:35  Alison Plaine
The website,
14:35
yeah.
14:36  Christina Sjahli
If you can put
14:36
it in steps. What did you do
14:40
first at the beginning?
14:42  Lindsey Plaine
We originally
14:42
started with the bottle because
14:44
that was the original idea. Now,
14:44
we wanted to have this different
14:47
packaging. So we started
14:47
researching that. And then at
14:50
the same time, we were trying to
14:50
figure out how we were going to
14:53
get something made to be put in
14:53
it. I think I had this crazy
14:57
idea that we were like make it
14:57
ourselves and add sense in that.
14:59
And thankfully, that I quickly
14:59
realized that that was a
15:01
horrible idea. And so then we
15:01
started looking for
15:04
manufacturers, and those were
15:04
going along at the same time.
15:08
And at some point, we realized
15:08
that, "Oh. There's no point in
15:10
creating this environmental
15:10
packaging system and then
15:13
dumping a bunch of chemicals in
15:13
it." I became very educated on
15:17
what kind of crazy chemicals are
15:17
in most mainstream products. I
15:21
can spare myself a relatively
15:21
educated person but I had no
15:25
idea about the detergents and
15:25
the endocrine disruptors and all
15:29
sorts of questionable things
15:29
that are in a lot of mainstream
15:33
products. So we were like,
15:33
"Well, let's not use any of
15:35
that," which again, helped us
15:35
narrow what manufacturer we were
15:39
going to use. We had a pretty
15:39
high bar.
15:41  Christina Sjahli
So what was
15:41
the first product did you
15:44
launchis it just the shampoo
15:44
and conditioner? Because I know
15:48
you have a lot more now.
15:49  Alison Plaine
And body wash.
15:51  Christina Sjahli
Oh.
15:52  Alison Plaine
Didn't we do all
15:52
three, Lindsey?
15:54  Lindsey Plaine
Yeah, yeah. It
15:54
was all three.
15:56  Alison Plaine
And the great
15:56
thing about them, the reason we
15:58
finally decided on this
15:58
manufacturer also was because
16:01
the main very first ingredient
16:01
is aloe. And if you look at 99%
16:06
of what's on the shelf at any
16:06
grocery store, it's water. And
16:10
so our product, we're thinking,
16:10
well our carbon footprint is
16:13
really important for
16:13
environmental company, so we
16:16
want a super concentrated
16:16
product that will last a lot
16:19
longer. So we are not paying to
16:19
ship water back and forth. And
16:24
that it was all vegan, which was
16:24
really important. And that has
16:28
become a really big part of our
16:28
business; that wasn't ever
16:32
planned initially. It was, I
16:32
think, what Lindsey was saying,
16:35
as we started researching
16:35
ingredients, we realized, "Wow.
16:39
This is the direction we want to
16:39
head."
16:42  Christina Sjahli
We're there a
16:42
lot of manufacturers that use
16:45
aloe for their ingredients?
16:49  Lindsey Plaine
No.
16:50  Christina Sjahli
So I remember
16:50
when I was little, again, back
16:55
in Indonesia, my sister didn't
16:55
have a lot of hair. So my mom
16:59
would put all this aloe every
16:59
other day, and then the smell is
17:05
not amazing. How did you even
17:05
reverse the smell to make it
17:12
more enticing for people to use
17:12
it?
17:15  Lindsey Plaine
Happily, we are
17:15
not the chemists behind this
17:17
masterpiece.
17:18  Christina Sjahli
Okay.
17:18  Lindsey Plaine
So you would not
17:18
want anything that I made
17:22
anywhere near your body. This
17:22
was their formula that they
17:29
manufacture for us. And they
17:29
also do some other spas and
17:32
salons. And so they use
17:32
essential oils to mix in to make
17:37
it smell delicious.
17:39  Christina Sjahli
So this
17:39
ingredient is basically not
17:42
specifically for Plaine Products
17:42
then?
17:44  Lindsey Plaine
It is not. So
17:44
they have a whole manufacturing
17:47
plant based on using aloe as a
17:47
main ingredient. And they make
17:50
all of our products; the same
17:50
company.
17:53  Alison Plaine
But the scents
17:53
are the rosemary-mint-vanilla we
17:56
went and tried all these
17:56
different combinations and the
18:00
citrus lavender, also.
18:02  Lindsey Plaine
And let's be
18:02
honest, Ali picked them out. I
18:05
lasted about 35 seconds in the
18:05
scent room before I
18:10  Christina Sjahli
Passed out?
18:11  Lindsey Plaine
Yeah. I was
18:11
like, "They all smell the same,
18:13
whatever." I was like, "When you
18:13
get down to some finalists, let
18:17
me know."
18:18  Christina Sjahli
I don't care.
18:18
I just want to smell good.
18:20
That's
18:20  Lindsey Plaine
Yeah. That is
18:20
probably the exact words that I
18:23
entered while we were there.
18:23
Yes, she made that magic happen
18:28
and continues to do that with
18:28
our products.
18:30  Alison Plaine
I have samples
18:30
sitting on my desk today of new
18:32
stuff that we're trying to
18:32
launch that I'm like, "This
18:35
scent is just not right yet.
18:35
Keep working on it."
18:39  Christina Sjahli
I know that
18:39
having a manufacturer and then
18:42
creating this refillable
18:42
bottles, those requires capital.
18:47
How did you even finance the
18:47
research part of this Plaine
18:51
product?
18:53  Lindsey Plaine
It's interesting
18:53
for a lot of people, I think
18:56
they create a formula and ask
18:56
somebody to make it or ask
19:00
somebody to make something
19:00
completely original which is a
19:03
very expensive process. We were
19:03
sort of like, "What already
19:07
exists that we can afford?" We
19:07
worked with existing bottles. We
19:14
found this manufacturer that had
19:14
a formula that we could white
19:16
label. We were going about it
19:16
and we ordered the minimum of
19:21
everything that we could order.
19:21
That's how we went about it. We
19:25
completely bootstrapped it every
19:25
way and then... We were both
19:29
working other jobs while we were
19:29
doing this.
19:33  Alison Plaine
Yeah. It was just
19:33
a little side hustle that we
19:36
were putting together.
19:38  Christina Sjahli
As a startup
19:38
at the very beginning, with a
19:41
lot of research and then you
19:41
have to spend amount not only on
19:45
the products, not only on the
19:45
bottles, and you also have to
19:48
spend time on marketing and
19:48
sweat equity; what is the
19:52
process of managing the cash
19:52
flow during this research phase
19:57
to ensure that you didn't run
19:57
out money before the launch?
20:01  Lindsey Plaine
We were just
20:01
very frugal. We only spent money
20:06
when we absolutely had to; we
20:06
called in a lot of favors. As
20:09
Ali mentioned, we got a friend
20:09
who initially designed the
20:12
website. I'm happy to say he is
20:12
now employed by us. But we
20:17
finally paid him back. But we
20:17
did, we called it a lot of
20:20
favors. And we did as much of it
20:20
ourselves as we could. And we
20:23
only spent money where we had to
20:23
and we did those minimum work.
20:26  Alison Plaine
We should
20:26
probably give our husbands a
20:29
little bit of credit, too.
20:29
Lindsey's husband is an amazing
20:33
videographer-photographer, and
20:33
did a lot of our marketing
20:37
material. And my husband is
20:37
great with cardboard and boxes
20:42
in the warehouse and
20:42
construction. And so he helped
20:46
me on the design side. And we
20:46
really... For a long time, it
20:51
was just in our web guy. And we
20:51
were not paying ourselves. And
20:56
we both put a little money in.
20:59  Lindsey Plaine
Ali just moved
20:59
from Colorado to Ohio. I just
21:02
moved from the Bahamas to North
21:02
Carolina. So both of us were
21:04
able to make some money on that
21:04
housing exchange. So that gave
21:08
us some cushion and a little bit
21:08
to invest. So a lot of things
21:12
came together in that way, as
21:12
far as the timing of it, which
21:15
is probably also why we started
21:15
it.
21:17  Christina Sjahli
I know that
21:17
being a B-Corp certified
21:20
business, you have to constantly
21:20
innovate because it cannot be
21:25
just like a standstill. I know
21:25
that you're continually
21:31
innovating with your products,
21:31
making sure that everything is
21:35
aligned with the B-Corp ways.
21:35
But also, I believe a lot of
21:39
processes within a business
21:39
needs to be innovate as well.
21:44
What would you say the
21:44
challenges you face in terms of
21:47
innovation from both product and
21:47
process perspective? And maybe,
21:50
you can share some examples
21:50
here, especially with everything
21:54
that is going on in climate
21:54
justice.
21:56  Lindsey Plaine
First, I will
21:56
say it is a little tricky for us
21:59
with a B-Corp thing in that push
21:59
to innovation because we started
22:03
with this circular approach. And
22:03
that hasn't always given us a
22:07
lot of room to innovate on it.
22:07
However, Ali has done an amazing
22:12
job innovating on our packaging,
22:12
and we've learned a lot.
22:15  Alison Plaine
Initially, our
22:15
aluminum bottles were coming
22:18
from China, and now we're able
22:18
to get them here made in
22:21
America. Our goal is to be able
22:21
to get them made of 100%
22:26
recycled aluminum in the future.
22:26
Right now, our quantities still
22:30
aren't high enough to hit that.
22:30
But that's one of the
22:33
innovations, I think, from
22:33
product design. And then on
22:38
another level from packaging
22:38
design, even though our bottles
22:40
are packaging we do you have to
22:40
ship them to all of our
22:44
consumers. And so we have gone
22:44
through a few different
22:49
cardboard companies. And now we
22:49
are with one that's 100%
22:53
recycled cardboard. And that
22:53
means it's not always as sturdy
22:57
so we're trying to figure out
22:57
the thickness; get the thickness
23:00
right and not having a card that
23:00
needs to go in the box. We could
23:05
print it on the box. And just
23:05
constantly making everything
23:09
more streamlined, and simpler,
23:09
and easier to use. There's
23:13
something every day, it seems,
23:13
that we could innovate and make
23:16
better.
23:17  Lindsey Plaine
Yeah, we're
23:17
constantly learning and as you
23:20
said, from other B-Corps. And
23:20
we're always keeping an eye on
23:23
what new technology and new
23:23
things are out there. We're
23:27
hopeful for a pump, someday,
23:27
that's not plastic, that's able
23:30
to be pulled out and cleaned and
23:30
reused in a different way. We'd
23:33
love to see that. And then
23:33
probably the innovation that I'm
23:37
the most excited about from more
23:37
of a environmental justice piece
23:41
is we're working with a lot of
23:41
retail stores now that are
23:43
popping up around the country.
23:43
And so we're able to send bulk
23:46
products to the stores. And
23:46
that's a much more cost
23:49
efficient way to do it. So we're
23:49
able to lower our prices a
23:52
little bit and work in some
23:52
different neighborhoods that we
23:55
weren't able to with the
23:55
bottles. And that's something
23:57
that we've been really excited
23:57
about in the last year.
24:00  Christina Sjahli
I look at your
24:00
website; it's no longer the two
24:04
of you or the three of you. It
24:04
has grown in terms of team to
24:09
like 16 people. You make changes
24:09
on the supply chains. You're no
24:13
longer using bottles produced in
24:13
China. And now you order it from
24:17
the US, right? You're gonna have
24:17
a new warehouse soon; it's no
24:22
longer Ali's garage. What are
24:22
the step-by-step process that
24:27
you use to scale while making
24:27
sure you're not running out of
24:31
capital?
24:33  Lindsey Plaine
Part of that is
24:33
I've been able to, with the
24:37
nonprofit management background,
24:37
keep a pretty close handle on
24:41
our finances. I do all the
24:41
bookkeeping in QuickBooks and
24:44
keeping an eye on it. And I
24:44
think the other is, we have
24:47
grown at a very sustainable
24:47
pace. That's probably partially
24:53
Ali's influence, too. I'm like,
24:53
"Well, I shouldn't agree to that
24:56
because I can't call my sister
24:56
until I said yes to that."
25:00  Alison Plaine
Because I have to
25:00
make sure that we can actually
25:02
ship that out. So there have
25:02
been definitely things we've
25:06
said no to and that we'll
25:06
revisit that next year and
25:11  Lindsey Plaine
Which is smart,
25:11
which pains me usually at the
25:13
time but is so smart and has
25:13
kept us from going crazy doing
25:17
this. We've been growing but not
25:17
at a crazy pace; not at a
25:23
don't-sleep-constant-24-hour-a-day
25:23
pace, which I think has been
25:26
good and has allowed us to not
25:26
outstrip our capital. I mean, we
25:30
just... We're paying ourselves
25:30
now. We're paying our people.
25:32
And whatever else we make goes
25:32
right back into the business to
25:34
buy more product.
25:36  Christina Sjahli
When you say
25:36
sustainable pace, Lindsey, can
25:39
you give me an example?
25:40  Lindsey Plaine
Like a
25:40
today-show-segment, but they
25:42
want 10,000 bottles at a
25:42
fraction of the price. And
25:45
mostly marketing opportunities
25:45
that we've turned down that
25:50
would have probably taken us to
25:50
the next level, but would have
25:53
required a huge amount of
25:53
product. And taking a loss that
25:57
we just, would have stressed us
25:57
then from a capital perspective.
26:01
So we have grown much more
26:01
organically; we don't put a ton
26:05
of my money into marketing and
26:05
advertising. We work with a lot
26:09
of influencers. And we were
26:09
doing that before that even
26:12
became a thing. As part of our
26:12
research process, we got to know
26:16
a lot of different people in the
26:16
green beauty and zero waste
26:18
space. And so we kept just
26:18
networking out from them. But
26:22
our investments in marketing and
26:22
advertising have been pretty
26:25
minimal compared to a business
26:25
our size. We work with a lot of
26:29
different nonprofits trying to
26:29
support what they do and have
26:31
them talk about us. I think it's
26:31
also a product of having a good
26:35
partnership. We talk a lot about
26:35
where we are, what we need to
26:39
order, what's going to happen
26:39
next. And I think that we're
26:42
also protective of each other.
26:42
So I say, "Wow, we're having a
26:47
lot of orders. We should
26:47
probably get you some help in
26:49
the warehouse." And Ali says,
26:49
"You probably shouldn't be
26:52
answering customer service
26:52
emails all day. We need to get
26:55
you some help there." And so I
26:55
think we've also made sure that
27:00
happened. And I don't I think
27:00
that would be hard. That would
27:03
have been much, much harder for
27:03
me to do had I not had her
27:07
saying it. And I think that's
27:07
probably true both ways.
27:10  Alison Plaine
Yeah, that's
27:10
interesting. I've never really
27:11
thought about it like that. But
27:11
I do look at Lindsay sometimes.
27:15
And I'm like, "What are you
27:15
doing working all weekend long?
27:18
That's not why we're doing this.
27:18
We need to hire somebody for
27:21
you. You need to be able to take
27:21
a break to appreciate this
27:24
amazing thing that we've created
27:24
and spend time with your
27:27
family."
27:28  Christina Sjahli
So up to now,
27:28
you have not received any
27:32
external capital. This has been
27:32
bootstrapped all the way?
27:36  Lindsey Plaine
Unless you count
27:36
the loan we got for our
27:39
warehouse. But yeah, no; we
27:39
haven't taken on any external
27:41
investors.
27:42  Christina Sjahli
A lot of
27:42
businesses, especially the
27:45
female founders, they are not
27:45
keen in getting debt financing.
27:51
They prefer to have investors
27:51
coming in. What is your thought
27:56
process in this warehouse to get
27:56
a loan for your warehouse?
28:00  Lindsey Plaine
Why a loan and
28:00
why not investors?
28:01  Christina Sjahli
Yep.
28:02  Lindsey Plaine
We became
28:02
profitable early on, as we had
28:06
such low overhead because we had
28:06
so much sweat equity. And we did
28:10
talk to... We went through an
28:10
accelerator program in
28:14
Telluride, Colorado, actually.
28:14
And we were talking to two
28:17
amazing women who run that and
28:17
they're like, "You're making
28:20
money. Don't take out
28:20
investments you don't need
28:23
because they're gonna push you
28:23
to grow faster than I think you
28:25
want to grow." And we both
28:25
agreed what Ali said is too; we
28:29
want to be able to enjoy this,
28:29
we want to be able to have time
28:31
with our family. And if somebody
28:31
was pushing us to make these
28:34
huge marketing choices, or to
28:34
make some things, add more
28:37
products faster than we're
28:37
comfortable with doing, that
28:40
wasn't what we wanted. And so we
28:40
made the choice not to take on
28:44
investment. And we made the
28:44
choice to do this debt financing
28:48
so that we could continue to
28:48
retain control.
28:50  Christina Sjahli
So what is the
28:50
structure of this debt
28:52
financing?
28:54  Lindsey Plaine
We actually
28:54
started through the Small
28:55
Business Association, as a small
28:55
business loan. And then ended up
28:59
we actually made more sense
28:59
financially to just turn it into
29:02
a regular commercial loan and
29:02
not pay some of the small
29:04
business fees because we are a
29:04
profitable company. And I
29:09
believe our personal assets are
29:09
probably also on the line.
29:13  Alison Plaine
One great thing
29:13
about this warehouse building
29:16
though is it's near where I live
29:16
here in Cincinnati. And it's an
29:20
upcoming town and there's four
29:20
buildings on this property. So
29:24
our business is going to use one
29:24
whole one and some of another
29:28
but there are some other spaces
29:28
to rent and to make money from.
29:32
So we are looking at that as an
29:32
investment, also, that was
29:37
played into us feeling
29:37
comfortable doing it. It's
29:40
definitely an up-and-coming
29:40
neighborhood. And we're helping
29:44
bring back little bit of this
29:44
community. And that's part of
29:48  Lindsey Plaine
Yeah, when my
29:48
sister earlier said that she
29:51
said yes to me because I'm a
29:51
hard worker and I tend to make
29:55
things successful between her
29:55
design background and her
29:58
husband's amazing constructions
29:58
experience, any real estate with
30:02
them as a good deal. This is
30:02
another one of those cases of
30:05
he's overseeing all of the
30:05
construction and the renovation
30:08
of the buildings. He knows what
30:08
he's doing. He knows to talk to
30:11
all the subcontractors. He's
30:11
saving us a ton of money. So
30:17
again, it was a case of we're
30:17
within our little core group, we
30:21
had the skills to take this on.
30:21
So we are again, trying not to
30:25
go into further debt, self
30:25
financing the renovations as we
30:30
have cash flow from the
30:30
business. So we had the option
30:32
to take on further debt and just
30:32
be able to pay for all the
30:35
renovations at once. We chose
30:35
not to do that at this point; we
30:39
may still have to. But that
30:39
little bit of cash infusion
30:42
would just go a long way to
30:42
making it a little bit faster
30:45
and less stressful.
30:46  Christina Sjahli
What is your
30:46
vision for Plaine Products? And
30:49
if you can share this from both
30:49
impact and financial
30:52
perspective, that will be
30:52
wonderful.
30:54  Lindsey Plaine
I hope we'll
30:54
keep growing. We're talking to
30:57
some two major chains through
30:57
our partnership with Loop, about
31:01
maybe doing pilot projects
31:01
there. I'm excited to get the
31:04
warehouse up and running. And
31:04
Ali, someday I'd love to have
31:08
another warehouse out west so
31:08
that we can, again, keep
31:11
dropping the carbon footprint,
31:11
save some money on shipping, and
31:15
the bottle washing out there.
31:15
I'd love to see this reuse
31:19
infrastructure springing up
31:19
around the country. My vision is
31:23
to just see more and more
31:23
products and more and more
31:25
companies thinking about things
31:25
in a circular way. And I hope
31:29
that we're right in there mixing
31:29
it up with everybody else that's
31:32
doing it.
31:32  Christina Sjahli
So what are
31:32
the metrics that you are using
31:35
to measure your progress?
31:37  Lindsey Plaine
Well, we count
31:37
how many plastic bottles we've
31:40
eliminated or replaced. So we're
31:40
just about to hit 300,000 since
31:44
we started. That's probably our
31:44
main impact metric. And then I
31:49
would say, from a company
31:49
perspective, we definitely make
31:52
sure that we're keeping an eye
31:52
on the subscription renewals,
31:55
the churn, the growth of new
31:55
people, the gross on social.
32:00
Who's talking about us? Are we a
32:00
part of the conversations that
32:03
are going on? And looking at all
32:03
of those different metrics as
32:07
well.
32:08  Christina Sjahli
Do you ever
32:08
consider going global?
32:11  Lindsey Plaine
Well, the
32:11
interesting thing about going
32:12
global, again, when you start
32:12
thinking about the carbon
32:15
footprint, honestly, we need a
32:15
separate operation, at least
32:20
every continent. If not, you
32:20
don't want to be shipping
32:23
bottles back and forth across an
32:23
ocean. That doesn't make sense.
32:26
Once we get this up and running,
32:26
Ali and I can move to Europe for
32:29
a while.
32:32  Christina Sjahli
Lindsey, I
32:32
know you are the finance expert
32:34
and I really want to get your
32:34
opinion. At what point you think
32:38
a business needs a CFO on a part
32:38
time basis?
32:42  Lindsey Plaine
So you asked
32:42
earlier about projections and
32:46
cash flow management. When we
32:46
were at that accelerator
32:48
program, they were trying to get
32:48
me to set up some sort of thing,
32:51
and tears were shed. It was
32:51
awful. I was so upset that I
32:57
couldn't figure it out myself.
32:57
They recommended somebody and I
33:00
met with him. He's a CFO. And he
33:00
was like, "Oh, we can figure
33:04
this out." And it was such a
33:04
relief to me. But he just knew
33:08
how to do it. It was a skill set
33:08
that he had. And it was a skill
33:10
set that I didn't have. And it
33:10
didn't make sense for me to
33:12
have. So, I think, it is a good
33:12
thing to do to help you
33:16
understand your business and to
33:16
help you understand what you
33:19
need to be keeping an eye on.
33:19
What those... They're like,
33:23
"What are your KPIs?" And I was
33:23
like, "Well, if you tell me what
33:25
a KPI means, I could probably
33:25
tell you what they are; the Key
33:30
Performance indicators. I just
33:30
needed somebody to explain all
33:34
of that to me, not having a
33:34
business background, and to tell
33:37
me what to keep an eye on. So I
33:37
meet with him quarterly. And he
33:42
just checks my work, and helps
33:42
me keep an eye on all of those
33:46
things. And we discussed the
33:46
growth, and that has been
33:49
incredibly valuable to me. But I
33:49
really think every business is a
33:54
little bit different. I like
33:54
having my hands on the numbers.
33:57
I like playing in QuickBooks so
33:57
that quarterly works for me. But
34:02
I definitely think if for some
34:02
reason you don't like it, sooner
34:06
the better that you have a
34:06
handle on your numbers.
34:09  Christina Sjahli
What is the
34:09
value of checking in every
34:12
quarter?
34:13  Lindsey Plaine
Those metrics;
34:13
how they're changing, what we
34:15
need to be aware of, how we're
34:15
performing compared to others in
34:19
the industry, which is again,
34:19
something I wouldn't have a clue
34:21
about, not having a background
34:21
in these things to be aware.
34:26
He's like, "Okay, as you grow
34:26
your average customer value is
34:29
probably going to go down. Your
34:29
subscription churn might go up
34:32
as you get more mainstream. Keep
34:32
an eye on those things. Make
34:35
sure you're looking at if you
34:35
have a sale. Do those people
34:38
behave differently than other
34:38
people?" Just lots of data
34:42
driven questions that I probably
34:42
would never get around to. It's
34:45
important to know.
34:46  Christina Sjahli
I would love
34:46
to hear from each one of you.
34:49
What would be your advice for
34:49
female founders out there who
34:52
have plans to scale their
34:52
business?
34:55  Alison Plaine
I would say one
34:55
of the things that has kind of
34:58
blown my mind is that one of the
34:58
ways we've done it, which was
35:02
Lindsey's genius idea, is to
35:02
actually have partnerships and
35:05
relationships with people.
35:05
Because word of mouth really in
35:08
the end is, I think, the best
35:08
way to grow a business. You have
35:13
to have a good product, and you
35:13
have to have good customer
35:15
service and just having people
35:15
say, "Oh, you should try them
35:19
out." And so I think our social
35:19
media team has done a really
35:24
great job with that. And I think
35:24
that's one of the biggest ways.
35:28
And then as this year, as one of
35:28
our goals was to add more
35:32
wholesale. We'll let you know
35:32
next year how that goes. And if
35:36
we'd recommend that or not, but
35:36
I think it's gonna work out
35:40
okay.
35:41  Lindsey Plaine
I second
35:41
everything Ali just said. And
35:45
then I think I would say, ask
35:45
questions. Be curious. I think a
35:51
lot of people are scared to let
35:51
people know what they don't
35:54
know. Because they're think they
35:54
won't take them seriously. Or
35:59
they won't seem like an expert
35:59
in their field. But it is so
36:03
important to have that
36:03
fractional CFO and then say what
36:07
our KPIs. Why was important? Why
36:07
do I need to know that? How do I
36:11
figure that out for myself?
36:11
Being curious, and asking people
36:16
how they're successful or why
36:16
they're successful, or what they
36:19
think about something, is
36:19
important. And I think that we
36:23
often think we should know
36:23
everything or think we should be
36:26
able to do everything. And
36:26
that's a mistake.
36:29  Christina Sjahli
Yes, I think
36:29
curiosity is important. I think
36:32
people have this fear of being
36:32
judged, especially for female
36:38
founders. That's what I found.
36:38
And then when it's related to
36:41
numbers and finances, the fear
36:41
is even higher. I truly believe
36:46
that if you want to balance
36:46
mission and profit, you need to
36:48
understand your numbers from
36:48
different perspective. Where can
36:53
people find Plaine Products and
36:53
connect with the both of you?
36:56  Lindsey Plaine
Well, our shared
36:56
maiden name is actually
36:59
Delaplaine. Part of where we
36:59
came up with the name from so
37:03
it's p-l-a-i-n-e, plaine with an
37:03
"e" products-dot-com. And our
37:10
social handle is plaineproducts
37:10
on all on all the channels and
37:14
all the places.
37:15  Christina Sjahli
Lyndsay and
37:15
Ali, thank you so much for being
37:18
here. I appreciate it so much.
37:21  Lindsey Plaine
Thank you,
37:21
Christina. It was great.
37:22  Alison Plaine
Thank you so
37:22
much. It was fun.
37:26  Christina Sjahli
And that's
37:26
bring us to the end of another
37:28
show. Thank you so much for
37:28
listening to another episode of
37:32
Her CEO Journey, the business
37:32
finance podcast for women
37:36
entrepreneurs. If you want to
37:36
create a proactive financial
37:40
plan and process for your
37:40
business, so you are ready to
37:44
weather the financial storm over
37:44
the next few months, let's chat
37:48
and see what's possible for you.
37:48
Book in a time to speak with me
37:52
at christinasjahli.com/le.