Founder Spotlight: Chantal Emmanuel

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You started your career at new york cares, but now you’re a software engineer. How did that happen?

Straight out of college, I did AmeriCorps, which is how I ended up at New York Cares. I was in charge of organizing volunteer activities, specifically in meal service. A lot of my job became optimizing for that through the backend databases to find the right volunteers for each event. I realized that I loved it. I decided I wanted to be a software engineer and joined the second cohort of Dev Bootcamp. I took my first engineering job at RedClay Design, where I met my now co-founder, Ashley. 

Where was the idea of limeloop born?

RedClay Design was a platform that matched together industrial designers and retailers. Ashley’s sister had sewn together a reusable packet in shop class so we could send samples around. In many ways, LimeLoop was created back during the RedClay days, but was never meant to be the business itself.

How did limeloop begin?

Years later, Ashley found one of those old reusable packages and the light bulb moment went off. She reached out to me. I said, “This is great. Packaging should be reusable. Why are we doing just single use packaging? But why do you need a software engineer for a packaging company?” And that was where she lent into the bigger vision, which is that it’s not just a packaging company. It is a logistic system. Because in order to move packages back and forth and point A to point B and then back to point A, you need to have technology for that. Otherwise we’re just pumping more garbage into the world that’s just going to sit in people’s homes or in warehouses. 

How does limeloop actually work?

We describe it as zip, flip, ship. The product is zipped into our LimeLoop package and mailed out to the consumer. There’s already a prepaid label in there. So all they have to do is flip that label over and put it in their mailbox, the empty package in the mailbox at home. And then that’s shipped back to the retailer who uses the same packaging over 200 times for the future mailouts.

 How do you think about the environmental impact you’re trying to drive? 

We ran our own life cycle analysis before even really starting the company because we knew if the numbers didn’t make sense, it would be back to the drawing board. We examined the emissions we create relative to single use packaging. We look at the whole process from the start to finish, our manufacturing, that initial trip from the manufacturer to our 3PL, our 3PL to our customers and then all the back and forth. And then we compare that to single use packaging, both recycled and landfilled. It’s up to about a 90% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Wow, very cool. Can you tell me about your early customers?

Yeah, so it was a very short amount of time.We actually already had a customer on board from the very beginning, Toad&Co, they’re a sustainable clothing company. We wanted to slowly test and learn, get some packages out there, see how long it’d take for them to get back. But at some point, Fast Company got wind of what we were doing and wrote an article. And so any chance we had of gradually bringing this to life immediately went out the window. After the article, we had a ton of inbound. Actually, all of our marketing to date has been completely inbound. There’s hunger for a solution like this. 

Talk to me about the behavioral change. How do you get people to do things differently?

We design every experience to be an improvement from the very beginning. We’re constantly saying, how does this compare to what people are doing today? And is it a better experience? That’s again where the technology comes in. We send a nudge through reminders. Incentives, we’re building directly into Shopify, the ability to make it a checkout option. And then as a brand, you can decide if you want to either add a deposit program. So maybe you spend a couple of dollars when you sign up to receive a LimeLoop package and you get it back as soon as we see that it’s sent back. Or on the flip side of that, programs where you have a discount off your next purchase when it gets returned back.

How do i get my favorite store to start shipping me Limeloop containers?

The easiest one is just to reach out to your favorite retailer and let them know. Send them a quick email, just to ask them if they’ve heard about LimeLoop and that you’d love to see them start using it.

What's next for Limeloop?

We are in a big growth year. We have quite a laundry list of new hires that we’ll be looking to make, especially in engineering and sales. We are releasing the Shopify application next month, we got approved for their store. Our sensors are about to be released. And we continue to work towards our goals of bigger impact across the board, especially for the ESG side of things.

Any advice you’d give to future urban-x entrepreneurs?

Definitely lean into the EIRs [employees in residence]. I think we started doing more of that towards the end, of course the crunch time that everyone is trying to get as much support as necessary. But they have really talented EIRs at your disposal who are ready and willing and able to support you in any way necessary. So don’t be shy about asking them for help and do it often and do it early.

Written by
Katerina Athanasiou
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