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Interview with Jamie-Lee Kay, Co-Founder of The Other Straw

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Interview with Jamie-Lee Kay, Co-Founder of The Other Straw

Jamie-Lee is a business grad turned social entrepreneur. In 2018, after graduating with a Commerce Degree, she turned down the corporate career path to start her own company to address one of the world’s biggest challenges – plastic pollution.

Driven by social impact and sustainability, in late 2018, Jamie-Lee and her partner, Lennart launched The Other Straw, a company that replaces single-use plastic straws with reusable, ethically made bamboo straws.

Since launching in 2018, they’ve sold over 75,000 reusable bamboo straws and prevented over 7.5 million single-use plastic straws from entering our landfills, natural environments and oceans.

Her work has supported and educated over 11,500 individuals and businesses on the impacts of single-use plastic straws and their plastic footprint. Also, she has supported over 45 ocean cleanups and provided 50 fair and sustainable jobs to the Hmong Ethnic Minority Group in Northern Vietnam.

Jamie-Lee is one of Australia’s most well-known social entrepreneurs. Her work has led to inclusion in numerous media outlets including 10 News, Urban List, Medium and brand collaborations with ING Bank, Lululmeon, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott hotels amongst others.

Where did the idea for The Other Straw come from?

Plastic straws take hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to actually break down and every single plastic straw ever used still exists today. They are unrecyclable and do not biodegrade leading to long-term pollution environmental impacts.

Realising these realities, Lennart, my partner and I founded The Other Straw. We’re really lucky to live by the beach in Australia and we’ve seen firsthand the damaging impacts plastic straws have on our natural environments and wildlife.

We’re both passionate about sustainability and the environment, which led us to start The Other Straw – to help make the world a more sustainable place.

The Other Straw is a social enterprise replacing single-use plastic straws with reusable, ethically sourced bamboo straws. Learn more here: https://theotherstraw.com/

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I am most productive in the morning, so I try to get at least two thirds of my workload done before lunch. I keep my afternoons free for emails, invoicing, and other administrative duties. Below is how I would normally run my day.

Early Morning: I love starting the day with a fresh mind, and no better way to do it then with a morning run. I normally run 10km to start with.
Morning: Coffee to get my brain going.
Morning (continued): Deep work session 1 (copywriting, blog content, website works, designing new products etc)
Mid morning: coffee break, fresh air, walk in nature.
Mid morning (continued): Deep work session 2
Afternoon: emails, administrative duties etc
Afternoon: second run or walk at the beach

How do you bring ideas to life?

Surround yourself with good people who you can continue to learn from — in the early days of starting our business, I didn’t realize how important and vital it is to surround yourself with positive, aspiring people.

Find people within your community, or online who make you feel motivated to achieve more, and immerse yourself in their content or spend lots of time with them and learn from them.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Marketing. This is always evolving, and changing so rapidly. We’re constantly learning new marketing strategies for The Other Straw which are always fun and fresh.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, you need to have a strong why to keep you productive and motivated.

Our why is pretty simple, we started this business with the goal to eliminate single-use plastics, and this is our biggest motivation. We’ve seen many businesses fail, and predominantly this is because they start their business with the wrong motivations or intentions. It’s important to be true to yourself and know exactly why you are starting your business, as this will keep you going on those tough days.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be yourself — don’t try to impress others. When starting a business, social enterprise or venture, you may feel pressured to act or do things a certain way because someone told you so. Be yourself, be unique and embrace that always.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Celebrate your wins — when you run a business or startup, you’re constantly chasing the next thing. It’s important to slow down, reflect and celebrate your wins along the way. Whether it is hitting your next milestone, hiring an employee or starting a new collaboration, make sure you stop and reflect on your achievements.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

For growing and scaling our company, SEO and Google Ads have been vital. Focusing on these has led us to being approached by Burger King, Hooters, Breadtalk, Johnson & Johnson, Lululemon, Four Seasons and the Marriott hotels amongst others.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest failure or mistake as an entrepreneur was saying yes to everything. Don’t be afraid to say no — in the early days, I was saying yes to every meeting, event or opportunity that came my way. I felt exhausted and close to a burn out. It’s important to only say yes to the things that matter to you, and don’t simply say yes to be polite.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Ethical sneakers made from recycled plastics!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently purchased some Veja sneakers. If you are not familiar with them, go check them out. All their sneakers are fairtrade and sustainably made. I wear them every day.

I love the saying ‘your dollar is your vote’ – how you choose to spend can have a direct impact on our planet and people. When buying a new pair of sneakers or top, using your dollars to drive positive change is one of the best things you can do.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Trello – Our team uses this for all our project planning and task allocation to keep us organised and on track.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m actually more of a podcast listener. So my favorites are:
Personal Mindset and Growth: Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu
Marketing: Marketing School by Eric Siu and Neil Patel
Sustainable and Purpose Driven: One Wilde Ride

What is your favorite quote?

One of my favorite quotes is, “If not you, then who? If not now, when?”
It couldn’t be any more relevant to following your passion, or starting a business.

Key Learnings:

  • Your dollar is your vote. Spend, buy and support conscious businesses. How you choose to spend can have a direct impact on our planet and people.
  • Have an open mind, and be ready to listen and learn, always.
  • Be yourself — don’t try to impress others. Be unique and embrace that always.

Originally published on Ideamensch.com

Irene grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and now lives in New York as a full-time environmentalist and a part-time journalist. She was previously an editor at local online newspaper, where she wrote about topics including technology, finance and the media industry.

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