Hitting The Mark
Conversations with founders and investors about the intersection of brand clarity and startup success with your host, brand strategist and author Fabian Geyrhalter.
Ep012 – Ben Kneppers, Co-Founder, Bureo
Fabian is on the line with Ben Kneppers in São Paulo for what must be one of the most inspiring episodes to date. Ben is a co-founder of Bureo, an emerging B Corp focused on creating innovative solutions to ocean plastic pollution. The company is now collaborating with brands such as Trek, Humanscale and Jenga. We talk about how to create real, sustainable change, learn about forming a B Corp, how they secured Patagonia as ‘a mentor,’ and how to get a community involved in your cause. And so much more.
Fabian talks with a founder who is doing his part in keeping the ocean clean, and he’s doing it through his brand that is selling skateboards, sunglasses, surfboard fins, and Jenga games. Ben Kneppers is a co-founder of Bureo, an emerging B Corp focused on creating innovative solutions to ocean plastic pollution.
Through the team’s initiative, Net Positiva, Bureo has created Chile’s first ever fishnet collection and recycling program. Net Positiva provides fishermen with an environmentally sound end-of-life solution for their fishing gear, while Bureo receives highly recyclable raw materials to create innovative products that bring net positive solutions to the world.
Remarkable in many ways. Ben shares his insights on how to get strangers to believe in and act upon your vision, how Patagonia got involved with his brand, how collaboration is part of his brand’s success story, all the way how to score a major PR story on CBS Evening News without spending a dime and so much more.
F Geyrhalter: Welcome to Hitting the Mark. Today, we are moving from skiing and snowboarding to surfing and skating, which is, by sheer timing, coincidence, but it worked out rather swimmingly, as we are transitioning into summer here in Los Angeles. Many of you noted I’m actually overlooking the ocean right now while recording every one of these sessions. I’m very fortunate to live and work by and frequently play in the ocean. On today’s show, we welcome a founder who is doing his part in keeping the ocean clean, and he’s doing it through his brand that is selling skateboards, sunglasses, surfboard fins, and Jenga games. Ben Kneppers is a co-founder of Bureo, an emerging B Corp focused on creating innovative solutions to ocean plastic pollution.
Through the team’s initiative, Net Positiva, Bureo has created Chile’s first ever fishnet collection and recycling program. Net Positiva provides fishermen with an environmentally sound end-of-life solution for their fishing gear, while Bureo receives highly recyclable raw materials to create innovative products that bring net positive solutions to the world. Remarkable stuff, and I cannot wait to get into it. With that being said, welcome, Ben.
B Kneppers: Thank you so much. So happy to be here, and thanks for inviting me.
F Geyrhalter: Oh. Absolutely. Hey, it’s a big pleasure. Where are you calling in from today? You’re an international traveler. Where are you now?
B Kneppers: I am … Right now, I’m in São Paulo, Brazil, so this is actually kind of home base for me at the moment. I know it’s a little complicated, us operating in Chile, but we’re dramatically growing, and … as is my family, so that’s brought me to São Paulo.
F Geyrhalter: Oh. That’s beautiful, and how did it all get started? I mean, you’re from Southern California originally, right?
B Kneppers: Actually, no. I’m actually from New England. I grew up in Southern Massachusetts, but the-
F Geyrhalter: Okay. Okay.
B Kneppers: Yeah.
F Geyrhalter: You-
B Kneppers: It’s been a pretty big whirlwind.
F Geyrhalter: Yeah. Looking at your profile, I mean, you worked everywhere, I mean, from New Zealand, Australia, Boston, Southern California, and, you know. It seems like you guys … How did you meet? I think it’s you and two other co-founders, right?
B Kneppers: Yep. That’s right. David and Kevin, and then, soon after, we brought on Greg, which was a childhood friend of Dave’s. We actually all, funny enough, we all grew up in New England, which is the Northeast of the US, and … but we actually first, all three of us connected on the other side of the world in the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. I was working as a environmental consultant, had a spare room in the apartment I was renting, and Dave moved in, continuing his career as a financial consultant. Then, his really good friend, Kevin, from engineering school was doing a surf trip around the world with his brother, Brian, and came through Australia, as well. Although we grew up fairly close by, we actually met for the first time together on the other side of the world.
F Geyrhalter: Then, at some point, you guys must have gone surfing, and you started thinking about this idea of creating change.
B Kneppers: Yeah. That’s … That hits it right on the mark pretty well. I mean, we really, obviously, just connected immediately over surfing and just enjoying the ocean environment, which you really can appreciate in Australia, and just spent … We all spent our free time in that space. Kevin and David are really avid surfers, so they take it to a whole nother level than me. I just, personally, am, I’m someone that’s always worked in sustainability and the environment and do appreciate a good surf when it’s a nice, fun three to four foot day.
F Geyrhalter: When did that idea spark? You guys are all surfing. Obviously, you come from the sustainability background, so it was just meant to happen, but what was that moment when you guys just kind of like put one and one together, and tell us a little bit about what happened after that time?
B Kneppers: Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty crazy to look back and see how long ago it is now, but I would say back in, probably, 2011, 12, something along those lines, when we first met, the free days we had were basically just spent at the beach, surfing all day and then having a few beers at night. Then, the days working were very long, and I would regularly see Dave coming home around midnight from the office. When we did have those late night drinks, we kind of just connected on this idea that there’s … what if we were to take all of these interesting skillsets we had … Dave was working in finance. Kevin was working in engineering design at Boeing, and I was working in sustainability consulting. … and combine them into something we’re really passionate about.
They always really appreciated how I got to do that with my consulting work, but quite honestly, I wasn’t really seeing it pay off enough, because it was just writing reports and doing research. I wasn’t really seeing that real change that really got me into that field. Over those late night beers back in 2011, I would say, we just thought, “What if we could combine those skills and do something more meaningful?” We … As you do, you just have those conversations, and life goes on. What mine led to is an opportunity to work … continue my career as a sustainability consultant in Santiago, Chile, where I was continuing in that space, and I came to this amazing country that was just so rich with natural environment, still very much untouched, but also a really great support system for entrepreneurs. I really not … never thought of myself as being one, but looking at that space, and I just relayed that back to David and Kevin and saying, “Remember those talks we had all that time ago? Well, here’s a space where we could really do something with it.”
There was a program called Start-Up Chile, and it’s basically one of the best programs you can find globally to get a startup off the ground, where you submit a pretty straightforward application. If you get accepted, you get seed funding, visas to come to Chile, offices, support network to get your business off the ground. The next application was in six months, so we just put it onto ourselves to come up with some innovative idea that was really going to captivate that passion for the ocean environment and complement something meaningful with these skillsets that we’ve all gained in very unique areas.
F Geyrhalter: That’s pretty funny. So first it was the opportunity. Then, there came the idea.
B Kneppers: Yes. Yeah. You can definitely say that. I mean, it all starts with the passion, of course.
F Geyrhalter: Of course. Yeah.
B Kneppers: I think that’s the most important thing, but it certainly went that way. Yeah.
F Geyrhalter: Then, obviously, you got accepted, and how was the journey from that idea on paper to actually hustling and getting these fishermen involved, and the community involved, and creating this entire chain of events until you actually have plastic come out on the other side that you can reuse. I mean, it’s a pretty complex process, when you think about it, but when I watch your videos on Vimeo, it seems so easy. It’s like you pop it in, and then out comes the skateboard. Right?
B Kneppers: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that was the beauty of it, right, is that it was such a idea that anyone can get around their head. You collect these fishing nets that can become a big pollution in the ocean. Instead, let’s collect them, let’s melt them down, and let’s make new stuff out of them. I mean, it makes perfect sense. Right? But the reality is-
F Geyrhalter: So easy. So easy.
B Kneppers: Yeah. It’s so easy. Why hasn’t anyone else done it yet? The reality is is that was great to have such a clear vision, but, of course, the reality of getting something accomplished, especially in a new country with a different culture than you’re accustomed to, different regulations, different supply chain requirements, figuring it all out from scratch, especially from creating an entirely new supply chain that’s never existed before, it was an immense challenge, and I … definitely something we should probably write a book about someday, because it was just unreal. But at the end of it all, what really was the breakthrough was when you build the strong relationships with these people.
A lot of the time, especially in communities that are considered maybe a bit underserved, when we’re in, in our case, a lot of these artisanal fishing communities, they do get, actually, a fair amount of people coming through and saying, “We want to do this and that” and promising them a lot, and especially with them being foreigners. Then, they get … They’ve gotten their heart broken a few times, so they’re a bit hesitant to the foreigner coming in and saying they’re going to save the day. It was actually the commitment we showed. It was just the three of us. We didn’t have the money to employ anybody to start, and we wanted to know the process.
It was just the three of us collecting, scrubbing down these nets, cleaning them, packing them, getting them sent to the recycler. I think it was when we showed, day-in and day-out, that we were turning up and actually doing what we said we were going to do, we got a lot stronger relationships, and then the big breakthrough was when we came back with those first products, when we showed the skateboard made from their once fishing net trash, they … It was just a huge breakthrough, and that was a really exciting moment where we got a lot more momentum for the project and we could see this thing really take hold.
F Geyrhalter: How does it work with the fishermen? I mean, how do they get involved? Do they literally take their nets out of the boat, and then they clean it themselves, and they just put it into, basically, your own version of recycling bags?
B Kneppers: Yeah. I mean, it started that way, as something as straightforward as that, but really, what we got to as a much more effective route is to have every community have a representative, a community collection manager, and then have every large fishery work directly with our regional collection manager. Every community or every fishery is kind of these sources of nets, where we do a launch. We do a big campaign to make people aware that, “Your end-of-life nets can now go through our program, so don’t discard them.” In the case of a low income artisanal fisherman, we compensate them directly, per kilo, for that effort of returning the nets, and it incentivizes them to not discard them in the environment.
Then, in the case of these large commercial fisheries that would otherwise be having to, in some case, find a reuse market for them, but, in general, you’d have to pay to send this to a landfill, and what we do in return is we provide this free service to donate the nets to us. Then, for every kilo of net donated, we finance local community projects that we create with them to benefit the greater area, the greater community. It’s been a really effective model, because it’s, as we say, created a truly net positive impact. We’re preventing this waste. We’re employing local people, and we’re generating funds to address the greater issues of each area, each community with the money we can generate from the nets.
But the deeper thing is that you need to have change in order to truly prevent people from discarding waste, is no longer having them see it as waste anymore. You’re never going to throw a dollar bill on the ground, because you know it’s worth something, so the last thing that’s going to be polluting the environment is most likely going to be dollar bills, because it’s worth something. When we can make the connection to these people and cause a behavior change to no longer see it as a waste material, but instead as a resource, and that’s where we can really ensure that this is not going to end up in the environment anymore, because there’s only so far we can take it with our effort, from what ends up in the ocean. It actually has a lot to do more with that behavior change aspect to truly prevent all of it from ending up in there.
F Geyrhalter: How did you create that method? Was it something that … I mean, there’s other companies that do similar processes. Did you learn from them, or did you just kind of figure it out as you were doing it?
B Kneppers: It was a pretty organic process. World Wildlife Fund Chile helped shape that plan very early on in our operation, and we also seeked a lot of advice from other people in the fishing industry to get guidance on how to most effectively carry that out into that cultural, that context. We did also get a really great source of inspiration from what I think is probably the pioneers of this space, being the Net-Works program, and that’s run through the Zoological Society of London. That … I actually was given … They’ve set up this program, very similar program to collect nets for recycling in Asia, and I had the pleasure of going and visiting their operations in … about two years ago in the Philippines, and it was … As much as I could understand from them, it was actually really remarkable, the intricate details of their operation, how similar it was to what we eventually came up with. That was a great exchange of ideas for both of us, to share what we were doing differently and how one another could improve on them.
F Geyrhalter: Very cool. Talking about inspirations, how did your work with Patagonia come about? A lot of us have mentors, but it sounds like your mentor is a brand, and one of the most admired brands out there, at least in my eyes. How did that amazing relationship get on its way? Was it through the investment arm, Tin Shed Ventures?
B Kneppers: It was. It was. I mean, we always had Patagonia as our benchmark, as our guiding light for a authentic, truly mission-driven company, trying to create the most sustainable product as well as being a great quality product, so it just hit all the boxes for us on what we wanted to try to achieve as a brand in our own context. But the way it went about is all the way back from when we applied for that first grant in Chile, one of the advice we got from somebody in the program was, “It would be really good, you guys creating a consumer product, to have someone from the retail space to really recommend that … write a letter of recommendation to support this.”
All the way back then, we got to connect with Patagonia, tell them what we were about, what we were planning on doing, and just got such positive feedback and support and guidance from them. We just thought it was going to be left at that, “Thanks for the letter of recommendation. That’s great.” We were aware of their Tin Shed Venture fund, which is … It’s their arm of Patagonia that provides seed funding investments into early stage startups that are also having this shared value effort to benefit the environment and society, and … but we always thought we were just way to small for something like that.
Coincidentally, we got a piece in the CBS Evening News, out of anything, and it just happened to be watched by the manager of that fund. He reached out to us. It actually didn’t really have anything to do with the other relationships we already had. We had a sit-down meeting, and the … told them what we were planning on doing in a very humble way compared to them, and the rest is history. They’ve been our major … our main investor and huge supporter for us to get to where we … we’re on path now today.
F Geyrhalter: In a way, that PR piece on CBS, that actually, in the end, turned you into a real brand. Right? I mean, that was kind of like the beginning of the entire journey, in a way, or was it Patagonia?
B Kneppers: Absolutely. Yeah.
F Geyrhalter: It was both. It was … One fed the other very quickly.
B Kneppers: Yeah, and the whole way that piece went out was actually really … I think it was a … I have to say that it was pretty clever how we came up with getting on CBS Evening News and some other press outlets that we got into so early on.
F Geyrhalter: Share. Share.
B Kneppers: When we … Everything … After we had that, we had the six month Start-Up Chile program, all of that was geared towards us having the first working product being our first skateboard made from recycled fishing nets, and that was going to all lead into a Kickstarter campaign, because that was really going to finance the first production run and get us to keep going, quite frankly, because we’re … We didn’t have any more funds from the Start-Up Chile grant. When we thought of the Kickstarter, we needed to get publicity. One of the really clever things we figured out was, “Okay. We obviously don’t have any big marketing budget, but who, in their best interest, wants to see us succeed and promote our kind of effort that we’re doing here?”
We started to think of people that were in our networks that were also along for this ride. There were the straightforward ones like our skateboard wheel manufacture and truck manufacturer that was going to be paired with this really unique skateboard. Obviously, the Start-Up Chile program wanted to promote us, so we got some great press in Chile. Then, it even went as far as we followed up with our universities that we did our undergraduate engineering degrees, and one of them, mine, Northeastern University in Boston, they had a grant program for startups coming out of the university, as well. They supported us early on, so when we reached out to them saying, “Hey. We finally made it. We’re launching this,” they turned their … the university’s big budget PR firm to run with our story. Lo and behold, that got us the piece on CBS Evening News, which is national news coverage in the United States. Then, that was what led to the Patagonia investment director to see our story.
F Geyrhalter: You know, that’s … I so love this, because this is … I don’t know what episode this is now, maybe 12 or so, but that is a story that is just recurring. Right? People, at some point, when they don’t have the money to spend on a PR agency, they just go to LinkedIn, and they look at who they’re connected with, and they start hustling, or they start connecting with people where they think they might enjoy the story. That’s how it works, but it’s remarkable. It’s really remarkable.
B Kneppers: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.
F Geyrhalter: I saw that you’re part of the 1% for the Planet network, which we were what must have been one of the first 10 members or so. I recall there was Jack Johnson, and then there was my former design agency, Geyrhalter Design, and it was really, really cool. It’s a mighty, mighty long time ago, but you’re also a benefit corporation, and many of my listeners must be interested in forming a B Corp since I keep preaching about cost and belief and transparency and solidarity. But can you share a little bit about how it works and if it was difficult to create a B Corp, or if it’s also tough to keep it up throughout the years?
B Kneppers: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, so first off, what B Corp is really about is recognizing companies that truly are benefits corporations, that are beyond just meeting their economic bottom line, but also having this, at the same point, value for the environment and society. It sounds intimidating, but actually, they have really great resources that can get you right into it. I believe, last I checked, they had this really wonderful 15, 20 minute questionnaire that you can just answer right on their website that can already give you a really good snapshot of how on track you are with your company, potential of achieving B Corp certification, but … I would highly recommend starting there, because really, what it’s about is you get this thing that I think people are becoming more and more aware of called green rush, which is just these blanket environmental statements, “This is an environmentally friendly product. It’s a sustainable product.”
What does that actually mean? What you really need to do is have someone, independently, third party, verify those claims, and especially in this environmental space, it’s very open-ended. What B Corp does is, for the consumer, it lets you know this company that has a B Corp label is a environmentally and socially responsible company, and the other benefit is if you are a company that says, “We want to become a more environmentally and socially conscious and responsible company,” it’s your guide to achieving that. It’s not a very expensive process to go through, and at the very least, you’re going to have … You’re going to get a lot of insight on what your company can improve, and a lot of those things can end up being cost-saving, as well, so I highly, highly recommend checking it out. At the very least, take 15, 20 minutes of your day to try the survey and go through it, and what it can do is open up brand new markets to you, create a whole new recognition for your brand …
F Geyrhalter: For sure. Yep.
B Kneppers: … and do good for the planet, which we need so bad right now.
F Geyrhalter: Amen. Yes.
B Kneppers: That’s my case for B Corp.
F Geyrhalter: Thank you. I think that was something that everyone had to hear, because it sounds like a process and like … Everyone is afraid of those kind of things. I mean, you know. It feels a little bit like it’s setting up a company, it’s a legality, and it’s a big deal, but people need it. People seek B Corps out these days. Especially when you’re trying to staff up, you’re going to have a much, much easier way to find the next generation to be excited about your company, so I absolutely recommend it, too.
Your brand was born out of collaboration. Right? It actually requires collaboration in so many ways, and you actively collaborate with other brands, from the game brand Jenga to sunglass brand Costa and bike brand Trek, which we all know, and office furniture darling Humanscale. This is such a logical path you took and one that can continuously expand your brand and gain you fans along the way. What’s next for Bureo? What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline? What can you reveal?
B Kneppers: Well, that’s … That is the problem. Right? It’s … I’ll have to keep to pretty general terms, but we always have … We’ve got a lot of pretty exciting announcements right around the corner. Unfortunately, a lot of those are under NDA, so …
F Geyrhalter: We’re not at the corner yet.
B Kneppers: Yes. Yes.
F Geyrhalter: Well, you’ll check …
B Kneppers: But-
F Geyrhalter: You’ll check back with us, then.
B Kneppers: Absolutely, but, I mean, overall, I mean, that model is really … That collaboration model has really been what’s been working so well for us, and it’s something that, again, just kind of happened organically. We were intimidated with the idea, starting out, obviously, to be a raw material supplier, because we were just this small idea that we wanted to prove first, so what better way to prove this material than make a skateboard that’s a … It’s a product that needs high level of durability and performance. Then, the next thing we came out with with the same plastic from was sunglasses that is a very precise, detailed product that also has a very special performance characteristics.
From there, it was almost our case study for showing the potential applications of this material, and … But at the same time, we were seeing that … Working as a small business, we were getting access to far more fishing nets than we could sell through our small line of products, so this whole collaborative effort has just fit perfectly in with what we’re passionate about, which is … We’re much more passionate about getting as many communities on board with our program, preventing this waste, providing funds for local environmental projects, and just, overall, creating a really positive solution to this material rather than how we started out, which was, “How many skateboards can we sell in a month?” That was a little bit less in our mindset than, “Let’s make a really big impact.”
By collaborating with these like-minded brands that share our same values and are in full support of what we’re trying to achieve, it allows us to stay focused on that part and grow as much as we can, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We just launched in Peru, where we’re … now have Net Positiva running in partnership with World Wildlife Fund Peru. I just got back from Argentina and Uruguay. We’re planning to launch there by middle of this year, and really, what we’re on track to do is over 1,000 tons of nets annually that can generate a heck of a lot of money for community projects and local employment while we’re doing it.
F Geyrhalter: That’s so amazing. Congratulations. That’s a pretty big footprint that you’re leaving at this point. I read just last night … It was funny. I read a story about This Bar Saves Lives, which seems like a great company with an unfortunate brand name, but what one of the founders said is he said, “We’re a mission with a company, not a company with a mission.” I thought that was really, really cool, and it seems like that’s a little bit in the way that you operate, that you give the company a whole lot of thought, but it’s so much about collaboration, just spreading it. I’m wondering, since you did not want to get too deeply into what’s next for you as far as the next collaboration, what is the ultimate vision for your brand? How are you guys working your way to fulfilling that mission day-in, day-out to really make this huge impact, and how huge is that impact? What’s your 10 year plan? What do you want to achieve?
B Kneppers: I mean, ultimately, what we want to achieve is become, and I can define this further if this is a foreign term, but we want to become the circular economy solution for the fishing net industry, the fishing industry, the fishing net industry. Basically, every fishing net that comes offline, that no longer has a useful life, we can then collect, transform into positive products, and that can continue carrying on this … within this circular economy. That’s ultimately what we want to do, take it global, every fishing net that comes online. This idea of discarding in the net just doesn’t make any sense anymore, and we practically find this really positive solution for that raw material.
F Geyrhalter: That’s when net positive comes into play, which, by the way, is such a cool term. Talking about terms and names, tell us the story behind the name. I already know, since I watched your documentary last night, so I won’t spoil anything.
B Kneppers: Sure. I mean, there’s even a little funny backstory I’ll try to do my best to be quick with, but when we started, we wanted to just go with the skateboard, and the first idea was, “Let’s make a fish-shaped skateboard, make the connection with the fishing nets.” When I grew up in New England, a common small fish, this being a small designed skateboard, the first board, I said, “Let’s name it the Minnow, and let’s name it Minnow Skateboards,” the company, as it’s just starting out as a skateboard company. I was living in Chile at the time, sharing this whole idea of the business with all my Chilean friends, and all my buddies were like, “No.” I was like, “What do you mean?
Chileans have a lot of slang, and it just so happens, the slang I was familiar with was mina is the female version of a very attractive girl, and the masculine version of it happens to be very similar to minnow. It’s mino. They were basically saying, “If you were to name your company Mino, it would be like the attractive man skateboard.” That didn’t really translate well, and so we went back to the drawing board. We just looked at all these different words in there, and it was, again, a Chilean friend that introduced me to this beautiful word from the native Chilean language, from the Mapuche people, their language, Mapudungun, which is bureo, was the word, which means waves. Bureo, being this fun, bouncy word, not the easiest to pronounce, to be fair, but interesting, and the … Reflecting on it, it just was so symbolic of what we were trying to do. It was …
F Geyrhalter: Totally.
B Kneppers: Just as a wave starts with this small disturbance in the ocean, we were these three gringos in Chile with really nothing to offer other than this passionate idea we had, but, just as a wave, that small disturbance, with time and energy, can become this great force of nature. That’s really what we see with Bureo, is, in these collaborations and all this effort, this movement we’re trying to do with the fishing industry globally, is to become this great force of change that can truly transform this thing that was once a small thought into a massive reality.
F Geyrhalter: Absolutely. Absolutely. No. It’s a great, great name, and I love the story behind it. You worked so hard on creating your brand, I mean, from the imagery used, amazingly produced videos that you craft, and all the ways to all the names that you trademark. What does branding mean to an organization like yours, or to you personally?
B Kneppers: Yeah. I mean, it means a lot to hear that … hear you say that, from someone that works in this space so heavily. I mean, to be honest, we were three mechanical engineer undergrads, so we had no real background in this space, but what we started to see was, on one side, people really connect with our effort and our intentions. I mean, there were so many things that you would try to … you would think mean nothing at the time and just get in the way, and we’re so glad we stayed true to our value sets early on and when it came to traceability and transparency and doing things as authentically and as responsible as possible. It all just managed to carry through what we’ve become today, and that ultimately is, at the end of the day, the most valuable thing we can do, is create a really strong brand, because none of our stuff is patented.
Anybody can go out and collect fishing nets and recycle it and make a skateboard or sunglasses or anything else. Anyone can do that, but what we can show is, through our brand, is the authenticity, and the knowhow, and this shared value commitment, and the positive impact we can create through our very much custom and authentic model that we’ve created over the past six plus years. That all has to be tied to a strong brand identity that, again, was a great collaborative effort. My wife is a textile designer. She did a lot of the early artwork. Friends that are filmmakers that did a lot of the beautiful cinematography for us in our videos early on. Now, having these big companies coming in and using our plastic, they’re now bringing their expertise to the table, and it’s taking it even to a whole nother level, so it’s exciting.
F Geyrhalter: Absolutely. Can you describe your brand in one word? It’s a tough one. It’s … I call it your brand’s DNA. It’s really, it’s a feeling. It’s a cause. It’s an action, a mindset, but really, Bureo, in one word. Any thoughts?
B Kneppers: Yeah. I have to say I cheated on this one. I’m glad you sent me the questions ahead of time, because I did have some time to reflect on this. I mean, I was going to go with positive, but I think everyone uses positive and positivity right now. But I think the bigger one is regeneration. A big reason I got out of the consulting world and got out into the private sector with this, my own private business with my partners, was because I wasn’t seeing enough change. I was working in government policy, highest levels of working with the UNEP to some of the biggest companies in the world, consulting for Walmart and Coca-Cola and so forth. What I was seeing on all these levels is governments … It … Absolutely essential for governments to shift and make movements towards a more sustainable future, but I was a little bit too impatient for that work. It’s very slow. It’s very bureaucratic, and it was kind of driving me nuts.
F Geyrhalter: I’m sure.
B Kneppers: The part that I liked was how businesses, granted, big ones or big oil tankers can take years to turn, but small, lean businesses could make change very, very rapidly. The whole idea of what started Bureo for me was, “Can we use business for good? Can we actually not just do less harm to the environment, but actually regenerate the environment through business practices?” It’s something we have almost treated as almost a scientific study. I actually published a journal last year with my father-in-law, who’s a professor, and on this effort that we’re doing, which is we’ve conducted a complete life cycle assessment of our plastic, which is basically the scientific method of measuring the environmental cost of creating something. The most common would be your carbon footprint, but we do it in all environmental impact categories.
Then, through this shared value model, where we give back, reinvest in these communities with the money we’re … part of the money we’re generating from the sale of the material, we actually have been able to offset those impacts. What that ultimately means is we can achieve a net positive regenerative output with this material, so we’re actually doing more good than bad, where most companies in this space get recognized for doing less bad. You’re still stealing. You’re still doing bad, just less bad. There should be more about doing more good.
Then, I guess the other part of that word, regeneration, that connected with me was not so … not exactly tied to the word, but it is, I guess, is generation, is inspiring that next generation coming up is so, so important.
F Geyrhalter: Oh. For sure.
B Kneppers: To have a kid that’s growing up right now, that he already has … Hopefully, one of his favorite things could be our skateboard that’s made from this material that was once perceived as a trash or even not even thought of as recyclable. Now, has that seed in his head at such an early age and understands the importance of doing those things. That’s a generation, I think, that will really … I hopefully … I’m hopeful that will really turn things around. I think we’re a transitional generation, and then, they’re going to come in with a really clear head and know what’s right and wrong and get us fully on that right track.
F Geyrhalter: I really think and I really hope so, too. That word, by the way, regeneration, that is your brand DNA now.
B Kneppers: Yeah.
F Geyrhalter: I think it is absolutely perfect for your brand, and I’m glad that I pushed you a little bit up front so that you had some time to think about this. How can our listeners get involved with your cause or grab a skateboard from your brand to be part of the change?
B Kneppers: I mean, you can obviously come to our website, just bureo.co, and then, certainly, we’re very active on social media, always giving updates of our progression, definitely on Instagram, just @bureo on Instagram. It’s pretty interesting, because we really pride ourselves on being transparent with our efforts. Certainly, there’s a lot of fun and cool skateboarding and surfing pictures, but we also really like to post the nitty-gritty of, like, “This is what 15,000 pounds of fishing net that we just collected looks like, and this is the products we’re now generating. This is the community projects we just financed thanks to those nets, thanks to people buying our products.”
It’s really powerful that … I feel, when you can let people in on that story and know that they’re a part of it by supporting us in those ways, obviously, going to … checking out our online store and just simply following us. A lot of our collaborated businesses see what our numbers are like on … as followers on social media, and so the more followers you can get really actually does help us get more collaborators, so it does make a difference for us.
F Geyrhalter: Yeah. For sure, and I urge everyone to also check out Bureo’s Vimeo channel and definitely catch the Net Positiva documentary while you’re there. I’ll include some links in the notes, as well, but thank you, Ben. I wish this could go on for another hour, because there’s plenty … There are plenty more questions, plenty more things I want to know, but we only have that much time. This was so great to have you on the show all the way from across the world. Thank you so much for your time.
B Kneppers: My pleasure. Thanks again for the opportunity.
F Geyrhalter: Thank you all for listening. Give us a quick rating or even a review wherever you listen to this show. I would greatly appreciate it. This podcast is brought to you by Brandtro, our publishing arm, where you can pick up a signed copy of my latest book, Bigger Than This: How to Turn Any Venture into an Admired Brand for a silly 11 bucks, and if you like today’s episode and the Bureo story, I’m almost certain you would enjoy the case studies and takeaways in the book. The Hitting the Mark theme music was written and produced by Happiness Won. I will see you next time, when we, once again, will be hitting the mark.