Lauren Gropper, Repurpose Compostables, Woman Entrepreneur
I was introduced to Lauren through a mutual friend. She sent me her products and I wrote about the company because I think it is very smart what she has built. Fast forward we speak again and we speak again and I am working on investing in Laurens company. Consumer products are tough but to me, this is the future, renewable products made from plants that compose in an industrial composite in 90 days.
Lauren grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Two entrepreneurial parents. Her father is an orthopedic surgeon and her mother is a comedienne who did TV, radio, etc. She graduated from high school and stayed in Canada going to McGill in Montreal. During her time junior year Lauren spent a semester in Jerusalem. That is when she was bit by the travel bug.
After graduating college she applied to a program that was like an Internet Peacecorps. It was 1999 and the Y2K era was in place. This group was working with a variety of Governments around the world to bring internet technology to areas that did not have access. She knew how to built HTML products and through this program she was deployed around the world. The program was really strict. You were there to work and live with a family. Although she was 22 they treated the group like they were 14. She lived with a family, 3 kids and a rooster. After eight months the program ended and then she went off traveling on her own for two months.
Lauren came back to Vancouver and got a job doing IT as a webmaster in a Government agency. The pay was great but the work was boring. She decided to save money, live at home, apply to graduate school and defer it if she got in and travel first for a year. The story almost went according to plan. She spent time in India, Nepal and Thailand. The next stop was going to be in the East. Wearing no helmet and driving a motorcycle Lauren has a head on collision with a bus while she was in Thailand. She broke her jaw, lost all her teeth and broke ribs. This happened six months into her trip.
The idea was when her traveling was over she was going to go to the London School of Economics. Her parents brought her home from Thailand and prepared Lauren that she was going to go through about 2 1/2 years of surgery including bone graft from her hip. Her parents were adamant that she stayed in North America. I don't blame them. Lauren wanted to move on her with life in between surgeries so she applied to Pratt thinking that if she got in there she would be in North America and perhaps if she played her cards right they would give her a full scholarship. She got in, she got the full ride and she went. She majored in urban and environmental design. It was a two year program.
Lauren spent the second year working with a variety of organizations around green. She learned the tax incentives for buildings and how to build a green building so after graduating she was hired by a consulting group to work on these unique projects. She loved being in NYC and after a few years she wasn't sure she wanted to stay and starting to think about moving back to Cananda. A friend sent her a tree hugging poster from the television company in Toronto who was looking for an expert in the green space to be on a show about green communities. She applied for the job and became the host and producer of a show on HGTV. The show was super cheesy. They would go out to womens shelters, schools and other places and turn them into green spaces. Although she transformed these peoples places the production quality was terrible. While doing the show she continued to work as a consultant in the green space. The entire time Lauren is thinking what is next, where does this go.
She has been working with Adrien Grenier volunteering at an organization that was helping apartment buildings get greener. He got a call from Los Angeles to do a channel called Planet Green through the Discovery Channel. Since Lauren had been in TV, he asked her to come along. The channel launched in 2008. It is hard to do green content so even in Los Angeles she continued to work as a consultant with architecture firms around green.
She began to see friends start businesses and thought I want to do that. She started to take some business classes and begun to look into recomposable products. She started to dig into the marketplace and realized that there was an opportunity. She met a guy who runs a manufacturing group in Taiwan where they only make plant based products. Taiwan is a global leader in this area. He helped her import the products and with that she created a brand and began to sell the product.
The ball began to start rolling and Lauren put the consulting hat away. Her second year she began to build out the team. She realized that there might be a few others in the wholesale area selling these products but nobody was bringing these products directly to the consumer. The key was getting the price point down to the place where it is competitive with other products that are not green.
Repurpose Compostables is still at the early stage but they are currently in Bed, Bath and Beyond and a few regional grocery stores. Things are just starting to take off and she is talks with many different chains. Lauren just got married and is about to have a baby too. I am pretty sure when she went to McGrill she did not think she would be living in Los Angeles with a consumer products company but she followed an interesting path as most entrepreneurs do.