Startup Spotlight #176: Ripplfect
Ripplfect is one of the first US-based companies attempting to disrupt disposables in the coffee industry.
Sarah Ganzenmuller, founder of Ripplfect had been inspired to start the company when on her way to work in the Boston Seaport she would pass trash bin after trash bin filled to the brim with coffee cups. She discovered only 3% of customers currently bring their own reusable drinkware to coffee shops, and is determined to make a future where reusable cups are a staple in coffee shops across the country. Through positive reinforcement and by addressing barriers of reusables in the coffee industry, she believes it is possible to change behavior.
Ripplfect is a mobile application that uses photo recognition and the user’s location to allow customers to photograph reusable tumblers while in participating coffee shops to earn points they can later redeem for rewards. Users’ profiles show them how much plastic waste they have reduced personally in addition to the positive impact the Ripplfect community has had as a whole. Through their product and mobile app, they have equipped coffee lovers with the product and technology that aligns their values with their choices.
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Startup Spotlight: Ripplfect
Problem: Over 50 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the US every year, and they take hundreds (in some cases even thousands) of years to break down into smaller bits of toxic microplastics. Even when you throw your cup in the bin marked "recycling" only 1 out of 400 of those single-use cups are actually recycled as most are made of a difficult to recycle a mix of plastic and paper.
Market: The coffee industry is a $100 billion dollar industry and the reusable bottle industry is projected to be 374 billion by 2025. There are 63,630 coffee shops in the US alone, and 21,000 of those cafes are independently owned. It is no surprise that Boston is the most caffeinated city in the US, with over 61 coffee shops per capita!
Solution: Ripplfect is a mobile application that reduces waste from single-use coffee cups by incentivizing users to bring reusables to cafes with rewards. Through our reusable tumblers and mobile app we have equipped users with the ability to come together and evoke positive change.
Team: I am the solo founder, but my father has also been instrumental in thinking through the logistics of the technology. I have been lucky enough to have an amazing interim CTO, Manik Gupta who has been incredible at making my vision come to life with the mobile application. I also have an awesome intern currently, (Go Bridget, you rock!).
Gazenmuller: We have been really successful at building a movement and a brand that emphasizes the "why" over the "what". Our customers are so supportive and loyal, I have even had some people reach out asking for packets to pitch their own local cafes. What has been super interesting is the educational piece is a huge part of this movement, over 40% of people don't know most cafes allow you to bring your own reusable cup. Rippl’s mission is to bring transparency to the positive impact an individual can have by slightly altering their everyday choices.
Building a grassroots movement isn't easy, but we have done an incredible job, especially in the Northshore of MA where our 6 partner cafes are located. We are on our way to 1000 single-use coffee cups having been prevented from ending up in a landfill - multiply that by the 60,000 coffee shops across the country and that is a massive impact.
Gazenmuller: The one thing that has been a struggle is the logistics behind growing cafe-by-cafe and having to rely on the cafes to communicate and promote the program to customers. There was too much friction with the cafes and unless I wanted to hire a sales team, scaling would be close to impossible. My goal is to have the largest impact I possibly can, so the scalability of the business is very important.
Because of this- we are actually pivoting away from the current model by partnering with sustainable brands and allowing people to collect points at cafes that are not official partners. I also think it is important that the vision and mission comes directly from Ripplfect to the people - so this has been an important shift in our strategy that we are deploying more recently.
Gazenmuller: Don't be afraid to ask questions, to ask for help, and to reach out to strangers. Most people are more than willing to help out and offer their advice. It is a hard and lonely road and the more people you have on your side, the better. Network with as many entrepreneurs and founders as you can - they have likely experienced similar problems, and understand the stresses that you deal with that not many other people will. Connecting with movers and shakers is not only inspiring - but validating that you can one day do it too.
One Cool Founder You Should Know About:
Gazenmuller: Here is one founder you should check out next!
Caroline Marino, Founder of The Backroom Vintage: A sustainable vintage clothing and home interiors brand that offers unique, one-of-a-kind, and often reworked custom pieces.
Who should I profile next? Leave your suggestion in the comments:
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