Ep. 43: How to Grow a Sustainable Business

Stay profitable while sustainable.

Can your business meet eco-friendly regulations while thriving in a competitive market? Greg and Will Owens, the Co-Founders of Liberty Tabletop (who claim to be one of the most environmentally friendly flatware manufacturers on earth) will show you how. From using reusable materials to reducing carbon footprint, learn what it takes to grow your business as you implement environmentally responsible practices.

(2:42) - Greg and Will talk about the eco-friendly features of their flatware company, including reusable stainless steel, sustainable manufacturing practices, and reduced carbon footprint through their "factory to table" approach.

(7:27) - Greg explains that even though their products cost more due to fair wages and high-quality materials, customers appreciate the value of durability and the idea of a one-time purchase that lasts a lifetime which aligns with the core identity of their brand.

(9:42) - Will discusses their goal to get climate-friendly badges, emphasizing its significance in influencing consumer choices due to the credibility it provides to their company.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Will: People shop online or go to the store, they are demanding that companies follow some sort of environmentally friendly or environmentally responsible path. There are companies out there who are taking pledges to be carbon neutral. All of these things, so you can see customers are shifting that direction when they want to purchase something. We're very happy that we live in that space where we can tell our customers with confidence that, yeah, you're purchasing a product that's going to help the environment.

[00:00:35] Andrea: So, when your small business is sustainable, more customers might end up buying your product. As a consumer myself, I would definitely support a business that prioritizes the environment. But what are some of the regulations that you should follow to make sure your business is more sustainable? And when you figure that out, how do you communicate it to your customers? Let's find out!

[00:00:55] Host: Hi, This is Small Business, a podcast by Amazon. I’m your host, Andrea Marquez. [00:01:00] This is one of our Minisodes, which are shorter episodes packed with helpful information for those of you who want a quicker binge. On this episode we'll be talking about sustainability and how your business can meet environmentally friendly regulations with the Co-Founders of Liberty Tabletop: Greg Owens, the CEO and William Owens, the Sales & Marketing Manager. Like most of the small businesses on the show, you can find Liberty Tabletop in the Amazon store. Also, remember that if you want to hear your story on This is Small Business, we have a voicemail line where you can ask questions or share your entrepreneurial story. We want to hear from you! Find the link to the voicemail line in the episode description.

[00:01:38] Greg: Liberty Tabletop was born in 2005 when Oneida Limited decided to shut down their production here in the United States and move their production overseas. And Matt Roberts and I decided we needed to do something about that. It was a factory town that we live in, Cheryl, New York. Used to have 2,600 employees working there. The building that we started out our office in [00:02:00] was built when Abraham Lincoln was president. To put it in perspective, that's how old the place was. And, so we, formed Cheryl Manufacturing, to be a captive manufacturer for Oneida. Went on for a couple years making flatware, doing some packaging, some other things for them. That relationship sort of fell apart. And we had to go in a different direction. So we created Liberty Tabletop, which is our own brand of flatware. And we've been going ever since and growing as a business.

[00:02:26] Andrea: So, I know you claim to be one of the most environmentally friendly flatware manufacturer on earth, could you tell me why you say this?

[00:02:34] Will: So our product is basically one element. It's, it's 1810 stainless steel. Stainless steel is reusable compared to for example, plastic forks, spoons and knives, which are one use and then you throw them away. Stainless steel also, when you manufacture it, there's no waste involved. All of the byproduct of what goes into making [00:03:00] a fork, spoon, or knife is able to be recycled. So those are just a few things from the product standpoint as to why we can claim to be, at least our industry can claim to be, very earth-friendly.

[00:03:13] Greg: Another aspect of our product is the quality. We use only the highest quality 1810 stainless as opposed to 18 oh stainless, which is much cheaper. So that means it lasts longer, retains its luster and it's something that you'll want to keep and pass down to the next generation. Our manufacturing process is also quite interesting. Our factory is run on hydropower from Niagara Falls. We buy most of our supplies locally. It's a big thing in business. Our buffs, our compounds, and our raw materials, our packaging materials, which are primarily made for recycled paper. We're fully compliant with EPA and New York State d e c standards, which are very stringent. We don't use any harsh chemicals. In particularly, we don't use Trichlorethylene to clean our product. It's a carcinogen, that's banned in the United States.

[00:04:00] The next thing that makes us earth-friendly is what we like to call it, is our marketing strategy through Amazon and through our website. We call it factory to table. So literally stainless steel shows up at our door. We manufacture our product, put it in our distribution facility, get an order, and it goes right from our factory to your table. Conversely, product coming in from overseas, travels half the way around the world on container ships that burn tar, and the environmental standards under which the stainless steel and the actual manufacturing take place are not anything close to what we have here in the United States.

[00:04:38] Will: Here in the United States, we get all of our stainless steel goes through a very stringent process at the mills. They go through testing to make sure that it is truly a hundred percent 1810 stainless steel. So from a health and safety standpoint, just as much from an earth friendly standpoint, it's a pretty big deal.

[00:05:00] Greg: To Will's point, when we first started our brand and first started marketing online, I took all the phone calls as I was the customer service guy, and I was very surprised that, a lot of people called me up and the most prominent question was, where is the metal from? Because they, they were cognizant of the fact that some of the mills, they don't test their metal. They test them for the things that are supposed to be in there, but they don't necessarily test them for the things that aren't supposed to be in there. So that was a big concern for our customers, and it became a big marketing point of our company.

Pollution was a real problem here when I grew up. And we've really cleaned up our act here in the United States. Unfortunately, part of that has been sending production overseas, outta sight, outta mind. When we have this conversation with folks and they really start thinking about what they're doing, and where their products are being made, it becomes very relevant and very important to them, particularly from an environmental standpoint.

[00:05:54] Will: Right. If the manufacturing plant was in your backyard, you wouldn't want them dumping anything into the stream, [00:06:00] but if it's halfway across the world, you don't really think about it.

[00:06:06] Greg: And our steel is manufactured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the most part. And when I was a kid, the river caught on fire. That's how bad it was. Today it's a beautiful city. It's been rejuvenated and, uh, people fish in that river.

[00:06:20] Andrea: This is fascinating and very eye-opening. I had never thought of these things. So you covered a lot of regulations, a lot of specific things that are part of your process to be able to think about the greater picture and how this affects the environment and people's health. And obviously all that is great for your customers and employees, but how does that impact the growth of your business?

[00:06:40] Greg: I think that the message really resonates with our customers. Made in USA is, is, is a brand and we sort of own that brand and the flatware world as well mentioned, we're the only ones still doing it in the United States, but the number two thing that I, I would say impacts the customer choice and you're gonna pay a little bit more for it because of the quality. [00:07:00] We pay our workers a livable wage and all these other things that drive our cost up. Primarily it's, we don't have subsidized stainless steel that we work with, but the sustainability and the, the quality and the buy it once concept, literally something that you could have for the rest of your life and hand down to your kids. And it would still look good and function correctly versus some of the less expensive, product that you can buy out there that you might have for a couple years. Then you throw it away, it ends up in a landfill and you buy more. They really love that message and that's sort of become what we're all about.

[00:07:35] Andrea: As a consumer myself, it is becoming increasingly important for me to see some sort of proof that you are taking as a brand into consideration the good of the community and the environment. So that being said, what are some of the ways that a brand can show their customer that they're implementing sustainability into their processes?

[00:07:55] Greg: I think the first thing that you have to be focused on is you have to be genuine. [00:08:00] We really make an effort to tell our story. We make it true. We make it real. And I think when people hear that story and they see the product, they get it.

[00:08:10] Will: One thing that's very frustrating is to get sort of that written proof. It becomes very expensive for small businesses. It should be easier for a small business to be able to get that certification so that they can turn around and tell their customers with proof. We've all seen pictures of factories overseas. When you say, I am making a product here in the United States, just in the fact that the product is made here is already making a difference just in the fact that you don't need to ship the product halfway across the world is already making a difference.

[00:08:48] Andrea: Could you give an example of a stamps or badges that you're trying to get?

[00:08:52] Will: So the first one is, uh, working with Amazon to be able to get that climate friendly badge. [00:09:00] I personally as an Amazon shopper, have seen companies while I'm searching for products to buy that have it, versus companies that don't. Caring about the environment like I do, I will actually go for the product that has that. So, it's important. I would say we're gonna start with that badge. Because we see the most potential for our company, and Amazon gives that credibility to a buyer.

[00:09:25] Host: That were the Co-Founders of Liberty Tabletop: Greg and William Owens. They talked about sustainability and how your business can meet environmentally friendly regulations. As always, here are some quick key takeaways from this episode:

  • One. It's probably more sustainable if you manufacture your products in the US. When you do that, you can look deeper into the manufacturing process and cut down on shipping overseas. Plus, being made in the US is appealing to a lot of customers so you might also win over more customers. Try looking into that option but know it will come with higher costs, so decide what is most important to you and possible.
  • [00:10:00] Two. Some other things you should consider when it comes to environmentally friendly regulations are: the quality of your product and the material it’s made from, how you package your product, the journey that it takes for it to get to customer’s doors, and then, how do you communicate this to your customers? One way Will and Greg mentioned is by getting the badges or stamps that show this when customers consider your product like the climate friendly badge in the Amazon store.

That's it for this episode of This is Small Business Minisodes, brought to you by Amazon. If you liked what you heard, make sure to subscribe and tell your friends about us by sending them a link to this episode. And we would love to know what you think, so please please please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. It's easier to do it through your phone. Or send us an email at thisissmallbusiness@amazon.com with your thoughts.

Until next time – This is Small Business, I'm your host Andrea Marquez -- Hasta luego -- and thanks for listening! [00:11:01]


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