"What’s positive is that over the years, we observe that the type of people who stop and talk to us at trade fairs is changing, and that we’re now able to have conversations with companies that are bigger in scale and see that we’re here to last."
Sometimes for this feature, it can be challenging to imagine exactly the product or innovation the interviewee wants to discuss. Particularly if it is of a very scientific or technical nature or perhaps is still on the drawing board. But I have no such problem when speaking to Stephanie Triau of Bioserie, as I had one of their plant-based toys, in my hands just this morning, well more accurately my 5 month old daughter had it in hers (and her mouth...). Editing Bio-Based World News, has given me a sharp focus on plastics, and what goes into making them and as a result some of the first toys we got for her were from Bioserie. And she loves them! So today we speak exclusively to Stephanie to learn more about the company, their road from making phone cases to producing toys, tackling growth, overcoming challenges and what’s coming next...
Luke Upton (LU): Thanks for the time today Stephanie. So, Bioserie – what’s the story behind the business?
Stephanie Triau (ST): Our company was founded in 2009. The initial idea came from Kaya Kaplancali. In Hong Kong, he was involved for five years in the mobile phone accessories industry in managerial and product development positions, working for instance for inCase. Throughout the years, he witnessed the rapid shift from leather cases to plastic covers. He also became aware of bioplastic materials and their promise for the future. That’s when he had the idea of starting a durable consumer goods brand focused on bioplastics. When Kaya looked for funding, myself and two other friends, Bora Samman and Sandeep Chauhan, decided to support this vision. We were thinking this company could have a very bright future as there is no question we need to find alternatives to fossil fuels to produce everyday objects.
At first, Bioserie ( @bioserie ) was producing phone covers. We were building on Kaya’s previous experience with the product and it actually proved a good choice as the frequent releases of new models allowed us to fine-tune our material mix and our technology. In 2013, we started getting recognition in numerous awards in Europe and USA, and we felt it was time to switch to a category we were thinking about from the start, baby toys, where we could have better commercial results. By that time, I had become a parent, and I could really feel the impact we could bring to the baby products scene. Most of the baby toys on shelves are made of traditional plastic, and the eco-alternatives are not always satisfying from a colour or convenience perspective. I started taking a more active role in the company from the launch of our first mini-collection in 2015, as responsible for sales, marketing, and overall strategy.
LU: Before co-founding the company you worked in the luxury goods sector at a brand and agency level, what made you switch careers?
ST: I got into the luxury sector for the love of beautiful things and the culture of excellence. I did have the great opportunity to discover a universe where a lot of decisions are moved by passion and taste and where the actors are often amazing individuals. However, as I grew older and took on more senior positions, I became increasingly concerned by the overall meaning behind some of the huge investments made, and the overall interest/benefit it brought in the end.
What I love about the sustainable/green sector is that you also find passion, commitment and this constant quest for the better, but that it does serve a bigger interest, for the planet, for our future. It’s motivating to think that whatever small step you contribute to, you are actually helping to build a better tomorrow, bringing to market products made from sustainable resources that have superior value for all of us
LU: What’s been the biggest challenge in growing the company?
ST: Clearly, in our universe, having the best products may not be sufficient. You have to challenge the existing way of building assortments in retail, and convince buyers to take actual steps to offer better products for their audiences. While some are receptive to the approach –I’d say most - a lot question the necessary premium associated with the materials and process we use and are also afraid to discredit the rest of their offerings. So, we have to start with enthusiasts and hope to build our story from the ground up into the mainstream. What’s positive is that over the years, we observe that the type of people who stop and talk to us at trade fairs is changing, and that we’re now able to have conversations with companies that are bigger in scale and see that we’re here to last.
LU: What’s coming up next for bioserie?
ST: We feel we’re ready to come up with a dinnerware line. Starting from last year, we have developed our proprietary compound which has very good heat resistance properties. We can get to a level of « true » dishwasher safety (not only at the top rack), which is more satisfying in terms of performance than the currently popular mixes of bamboo fiber and melamine. Besides and foremost, our mix is 100% bio-based which makes it unique vs. other "bioplastic" alternatives.
LU: What advice would you give to someone else looking to launch their own company/product in this space?
ST: I’d say you have to be a realistic enthusiast! It’s important to constantly keep yourself up to speed with research and try and see what are the best available materials to allow your vision to come true. Also, you need to cultivate relationships with all the stakeholders that can help you shape your dream into realities: chemical companies, molders but also NGO’s, influencers, researchers, who are vital to help you create a bridge between your goal, your values, and a commercial reality. Conversations with the sustainable/bio-based ecosystem are key as no matter what you may think at first, lot of things are still in the making! You have to be here for the long run, and to never give up!
ST: And finally, aside from your own, what’s your favourite sustainable / bio-based product?
In my day-to-day life, I try to choose products that allow for a more responsible and toxic-free lifestyle. Some of the things I am particularly careful about are products for the home. We choose some bio-based alternative for hygiene and cleaning products such as the ones from Ecover, Seventh Generation or Eco3. We’re also trying to break free from plastics and one small and simple area where we try to do it is the bathroom: you’ll only see Humble Brushes to clean our teeth or any other brand which uses bamboo!
Stephanie Triau is one of 110+ expert speakers at World Bio Markets 2018, and there is still, just about time for you to attend!
Read the last 5 minutes with… David Babson, senior advisor at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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