Ten Years In The Making is a weekly podcast on how to effectively grow a startup.
Adam Robinson: All right. It's another episode of Ten Years In The Making. With me are Phoebe Yu and Kat Dey, the co-founders of Ettitude. Ettitude is a material science company and sustainable lifestyle brand with proprietary patented lyocell made from 100% organic bamboo. Ettitude's vision is to dramatically reduce the negative environmental impact of fibers by replacing viscose, cotton, and silk with a better alternative. Ettitude’s a certified carbon-neutral company and is a B Corp. So, let's hop right in. My question for you two, I love the immigrant woman founder story because 50% of my leadership team are women. Can we start with like a brief life story from each of you and what brought you together?
Phoebe Yu: Sure. I'm Phoebe Yu. I'm the founder and CEO of Ettitude. So, I was born and raised in Shanghai, China, and then I moved to Melbourne, Australia, and that's where I start to learn about sustainability and develop the passion to start Ettitude to develop more sustainable textiles for the home industry because Australia is a very eco-conscious country. And then I moved to Los Angeles in 2018 after I met Kat, and Kat joined the company as a co-founder and we actually met online. So, before COVID, everyone worked online remotely. We started like that because we have both an Australian office and here in Los Angeles office.
Adam Robinson: So, can I ask you one question? Anything about your upbringing in Shanghai or the experience in Melbourne call you to be an entrepreneur? Because a lot of people are participating in sustainability and they're not actually inventing things.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. I think it's just personality. I kind of always want to do my own thing. So, when my parents, like any Asian ones, want us to study medicine. I said, “No. I go to business school.” So, it's always about follow what I want to do. I guess that's entrepreneurship and even including like migrate to Australia. It's kind of, yeah, it's always like, "Hmm, what's interesting? What's the new way to do things? What's a new place to explore?” I guess that's entrepreneurship in heart.
Adam Robinson: Why did you go to Australia?
Phoebe Yu: Oh, at the beginning, actually, to get our visas so it’s easy to travel for my business. And I love travel but then I love the country, I love the people. They're very sustainable. And I also met my husband, so I say I’m an Australian citizen. Yeah, that's what it is. It's actually a bit accidentally. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Got it. And, Kat, how about you?
Kat Dey: So, I'm also an immigrant. So, I was actually born in the middle of Russia in a small city and moved to the US, to New York with my family, my mom, and my older sister when I was 13. So, I ended up going to high school in New York City and going to college at Columbia. So, I stayed in New York for a while but I think my immigrant background, but also my family background, being very creative, I've always had a creative streak on the side, always had projects on the side in addition to school and in addition to work later down the road. I always had something that I wanted to express my creativity in and I ended up going into business consulting because I was advised that that was the most creative thing you could do in business. And it proved to be true. I learned a lot in terms of how to grow businesses, and I had such exposure to a variety of different problems and using my creative brain to solve those problems. And then eventually in addition to having a full-time job, I felt like I still needed an outlet for my creative expression. So, I ended up starting a company while working full-time, and that company ended up growing pretty quickly. So, I kind of just stayed in entrepreneurship. That was my track going forward and I love it.
Adam Robinson: So, what was the company called?
Kat Dey: My first company was called Try the World, which is a food subscription that sends you international gourmet food to your doorstep.
Adam Robinson: And, Phoebe, is that how you met? Like, was this a business online meeting or was it like…
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. We met at Angel.co and at that time I was still in Australia but want to grow in the US market but that’s from day one. The US is the biggest market and I always wanted Ettitude to make more impact and become a global brand. So, then I would go to Angel.co to look for a partner, a strong entrepreneur that also understands the US market. So, yeah, that's how I found Kat and I sent her a set of sheets and she loved it, her husband loved it, and she jumped right in.
Adam Robinson: That's great. What was the website again? I'm sorry.
Phoebe Yu: Angel.co
Adam Robinson: Angel.co
Kat Dey: Yeah. AngelList.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. They used to be called AngelList. I think that's the first meeting that I've ever heard of, I mean, I'm sure that's probably part of what they do, but this is the first. I've never talked to founders that met at Angel.co. That's really cool.
Kat Dey: Actually, some of our first employees at Ettitude, we recruited them all in Angel. It was such a great resource for finding entrepreneurial-minded, startup-minded people who were willing to roll up their sleeves and build something from scratch. So, I still think that it's an amazing resource.
Adam Robinson: I have used it as a job board. I've used it. I know that it's great for investments and stuff like that. Never occurred to me that it would just be like, “I'm going to find my co-founder there,” because if you're in the position we are, you end up just talking to people who are trying to start businesses all the time. I'm sure you do. And a very common problem, I think, is you have someone who's got a great idea, they're a very talented person, but they can't find the tech part of it, especially in software. It's like finding the right engine. And then you use an agency and you're like, “Well, that's never going to work and I already know it, but I don't know what else to tell you.” So, I mean, this is another recommendation that I have now. Check out Angel.co.
Phoebe Yu: I think we're lucky. It's the right time, right place, right circumstance.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, I think so.
Kat Dey: The stars aligned.
Adam Robinson: So, I want to share a revelation that I had last weekend that Kat just brought to my mind. I was reading this Rick Rubin book called The Creative Act: A Way of Being. Have you heard this book? Rick Rubin is like this huge music producer. Every single great like Jay-Z started with him but this is just all genres. Tom Petty wrote Free Fallin’ with this guy. He is incredible. He is such an interesting guy. And he wrote this book on how he viewed the creative process from the eyes of a producer that's worked with every single great living artist and his observations. So, I read this book and I'm like, “That's my life.” And I've never heard it articulated that way in the sense that it finally made me realize that so much of being an entrepreneur is living the life of an artist and just being open to whatever is out there in the universe and like trying to harness inspiration and then create this, I mean, I'm software, you guys are physical things, but like manifest it into something that exists and then pass that energy on to some sort of an audience.
I've read 200 business books. Never have I related to anything as closely as I related to this book about being an artist. So, it's like, Kat, It's interesting that you describe entrepreneurship as your creative outlet because I think people acknowledge that you need to be creative to be an entrepreneur but it never occurred to me that it was so similar to creating a great work of art, like the process that you have to go to.
Kat Dey: Absolutely. Actually, I wanted to become a photographer when I was going to college and I was taking all these classes in photography, and I was like, “Oh, wait a minute, I’m from an immigrant family. How am I going to support myself?” So, then I was like, “Oh, okay, I need to find something else,” but then the photography became a part of self-expression and my business as well because the first business I had was all about content creation and communicating how incredible this product or other foods were but same thing with Ettitude. It's all about expressing what is that thing that you're making so I feel like there's a lot of parallels here.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. I think maybe my childhood dream is to be a scientist but then, again, I think a lot of also the overlay of the scientist’s mind and artist’s mind and entrepreneur’s is science. You also try to develop some new theory, new things, open mind, like always some sort of science will have a big jump when the older generation died and the new scientist because they are not thinking the old way, you know, thinking a totally new way. So, the same thing, I think even like physical products. You are, like us, we're trying to develop new things or how it can work with other existing things. Same as software. You are creating a software, also do new things, and also be able to kind of tell the world, committed to the world, and touch millions of people. That's in a way also, yes, same as what artists do. So, I think scientists, artists, entrepreneurship, there's a lot of common theme here.
Adam Robinson: For sure. For sure. So, can we go back to this fabric that you created out of bamboo? How did you pick bed sheets as the first application for this?
Phoebe Yu: I like sleep. And that's where my former experience lie before I started. Actually, I have over a decade’s experience of helping big company source and develop home products, not fashion products. So, I'm not a fashion designer, and I also don't like fast fashion. So, I think our people actually doesn't put enough emphasis on the best sheets, which you spend more for people like sleeping like me. That's eight solid hours on there every night, right? Your clothes, you change. You don't wear the same clothes but for the bed sheet, of course, you wash it but otherwise you will sleep on that 8 hours everyday. And also, it consumes a lot of textile. A full sheet set is about 5 to 6 meters. So, then if it's unsustainable textile, it's just worse impact. A set of sheets consumes a lot of resource if the textile is not sustainable. So, I think that's the area I'm familiar with. That's a product I like. You know, I'll use my own bed sheets that I can stay in the bed longer and really be comfortable. So, that's why I picked that.
Kat Dey: And I never thought about bedsheets before I met Phoebe, to be honest. I probably was like a regular consumer just buying whatever is available and sleeping on cotton like most people do. But then when Phoebe sent me the sheets, I had the best sleep of my life. I really had a revelation. I was like, “Wow. This is the most innovative thing I've ever felt,” and I had the best sleep of my life. And my husband loved it too. He was like, “Kat, you have to join this company. This is amazing.”
Adam Robinson: I mean the proof is in the pudding, right? A great product just makes everything else easy, which I love. So, you had some pants on when I was sitting next to you at dinner, Kat. They were also this fabric.
Kat Dey: Yes. They were also made out of our clean bamboo. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: What's the timeline? Phoebe was like Ettitude was sheets in Australia or the East or whatever. And then you like to expand. So, how did sort of go from selling 100 sets of sheets to like we need to expand to the US and then we need to get into other stuff and all that?
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. Early days we were really focused on bedding, but Australia is always I know it's a testing ground for refined products and to learn about marketing branding. I'm not a marketing branding expert so that's why I always wanted a co-founder that's strong in that and also that together we can really grow into the US market. That is the biggest single language consumer market in the world to make more impact. So, that was why I started to go on AngelList at that time and we launched into US end of 2017 and we grow into also then a bit loungewear. Sleepwear is also by customers' request because they like our fabric so much they’re like, “Ah, we’re just wrapping in our flashy laundry around. Can you make that into proper things we can wear?” So, yeah, sure it's that same fabric. It’s more about different cuts and sew. That's a relatively easy expansion. And then we also have toweling fabric. We actually yesterday just launched our vegan cashmere throw blanket, kind of still 100% pure bamboo, but touch and feel like real cashmere. If we don't tell people who touch it, “Oh, it’s cashmere,” but no it's vegan. It’s all bamboo. Yeah, that blows people's mind off when they touch and we don't tell what they’re just made. It just launched yesterday, our website.
Adam Robinson: Wow. Cool.
Kat Dey: I'm really excited about it.
Adam Robinson: I'm going to go buy all this stuff after this, by the way.
Phoebe Yu: Oh, yeah. My husband is living in the throw blanket every day. He doesn't care what colors. Oh, I have like a pink sample. He’s like, “I don't care. It’s so comfortable.” He’s like wrapping and then watch TV. It’s so cozy.
Adam Robinson: Right. So, what is the vision for like, I mean, you don't like fast fashion. Phoebe, how do you feel about this? Is this a line expansion or is it just like there are so many applications for this amazing, amazing fabric, we're just going to keep expanding this sort of doing experiments, figuring out? Like, what's the five and ten year plan?
Kat Dey: Yeah. I mean, our vision is to replace as much on conventional textile, sorry, to replace as much conventional textiles as we can in the industry, which textile is the number two most polluting industry in the world and it emits 10% of all CO2 emissions. So, as a direct-to-consumer brand, we're definitely making a dent here, but we're also starting to partner with other brands to use our materials to create categories of products that we probably would never make as a direct-to-consumer brand. So, we want to expand our environmental impact as much as we can with this dual-pronged strategy.
Adam Robinson: And how do you prioritize? This is like the question for the entrepreneur, right? I don't know much about your industry but I'm sitting here listening to you and the possibility, literally, seems infinite. For instance, you're teaming up with other brands. How do you even start? What brands? Who do you call there? Like, how do you prioritize what’s next?
Kat Dey: So, our direct-to-consumer is still the primary part of our business and there's just so much opportunity here within kind of our customer base. They're expecting certain things from us. They're giving us feedback in terms of what they really love and what they would like to see from Ettitude. So, we take that feedback and take that into account when we think about our product strategy. But from a B2B perspective, it's a nascent business and it all comes through introductions like we're literally just using our investors and our network to talk to the right people at organizations that have a big impact.
Adam Robinson: Cool. And then what is the emotion there? Is it like, oh, you meet so and so. They have headquarters in some other city. You have a phone call. It's like, "Well, let me send you some samples.”
Kat Dey: Exactly.
Phoebe Yu: Exactly.
Kat Dey: Some of it is. I mean, thank God for Zoom meetings nowadays. You can do so much virtually and so it's really how we've been doing that.
Adam Robinson: Right. Cool. How was the experience of living through COVID and how did it affect your business in like what was it like before, during, and after?
Phoebe Yu: It is a little bit of a rollercoaster. Yeah. I think when COVID hit, we're actually raising our seed round and we almost thought we will lose that round. Before, it's all great. We are fast growing and we had closing a seed round. Everything looks great. And so, the COVID hit because it's not like it's bad for actually e-commerce, the whole business. After two months, people realize that March and April was scary times because nobody's investing. Everyone just stays out until to figure out what's going on here. So, same here but will we be able to stabilize the business? Still closed around and actually after May, the business exploded because the home sector is where people spent money during COVID. But that also create, again, like many other branches and not enough stock, and then the shipping is slow and expensive. But I think we navigated that. It's a very busy year. In 2021, still growing fast but kind of slow down a bit. And now, 2022, everyone is talking about recession. So, it has been an up-down journey but as an entrepreneur, yeah, it's kind of normal. There's always a new problem you need to solve. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Got it. So, were you still receiving products to give to people or were there like supply chain… Was there a story of a huge disaster during COVID or was it just like everything is going to be slower and we have to navigate this?
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. It's just a bit slow. No, it never totally stopped so we're lucky. But because of that experience, we are more diverse in our supply chain into different regions and more nearshore anyway. We want our supply chain to be more nearshore. So, there's multiple benefit of that that COVID just accelerated that movement. So, I think for us to learn about, okay, maybe this thing will hit again. So, how you are retooling your organization, your supply chain to what if some other pandemic hit again, you already learned from the first that a lot of sudden mistakes won't happen again. Yeah, it seems like that.
Adam Robinson: Right. And it's just like stay nimble. I mean, what types of things? I mean, I can guess, right? Like, we need to be able to function 100% on Zoom.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: We need to have, like you said, regionally diversified supply chain. So, you mentioned you raised a seed round. Before that when you were in Australia, were you just bootstrapping it?
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. It's totally bootstrapped.
Adam Robinson: What was the motivation for the fund raise?
Phoebe Yu: For growth because we grow fast. We need for more team members, for more stock, for more to invest into product development.
Adam Robinson: Got it. Are you fundraising now? Again, like some people are kind of always in like a motion of just….
Kat Dey: We will probably start a bit later. We'll probably do a Series A next round for more investment into research and development and expansion into different markets.
Adam Robinson: Are you poking investors right now or is it just like your head's down, grinding? My question is, have you observed? I mean, clearly, if you look at equity prices of things that were exciting, they're much lower. Have you sensed that there's like a reluctance to deploy capital?
Kat Dey: I think there is a concern right now. I think there's still recession concerns. Especially if you're a direct-to-consumer brand, it's really difficult right now. So, I would say it's not the best time. I think similar to when COVID was just starting, people are really concerned about the future and I think we're experiencing a similar concern right now where people are hesitant to write checks, especially in products companies. So, I think for us it's really focusing on our innovation right now. That's the main use of our time.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. These investors who put money in stuff like us, it's like they just want stories. They want this innovative thing that has some a little bit of proof but I think that's a really smart thing you're doing. What are you most excited about that you're working on like right this second?
Phoebe Yu: A totally new fabrication we're launching mid this year. So, we kind of feel very different to our current fabrication, which has been our bread and butter for a couple of years. So, definitely, I think that's very exciting. So, it's a full launch, including not just bedding and also there’s towels, and that's the same materials, also new material. It's also using innovative way. It's not just bamboo. It's blend with another sustainable fiber also a first to market. Nobody had done it that way before. So, that's very exciting on the product side.
Adam Robinson: Great.
Kat Dey: And I'm really excited on our impact report that we will be launching in a couple of months about last year and we'll be sharing incredible impact metrics from a sustainability perspective. So, everything in terms of water savings, the number of gallons that we've actually saved because we do save 99% of water versus cotton and CO2 emissions.
Adam Robinson: I mean it’s such a crazy stat.
Kat Dey: It is amazing. I mean, it's unbelievable. Before joining Ettitude, I never knew how bad cotton really is for the environment. It's actually the thirstiest and the dirtiest crop on earth. So, it takes up a lot of water to grow and also the conventional way of growing cotton is with a lot of pesticides and fertilizer. So, it's terrible for the land that it grows on. It completely depletes lands. It emits a lot of emissions from fertilizer that's being used. So, in general, it's not hard to save 99% of water versus cotton because it's just so thirsty. But bamboo is actually grown 100% on rainwater, the type of bamboo that we source. So, that's where the savings come from, but also from the fact that we recycle water in our process up to 200 times and that saves a significant chunk as well.
Adam Robinson: Wow. So, can we talk about some more impact type of things? What does it actually mean to be B Corp plus? I feel like I should know this and I don't.
Phoebe Yu: So, B Corp is kind of a standard, really. It's not just eco-friendly. It's also your social compliance, how you treat your workers, how you treat your customers. So, it's overall, how you treat your suppliers. So, it's environment and social impact together. It's very difficult to get. It took us 18 months but it's definitely worth it. I think it's not just diversification. Also, that's a framework they teach you how to be better, right? There's hundreds and hundreds of questions. You all have to get data and answer them. It's kind of to create a road map. Oh, this I'd get low points. Okay, That's an opportunity to improve going forward because they will recertify every three years so kind of how we keep improving to keep our scores get higher and higher. We would certify with a better high score, 102. Normal company only have 50 and to be in B Corp, you need 80 so it’s already difficult but we have like double the points of usual company out there would ever get. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: That's awesome. And so, this is just a designation? It's not like a legal structure?
Phoebe Yu: It is. We have to change like so we are like a B Corp kind of a structure. It's in our bylaw.
Adam Robinson: Got it. Where did you even find out about that? Like, how did you know? I mean, since you exist in this sort of impact world, it's like a...
Phoebe Yu: Yeah, I think so. But I think they also get more and more awareness and people recognize the B Corp knowing that is the highest standard, especially there are so many greenwash going on and it's not just like your environment, right? You have to care about other things or people. I think I more learned about it because I really admire what Patagonia is doing. So, they are a B Corp. I think the B Corp, they’re also supporting a lot, doing a lot of work with B Corp. So, I think that's how I know about it and really I was inspired to be a B Corp.
Kat Dey: And there's actually a growing movement of companies that are both B Corp and One Percent for the Planet. So, One Percent for the Planet is also a designation that says that you're committing to donate 1% of your sales to environmental nonprofits. And so, there is a growing community of companies that are both B Corp and One Percent for the Planet
Adam Robinson: Awesome. Something just popped into my head that I want to ask you. So, the thing that I think is one of the things I think is most interesting about Elon is he's like, “I'm going to make a car that's electric but it's going to be so much better than a normal car that people will have to use it.” I was just going to ask you, does that resonate with you? Is that where you started?
Kat Dey: Yeah.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. Exactly. Because I'm a consumer myself. Yeah, I want to be sustainable but not to suffer lifestyle for our less-performing product and cost more. But if you make a better-performing product on par of the price with the conventional product and also eco-friendly, this is a why not question, right? I think same like the Tesla story it's like, why not?
Kat Dey: Yeah. We really see Ettitude as the Tesla of sheets. Yeah. It's like a way better quality sheets and it's sustainable too.
Adam Robinson: I love that. Yeah. I always thought that organic milk caught on because the expiration date is like a month longer than normal milk.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Check it out sometime in the grocery store. Yeah, it's crazy. I mean, I'm just like not a milkshake guy. I just like splash some of it in my coffee, you know?
Phoebe Yu: Oh, yeah.
Adam Robinson: And so, I'm not going through but it was another one of these things where it's like I'm betting that one of the reasons why that movement for milk caught on is because it lasts so much longer. Another observation. Okay. More impact. What is the founder's pledge?
Phoebe Yu: So, the founder's pledge is that our founders kind of pledge a percentage of their future exit value. And then so the founder of the founder’s pledge is also a former investment people but he thinks, “Well, you don't know the exit. It's actually psychological. It’s easy to pledge a bigger percentage. But when they wait to maybe ten years later you get really big and you're already committed and that also goes to an environment-related fund.” So, like you don't know the exit. Oh, you would give a high percentage. Once you know how big is that, maybe, it's a lot of dollars. So, that's he sees. So, he starts his organization and, yeah, there's a lot of supporters like founders where we are still seed round or Series A don't know what's the future outcome but you’re already pre-committed. I'm committed to help the planet so, similarly, I will commit a certain percentage or sign a legal document. And they also help educate what type of more efficient charity you should donate to. The one we like, really, we have worked with Charity: Water. We really love them. It's like also use modern ways. I think technology helps make their money go a longer way.
So, they are also about how to give you the education or at that point already there's infrastructure to how to use those donation money the most efficient way and create the most impact. So, I quite like that, that sorts, instead of, oh, you just donate money and that's the end of story. But how is it used? Is it effective? So, they also talk about return on investment. It's not just because it's donation. The return on your investment is for impact. Give you $1 is actually $10 impact. You know, that's how they look at things. So, I really like that way of thinking. It's very unfamiliar. You set up traditional NGO type of run. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Amazing.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. That's their KPI. Yeah. You give me $1. I give you as much as impact you could see. So, yeah.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Incredible. Well, you two embody what I love about this customer base that we have now. It's like I feel like there is a common theme of people in this audience that makes it to successful Shopify stores where, A, they're so gifted because you're forced to deal with these three totally different businesses of like manufacturing and inventory management, supply chain management, and digital direct-to-consumer, you know, all of this marketing and everything. You just have to be an incredible person to do that. And then there's this overarching theme of most of them truly believe that they're improving the world. I mean, you obviously are. It's like every part of this is that story. I just think it's so great. The last company I had, the customer base, we were poaching customers from this company called Constant Contact. And they were just like main street flower shops barely making it or whatever. It was so different to build for them because, A, they were very un-technologically savvy and, B, they didn't have good enough businesses to where you could actually show them incremental that mattered.
So, where are you as a tech vendor? It’s like nowhere. So, I'm loving every day of my life because people like you are in it, basically. It's like these such incredible stories that I just love sharing with people. So, thank you for coming on and sharing the story of Ettitude. I mean, it's like so awesome that you're able to make such great things and be so much more environmentally friendly. So, thank you.
Kat Dey: Thank you. Yeah.
Phoebe Yu: Thank you.
Adam Robinson: So, I like wrapping it up with these two questions and I'll ask each of you. If you could write one thing on a billboard, what would it be? Phoebe first.
Phoebe Yu: I think we have the same thing and we have thought about it. That would be clean bamboo is not the bamboo you know.
Adam Robinson: And what do you mean by that?
Phoebe Yu: Because bamboo textile are out there for 20, 30 years but the old conventional way use toxic chemical to process it. So, they are the bamboo rayon viscose type. But organic bamboo use nontoxic chemical. I think that also piques consumers’ interests, “Oh, what do you mean it’s not the bamboo I know?” so that people will kind of go and check it out so kind of create curiosity for awareness.
Adam Robinson: Great. Kat?
Kat Dey: I was going to say the same thing.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Okay. And then the final five, where do you live both of you?
Kat Dey: We’re both in L.A.
Phoebe Yu: In Los Angeles.
Adam Robinson: Got it. And then family status? I know, Kat, you have kids.
Phoebe Yu: Yeah. My Australian husband moved to L.A. with me.
Adam Robinson: Perfect. What is your favorite book?
Phoebe Yu: Mine is Let My People Surfing, which is also written by the founder of Patagonia. I love that. It's like the dream like you can have a profitable business and people are happy. They’re actually efficient. You let them do what they love and they come back recharged and be more creative. It’s not about working longer hours. It’s about creativity and working better or work smarter. There's a lot of things you can use technology to do it these days as AI or whatever but the human need to do the high, the strategic, the creative work.
Adam Robinson: What about you, Kat?
Kat Dey: I was going to say a book I read recently is Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. So, it really talks about the history of our species, the Homo sapiens, and going from the Stone Age up to the 21st century, and also how we might evolve in the future. And I think we should all be aware of this history.
Adam Robinson: Perfect. Do you have someone you're following on social media that you think is remarkable and worth it?
Kat Dey: Yes, I really love The Garbage Queen. So, this amazing content creator talks about the positive environmental news and is a really great educator in terms of climate change, as well as all the cool things that are happening to combat climate change. And I think and I agree with her that we need to be focused on a very optimistic vision of our planet and that we can solve this. It just takes people's awareness and actually working on it.
Adam Robinson: Awesome.
Phoebe Yu: Well, I'm kind of really detox away from social media, but I follow Kat on Instagram where I can get a lot of information and Kat’s two beautiful daughters. They have their separate Instagram accounts. That's like look at those cute, cute babies. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Perfect. And then your favorite vacation you've ever been on?
Phoebe Yu: Oh, favorite vacation. A couple of years, I did a two-year trip in Taiwan. That was great. And recently I just came back from the Caribbean. That's also great but also learning how much damage after hurricanes. Kind of every year becomes bigger and bigger. That's climate change. Everywhere you go, you travel, you start to see the evidence and it's not like, “Oh yeah, it's something our children need to worry.” No. You had to worry now. It's there. It's taking human lives.
Kat Dey: My favorite and most recent one was going to Bali. It was my first time, and it's just so gorgeous. And, yeah, for me it was also a social media detox and, in some way, I was doing a lot of yoga and spending time with my best friends and my sister and that was really great.
Adam Robinson: Were you contemplating if you could move there?
Kat Dey: I did.
Adam Robinson: Did we talk about this?
Kat Dey: Yes. There are so many digital nomads there. It’s great. It’s a great place to live and work. It's fantastic.
Phoebe Yu: But can you also mention where you go snorkeling as we come up all the plastic bottles, right?
Kat Dey: Yeah. Unfortunately, there was some pollution there when you go snorkeling and they have amazing corals actually, which is great that it's still preserved but, yeah, they can't control the plastic pollution so that is a big problem.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. I remember I went to someplace in the northeast called Edi or Edo or something to scuba and I was uncertified but there was a shipwreck that was like 60 meters deep and you could go 60 meters deep if you're uncertified. I could not believe it. It was like the people who made The Little Mermaid must have seen what I saw that day because it was like this world of immense beauty underwater. I've never experienced anything like it. Like, the shipwreck framed everything up so well and it was on like a slope. It was just incredible. It really reminds you…
Kat Dey: Yeah. The ocean life is just so incredible.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. An experience like that reminds you of why this is so important. There is such beauty under there. Great. Thank you so much. Where can we learn about you, follow you, buy stuff from you, the whole thing?
Kat Dey: So, our website is the best place, www.Ettitude.com. So, to remember it, it's basically like attitude with an E because it's eco-attitude. And you can also follow us on Instagram, Ettitude Store.
Adam Robinson: Amazing. Kat, Phoebe, thank you so much.
Creating an eco-friendly product checks boxes for environmentally conscious consumers. But how do you do it in a way that doesn’t compromise your product?
In today’s episode, I sit down with Phoebe Yu and Kat Dey, the co-founders of Ettitude — a DTC bamboo bedding, bath and sleep essentials line that aims to become “the Tesla of bedsheets.”
Phoebe and Kat share their views on being eco-friendly while also offering a product consumers love using, why bamboo is more environmentally friendly than cotton, and how joining the Founders Pledge will continue to help the environment if they ever choose to exit Ettitude.
You’ll also hear tactics on using entrepreneurship as a creative outlet, how and when it makes sense to set up a B-corp and how Phoebe and Kat went from unique immigrant backgrounds to partnering to launch Ettitude.
Key Takeaways with Phoebe Yu & Kat Dey
- How Phoebe and Kat went from immigrant backgrounds to launching Ettitude.
- How entrepreneurship can serve as a creative outlet.
- Why Phoebe and Kat chose to start a business focused on bedsheets.
- How did Ettitude determine when it was time to expand their product line?
- Using customer feedback to align business strategy as a D2C company.
- The supply chain lessons that emerged from the COVID pandemic.
- The concerns around fundraising in a rocky economic climate.
- The eco-friendly data behind sourcing products from bamboo instead of cotton.
- The social and ecological dynamics of operating a B corp.
- How Ettitude envisions being the "Tesla of sheets."
- The Founders Pledge that requires companies to commit a percentage of their future exit value to help the environment.
Phoebe Yu & Kat Dey Inspiring Quotes
- “We really see Ettitude as the Tesla of sheets. It's a way better quality sheet and it's sustainable too.” – Kat Dey
- “What's interesting? What’s the new way to do things? What's a new place to explore? I guess that's entrepreneurship at heart.” – Phoebe Yu
- “A lot of overlay of the scientist's mind and artist's mind and entrepreneur's is science.” – Phoebe Yu
- “A great product just makes everything else easy.” – Adam Robinson
- “That is the biggest single language consumer market in the world — to make more impact.” – Phoebe Yu
- “Because I'm a consumer myself … I want to be sustainable, but not to suffer lifestyle for a less-performing product that costs more. But if you make a better-performing product on par of the price with the conventional product and is also eco-friendly, then this is a “why not” question, right? – Phoebe Yu
- “In general, it's not hard to save 99% of water versus cotton because (cotton) is just so thirsty. But bamboo is actually grown 100% on rainwater, the type of bamboo that we source. So, that's where the savings come from.” – Kat Dey
- Phoebe Yu on LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
- Kat Dey on LinkedIn | Instagram
- Try The World
- co (formerly AngelList)
- The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
- One Percent for the Planet
- Founders Pledge
- Charity: Water
- Constant Contact
- Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- The Garbage Queen