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A Retold Story: Textile Sustainability and Circular Economy - Retold Recycling | EP. #104

October 04, 2023 | Author: Andrew Maff


The textile industry has been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives, with brands turning to circular economy models for their supply chain solutions. On this 104th episode of The E-Comm Show, Andrew is with Amelia Trumble, CEO and Co-Founder of Retold Recycling to discuss the transformation of the textile industry and how Retold is redefining sustainability.

Join us for an insightful look into the world of environmental responsibility in fashion, circular economy models, and how Retold is helping households create a more sustainable future.

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Andrew Maff and Amelia Trumble 

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Amelia Trumble




Amelia Trumble  00:03

Our sole reason for being is recycling and I think that has a lot of like authenticity, authenticity and trust with our customer. Because that's what we do that we've become experts in this space


Andrew Maff  01:07

Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. I'm your host Andrew Maff. And today I'm joined by the amazing Amelia Trumble of Retold Recycling. Amelia, how are you doing right for good show?


Amelia Trumble  01:18

Yes, I'm great. Thank you. Great to be here.


Andrew Maff  01:21

Awesome. Super excited to have you on the show. We've done a handful episodes on the sustainability side, your model, obviously very different. So we're gonna dig into that. I will start us off with the usual I always say like, let's pretend no one knows who you are. And no one knows anything about retold. And if you wouldn't mind, just tell us a bit about yourself. And we'll take it from there.


Amelia Trumble  01:42

Yeah, for sure. So, as you said, my name is Amelia Trumble. I'm the CEO and one of the cofounders of Retold Recycling. My personal career background has always been in the digital space. My first role out of university was actually at a very small ecommerce startup. So I've always worked in digital predominantly in E comm. A large portion of my career I spent running ecommerce businesses for Estee Lauder. So I worked across a portfolio of six of their brands, looking after ecommerce globally. And then after my stint at Lauder, I left and quickly found myself consulting. And I sort of picked up that consulting work, but in parallel was having several conversations with a couple of my old colleagues from MAC cosmetics, which is one of the law brands that I worked on. And we're all you know, passionate about doing something better for the world, trying to think of what would be our own startup, like, what would we like to do? And it just so happened that out of dinner conversation between myself and one of my co founders, we landed on the concept of retold. So retold recycling is a male based, super convenient way to recycle clothing and textiles straight out of your home, your order bags from our website, we send them to you, everything comes pre labeled and postage paid. So basically, you just pop your unwanted items in the bag, seal it up, and then drop it off at the post office or your mailroom, whatever. So that's kind of how we started in terms of retold. We were obviously all marketing professionals. We knew nothing about recycling. So that's been a pretty wild ride. But um, yeah, so now we've been up and running, we launched in 2020. And sort of the most, you know, pivotal thing that's happened to the business over the last year is that we're actually on an episode of Shark Tank that aired earlier this year. Season 14 episode 14 If anyone wants to check it out. So that's really revolutionized our business in the last six months or so.


Andrew Maff  03:59

Nice. I am notoriously one of those people where like my wife will be like let's clean up the closet and stuff and I'll put it on trash bags and it will sit in my trunk. Yeah or weeks before I'm like oh yeah, I got to do that. So when I saw I did see the Shark Tank episode obviously and it was I was like oh thank god someone can fix this problem because there's so many times I'm gonna use my trunk and I'm like, I can't use it. So explain the model a little bit to me it's is it a subscription model? Is it just kind of an ordered as you need it like what's the preference there?


Amelia Trumble  04:34

Yeah, both. So you can buy bags ala carte, you can start off with just a solo bag, buy one try it out. Or our most popular sort of like ala carte bag package is a three pack so that'll get you like a decent closet cleanse. If you're moving house or you really going deep going for it. We also have a 10 pack. But if you're really loving the service, we also have a couple of subscription options. as well. So if you order a subscription, we'll send you three bags upfront for, you know, a good clean out, and then we send you an additional bag each quarter thereafter. So you can just keep on top of that recycling practice. Because really, we find that once people fall in love with retold, you know, it really does become habitual. And that's what we're all about is sort of educating customers to not contribute to landfill, and really get that sort of behavior happening in their home all the time.


Andrew Maff  05:29

Yeah, I would imagine you're trying to push most people into subscription, right?


Amelia Trumble  05:33

Yeah, definitely. We very much see sort of like a lifecycle journey of solo threesome subscription. Or sometimes we'll have customers who just be like, Okay, I'm moving and they're Googling like searching for a solution. They come in for 10 pack, and they're like, Yep, okay, I'm moving, can you? I'm gonna sign up, but can you change my address? You know, like, that kind of thing? So, yes, we're definitely pushing people to subscription. Because, you know, as I said, we really want that habitual recycling practice.


Andrew Maff  06:06

Yeah, is a majority of your marketing targeted just directly to the subscription? Or because, you know, it's kind of that single threesomes and subscription, do you start with the single and kind of put them down the lifecycle?


Amelia Trumble  06:18

Yeah, we generally offer up sort of all of the bags of salt solution, in general, because we're a mission driven business, I think, you know, there's two things that really hook our customer one is the convenience, the fact that we mail everything to you, it's all you know, pre post, you know, pre labeled and postage paid. You know, you don't even have to speak to someone, when you go to the post office, you just pull a lever, you know, thing down off the wall, then off you go. So convenience, but also our mission and trying to avoid contributing to textile based landfills. So the more we tell those stories, we honestly, we don't really care. You know, what bags you buy? First up, but we generally see the migration pattern is that people will pick up a subscription long term, which is great.


Andrew Maff  07:04

Where does it go? So once it gets to you, then what happens?


Amelia Trumble  07:08

Great question and actually doesn't come to us, which is important. To not have that overhead. And as I said, we, the three of us did not know anything about textile recycling, or any recycling for that matter. But we were very lucky, when we were scoping the model, because the convenience factor was so important to us, we really wanted to be able to find a partner that would be able to take our yellow bags just straight up as they are, we didn't want to have to aggregate them or sort them, we needed someone else to do that for us. And that proved to be very, very painful. That's not really how the industry works. A lot of companies are very focused on certain fabrication. So some companies will only take denim, and you'll see that with some brands, who will have a takeback program in store, it's like only jeans, for example. Or some of them will only take cotton. So we needed to find a partner who would take everything sorted, and then make sure nothing was going to landfill. And that took us about two years. So we worked out what we thought was the model, we had our branding, we had, you know, we'd gone deep or like what's our company ethos, and goals, like everything was pretty much there. And then you know, we were looking for a partner to do a beta with us. And it proved to be very challenging, and just pure coincidence, a conversation that happened through some of my consulting actually, I was introduced to a guy and it just so happened that he was the new CEO of a generations old sorting facility, but also thrift store network, so he could really see the future of what we were doing. They were very analog. You know, I said to him in our first conversation, like, honestly, I've Googled, like, I've gone down to like, you know, page 28 of Google trying to find results of a recycling partner, and you didn't show up and he's like, Well, that space fact that, you know, we're so offline. We're not there is like, but that's why I see the opportunity with you guys. Because all of you know, all your expertise is digital, you're gonna make this a day to day business. So it's a perfect marriage between his old school, but very established methodologies and supply chain and our sort of like front end marketing effectively. So to long winded answer to your question, where does it go? So it goes through our recycling partner and now we've expanded to other partners as well. But generally everything gets sorted around 40 to 50% of the contents of the bags will actually go to thrift stores and be resold and then the rest of the items generally are broken down either into rags or into a pulp which is called shoddy and then that is on sold and used by different companies. He's like I love you know, the use of like it's inside punching bags. As the padding, it can be insulation inside of homes that inside a car seats, part of the squishy floor or playground. So, and the great thing is there's more and more uses for the output from our supply chain. Generally, our output is still held here domestically, it doesn't really go offshore, which I think is important to a lot of customers. But yeah, so that's kind of our workflow. And that's how we keep items out of landfill.


Andrew Maff  10:34

It's so interesting, what a once they get the bag, they obviously open it up, they figure out if it's going to a thrift store, if it's getting donated something like that. What happens to the bag,


Amelia Trumble  10:46

the bag is all collected because our bags are biodegradable and compostable, trying to take the labels off, and then they're collected and composted.


Andrew Maff  10:56

Okay, gotcha. Because there was a part of me that was like, oh, man, are they sending the bags back to you, and you're just constantly reselling these bags, because that's genius. But you can also see that I kind of gets a little


Amelia Trumble  11:08

Yeah. Because they are compostable. They're actually made of cornstarch. So they're pretty thin. So I don't think we'd get a second trip around the USPS network out of them. But we did actually look at having reusable bags, much like a Rent the Runway or newly kind of bag like tough bag fabrication. But yeah, because we don't have anything coming back to us. It just didn't make sense for our workflow. So that's why we went for the compostable bags.


Andrew Maff  11:38

Okay, that makes sense. Now, I did see on your website, too, that you have other things outside of just the bags available? There's kind of like a staff selection of products. I think it was right, what what is that about?


Amelia Trumble  11:50

Yeah, so we have a little sustainable store. So we basically wanted to curate some like minded brat brands and cool products, because quite often our customers, we can be a little bit of a gateway into a more sustainable life for them. So we wanted to be able to offer some other products that we thought were cool, you know, from feel good brands and have them in the sustainable store. And we power that through canal. I'm not sure. Are you familiar with canal, it's an app that manages drop shipping, predominantly through Shopify. So we were great friends with everyone that canal. And, and yeah, so that's how we merge the products from all those other brands. We also have a rewards program. So for customers who do sign up for a subscription for every bag they send in, we unlock a reward in our rewards gallery. So that's basically a promo code for from some feel good brands. So we're always adding new brands to the gallery to reward our customers, you know, they can pick and choose different things each time. So that kind of offsets the cost of the subscription to be honest, if you can find stuff that you like on there, which is cool. So we have that as well.


Andrew Maff  13:04

Yeah, interesting. Thank you. You're obviously on Shark Tank. Let's let's go ahead and go through that. Every time we have someone on here who's from Shark Tank, I'm like, I'm sorry, I have to bring it up. So you're on the show. First, I'd love to hear how how was the whole experience? And then obviously, how did it work out for you at least so far after it aired? And where are you at with it now?


Amelia Trumble  13:26

Yeah, um, if you if we were doing this interview, like in the couple of days, after the taping, I probably would have a very different answer, because I was relatively traumatized. But now, having had some time, and also having seen the edit that was put together and aired, I feel a lot more comfortable with the experience. And obviously, then we have the amazing outcome of that we we did a deal with Mark Cuban. So that's now in place. We have some more funding, which is amazing. And Mark and his team are actually phenomenal. We communicate with them on a weekly basis minimum. And we've really been able to tap into a lot of their infrastructure, which has really helped our business but yeah, the taping itself was quite challenging. Like, you know, our businesses, you know, we're creating a new category here, basically. And, you know, I think there was a lot of discussion in the tank around should we be a nonprofit, we felt very strongly, obviously, we're a business we have full profit, but full purpose as well. And, you know, that was important to us. And so there was a lot of challenging conversations in the tank, you know, all of them want their airtime as well the sharks, so they're all talking over each other and you know, I'm like, can I you know, but yeah, like net net. It's been an absolutely amazing experience for our business. And you know, we're Really enjoying working with Mark and his team and you know, we can only see upside from here. You know, you've watched the episode, but if anyone listening watching sees the episode, you know, a large portion of what we talked about was our expansion into retail, and how do we bring, you know, our bags to the masses. And that's really what we're unlocking right now. So we're hoping that by the end of the calendar year, we will start having bags in stores. And, and really, that will help us sort of accelerate our awareness amongst the broader community and, you know, really take our business to another level. Wow.


Andrew Maff  15:39

So that actually segues me into what I was gonna ask you next anyway, because I know right, before we started, you had kind of mentioned that, you know, the brand is d to see right now. And I was like, okay, it was like, we're gonna touch on that. So the store side, the retail side, to me, that whole episode, I know, they were kind of like, back and forth on it, I thought was genius, I thought it made a ton of sense, because you're gonna, it seems to me like a very, very much like a last minute, like you grab it at the counter kind of thing. And you're like, oh, you know what, let me get one of these two. But like, what stores are you aiming for? Because I would imagine, it could be arguably anything,


Amelia Trumble  16:13

yes, arguably anything, and almost like, arguably like in many places across the store. So again, you know, so like, we created like an easy turnkey business here yet again, we're sort of innovating. Because we have created the category and you know, really sort of, you know, where it's going to be a lot of test and learn to be honest. So, you know, were trying to talk to big box retailers like Target and Walmart, we love the idea of eco grocery, we could be in gyms, where, you know, we already have, like, one of the major benefits of being on Shark Tank, to be honest, is the inbound approach from different companies and brands wanting to work with us. And, you know, one large sort of category that we've been able to unlock is hotel chains, and hospitality. So that's another opportunity and like hotel, like gift shops, or even in the rooms, you know, being able to buy a bag, like if you go on a, you know, a big trip, and you're buying things as you go and you're like to be honest, I don't really want to take these old things home, I'll just grab a bag and seal it up. And I can, you know, leave it in my room, they charge it to me, that kind of thing. So, to be honest, the list is endless. And you know, what we're working on is some different formats of like how we would sell the bags and store because we obviously need to communicate, you know so much about our business because it's relatively new. And and also, where does it live? Does it live with trash bags? Does it live in like, the home organization side of things where there's coat hangers and storage boxes? Does it live in clothing? Does it live in home wares, or like you said, you know, I love the idea of living like towards the front of the store with gift cards, and it's very grab and go. You know, I think about myself and my own use case, you know, I'm a mum, on a Saturday morning, I'm going to be like, right, this is the weekend, I'm gonna like smash all of the closets and do a huge clean out. I'm gonna run to target now get a three pack and kick it off, you know, and it just be so easy to kind of grab and go. So yeah, it's a very interesting time. And as someone who's spent the majority of their life working in E commerce, you know, obviously I worked in a lot of omni channel businesses, but really thinking about how to completely create that user experience in a store is very different to DTC. So I'm having a lot of fun with it, to be honest.


Andrew Maff  18:39

Yeah. It's because one of the things I was thinking about was like, Well, you could even just kind of turn into almost like a packaging company, because other DTC sellers who are big into like sustainability, if they're, you know, kind of going into that direction with their textiles, any kind of clothing brand or anything, they could just include your product along with it, or have it as like one of those little quick upsell guys. So I know you're I believe you're on Shopify, right? So you'd be able to connect through. Man, I dropped blank on it. It's the kind of like drop shipping they just figured out.


Amelia Trumble  19:19

Yes, so we can do that through canal actually. So the partner that I mentioned before that does a sustainable store. It also works just like other brands can sell our bags. Exactly. We love the add on at checkout. We also have a couple of brands that are live now and then some more coming where we've actually created a white label bag for their customers so they sell their own white label bag powered by retold on their site. Yeah, there's a multitude of ways we have companies coming towards me like great what you're doing with textiles. Can we work together on batteries and old phones and like, you know, we've sort of the list is endless in terms of what we can tackle. Oh,


Andrew Maff  20:00

yeah, it's one of those things where like you, you have so much opportunity that you have to really be careful about which road you go down because you can't be everything to everyone. And that that could become, that can end up really killing you down the line. Yeah,


Amelia Trumble  20:17

totally, I think in terms of our own thought process, and what we've ideated on a lot with Mark, to be honest, is really owning that textile recycling space first, because, you know, we, we have a point of difference. There are some other bag, you know, services out there, but they're all attached to other brands. Like, for example, thredUP has a bag, a tight back bag, but that is part of their broader ecosystem, our sole reason for being is recycling. And I think that has a lot of like authenticity, authenticity and trust with our customer. Because that's what we do that we've become experts in this space. So we really want to own you know, textiles and clothing. And then the idea is probably to be honest, to expand internationally, and keep, like growing in that way.


Andrew Maff  21:07

That was the other thing, I was thinking too. Because if you start to go into stuff outside of textiles, you and you start to do that, oh, we can be everything to everyone kind of thing. You also run that risk of you get a lot of knockoffs of other people who were just like, oh, we can find someone who will start to do this stuff for us. And then all of a sudden, you got all this competition, it becomes really complicated. When the episode aired, how did things go? Like that day? Or over the next couple of days? Was it a big explosion, or did it just kind of ease in,


Amelia Trumble  21:37

um, it was not a big, big explosion, but a bit of an explosion for us, which was good, it was actually probably the perfect size of a response in that we had our biggest day ever for the day of the airing. And then the next day when the episode was released on Hulu, but not so out of control that our team couldn't handle it from a customer service and fulfillment perspective, because we we have, you know, our own team actually fulfills all of our orders, we don't have an external three PL or anything like that. So it was great in that respect. We had like, you know, by far the biggest traffic day we've ever had crazy, crazy traffic levels, you know, great email, opt in sort of like all of the Econ nerds, you know, KPIs that I'm looking at. But you know, it from a sales perspective, you know, it was really solid. And the great thing is like, we haven't really sort of like how to sit down dip from that point, we've been able to plateau, and then organically grow off the back of the audience. But as I said, what's really been an influx, and we've kind of, you know, drinking from a firehose a little bit is sort of all of the corporate inbound opportunities for bulk recycling deals for the bag programs for even just eventing and staff education. You know, there's been a lot of things we've been approached to do. And our attitude is kind of like, Yep, let's try and work it out. Because again, it's all about getting that education and awareness out there, around diverting things from landfills. So however, we can do that, we're definitely going to try. So that's what we've had our skates on doing over the last few months.


Andrew Maff  23:18

Pretty cool. Yeah, definitely an awesome idea. Amelia, thank you so much for being on the show. Really appreciate having you on here. I would love to give you an opportunity. Let everyone know where they can find out more about you and of course more about retail.


Amelia Trumble  23:31

Yeah, for sure. Our website is obviously retoldrecycling.com We're on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, all @RetoldRecycling. Jump on there's promo code for new customers who sign up for emails so you can jump into our bags and give it a go and start your recycling practice from home. So thanks for having me.


Andrew Maff  23:54

Appreciate you having joining us. I'll get it it'll come out to you every morning tune in per usual rate review subscribe on whatever podcast platform you want or head over to theeccomshow.com to check out our previous episodes but as usual, thank you all for joining us and we will see you all next time.


Narrator  24:14

Thank you for tuning in to The E-Comm Show head over to ecommshow.com to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or on the BlueTuskr YouTube channel. The E-Comm Show is brought to you by BlueTuskr, a full service digital marketing companies specifically for  e-commerce sellers looking to accelerate their growth. Go to bluetuskr.com Now for more information. Make sure to tune in next week for another amazing episode of The E-Comm Show.































































































































































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