We had the good fortune of connecting with Dinesh Tadepalli and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dinesh, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
As young parents, we wanted to preserve a cleaner environment for our children. That’s the seed of our entrepreneurship. We love being outdoors and were aware of the harms plastic pollution is causing this Planet and with deep passion, we committed to making a change we wanted to see. I used my paternity leave in search of a best alternative to single use plastic and met few innovative fellow entrepreneurs, and in that journey met our manufacturing partner Kruvil Patel from India. After selling my home in the US, we used our proceeds to build the facility and further improve the production capabilities that led to introducing our first edible spoons on Feb of 2019.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We noticed the existing “greenwashed” compostable cutlery in the market and were upset that only 9% of them actually get composted correctly. (Due to the lack of composting facilities, sorting and discipline). Imagine this, we go to an ice cream/dessert shop and spend 15-20 minutes enjoying our ice cream, but we we hardly think the foot print we leave due to such small action of ours. (The spoon we used for eating, ends up in landfill for hundreds of years). A sincere request to the readers to pause a moment, think before their actions – if they are leading to the degradation of our only livable Planet. Our sincere request to reduce and reuse, and if single-use is a must then opt for an edible cutlery. Hence we dedicated our time and efforts to invent machinery that can manufacture edible cutlery at scale. We are self-funded, bootstrapped and now scaled to make up to 40,000 spoons per day. Our edible cutlery (starting with spoons) are vegan, made with non-gmo grains and come in two shapes and fun flavors. They are sturdy enough to eat your hot soup for up to 30 minutes and up to 50 minutes in cold desserts! Some of our favorite combinations, eating tomato soup with our oregano chili spoon and finishing off a chocolate ice cream with vanilla spoon. Prior to covid-19, we had good traction with small, medium and large ice cream chains and few restaurants (for take outs). A large premium ice cream brand in the US, has done a successful trial and was planning to expand to the rest of the scoop shops. At the onset of covid-19, our B2B traction was stalled and we pivoted to B2C segments, designed our own packaging (thanks to my cousin, Karthik – an awesome graphic designer) and went live on Amazon and website last quarter of 2020. The biggest challenge was cost of our product. Our spoons being an edible item made with best of non-gmo grains, it’s hard to match the cost of super cheap plastics. We came over this problem, by having very small margins (the entire team works second jobs and don’t take any salary from this venture) and requesting our customers to sell their end users for a topping cost. This worked well, but our goal is to request customers to provide these edible cutlery by default. 88% of consumers are looking for a brand that can help them make a difference. And each incrEDIBLE spoon eaten contributes to 4x impact – less plastic, more trees (we offset our freight emissions), animal welfare (upcycled factory leftovers to feed stray animals) and social justice (providing full time employment opportunities at our factory in India) Did you EAT your SPOON today? PS: Spoons are just the beginning – Edible straws, edible sporks will be introduced by Q3 of 2021.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d take my friend out for a morning hike (with an ocean view), visit a donut shop at a local family owned shop for breakfast and go for a drive to the golden gate bridge. Have lunch at a cuisine that he never experienced, (vegan sushi, vegan ethiopian) and head back home for spending quality family and TV time. Next few days, go for some adventure like kayaking, have fun at an escape room or just chit-chat on long drives through national parks. In my view, I love outdoors, not the city kind but the national park kind. My favorite place in the US is Alaska with it’s serene terrain and glaciers. And I’m a huge fan of reading about ancient hindu mythology and how our ancients used to think and act.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I’d like to thank my wife and co-founder Sudheshna for accepting to sell our home for this impact startup we worked on. And the brains behind the product R&D – Krvuil Patel our manufacturing partner with his background in mechanical engineering. In the US, I’d like to thank my director of sales, Jack Kneubuhl for being and working super hard with us without any monetary expectations. And all the credit goes to our initial customers that believed in us and and our product, thus helping us to replace 1 Million single use plastic spoons in less than 2 years. Finally, we dedicate our product to our planet for its patience and perseverance!
Max Milla, Janani Rakesh