07 Taking on Single-Use Plastics and Takeout Waste with Suppli’s Megan Takeda-Tully
In today’s episode, we chat with Megan Takeda-Tully, from Suppli and learn about how she’s taking on the challenge of takeout waste. We learn what the costs of our single-use plastic and convenience obsessed culture really are, How viewing a documentary during a team meeting led Megan from boardroom to bicycle – collecting last night’s stainless steel takeout containers across Toronto’s east end, How Suppli bridges the gap between the local restaurants and the zero-waste crowd, and why she thinks that converting to reusable food service containers makes just as much sense economically, as it does environmentally.
If you want to learn more about Megan and her mission to make single-use takeout containers a thing of the past. visit https://www.mysuppli.ca/ In Toronto? Sign-up takes 2 min, and the list of restaurant partners is growing every day. You can follow along with Megan and help tackle takeout waste, and support your local restaurant while living zero-waste on Facebook or Instagram .
Links from this episode:
Poma Rosa – the Best Latin American Restaurant in Toronto
Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax
Why carrying your own fork and spoon helps solve the plastic crisis – National Geographic Magazine
Fast food increases exposure to a ‘forever chemical’ called PFAS – National Geographic Magazine
Eat your food, and the package too – National Geographic Magazine
‘So much waste’: How can we cut down on food-delivery plastic? – TVO
The fight against single-use plastics has been sidelined by COVID-19 — but activists aren’t giving up – CBC
6 ways to do takeout — without the waste – CBC
Canada one-step closer to zero plastic waste by 2030 – Environment and Climate Change Canada
Post-pandemic, nearly half of Canadians intend to order food online weekly – Canadian Grocer
About the Host
I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother. I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.
You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city. I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.
Jennifer Chua: Hello, everyone. And welcome. You’re listening to Cost of Goods Sold with Jennifer Myers Chua episode 07
In today’s episode, we chat with Megan Takeda-Tully from Suppli and learn how she’s taking on the challenge of takeout waste. We learn what the cost of our single use plastic and convenience obsessed culture really are. How viewing a documentary during a team meeting led Megan from boardroom to bicycle collecting last night’s stainless steel takeout containers across Toronto’s East End, how Suppli bridges the gap between the local restaurants and the zero waste crowd. And why she thinks that converting to reusable food service containers makes just as much sense economically as it does environmentally.
A couple of weeks ago, I learned about Suppli from the owner of my favorite local restaurant. Poma Rosa. It’s family owned. They serve up Venezuelan eats coffee based treats, usually with their preschooler in tow. It’s the kind of place that we are all eager to support after record long lockdowns. Immediately after learning about Megan’s business, I was struck by the genius of the idea.
It’s easy at first to see how Suppli supports environmental initiatives, but I didn’t consider the impact on the city’s budget for waste management. And I certainly didn’t understand at first all of the benefits for the consumers or for the restaurants offering Suppli. Not surprisingly during these lockdowns, we’ve become even more dependent on single use plastic throughout the pandemic.
Some stats suggest that it’s increased by 250 to 300%. Masks and gloves have played a huge part of course, but more so we’re living in an increasingly convenience obsessed world. And the cost of this convenience is a considerable increase in packaging.
Between fast food delivery, apps, and meal kits, 4.2 million more Canadians are ordering food online. This is up from the pre pandemic average with 45% of Canadians using these services weekly over the last year. And the dramatic increase is for a number of reasons. Staying safe at home, supporting our local restaurants, mandatory self isolations. Of course.
And the overwhelm that has come from trying to work from home deal with zoom overload, pandemic, stress, and homeschool. Life in COVID times , many more of us just don’t have the energy to prepare a meal of the end of the day.
It’s worth noting that pre pandemic, Canadians were already throwing away 3 million tons of plastic waste with only 9% being recycled. And the majority of takeout containers are still made of styrofoam and black plastic, which are non-recyclable in most parts of Canada,most ending up in landfills, along with billions of plastic utensils and about 29,000 tons of plastic food waste end up in our natural environment.
Upping the recycling programs? It’s more productive to look into solutions to reduce waste rather than relying on recycling because it won’t solve our issue either. Recycling requires a lot of energy, water and transportation. Down cycled plastics are shredded, melted, and turned into other goods, but those also eventually just end up in landfill. And plastics are made from oil, natural gas non-renewable resources.
And if all of this impact on the environment, isn’t enough to make us reconsider our takeout habits, national geographic magazine reports that takeout packaging increases exposure to forever chemicals called PFAS. These long lasting chemicals can seep into food and build up in our bodies. They make packaging resistant to water and grease, which makes them the perfect choice for disposable takeout and fast food packaging.
A study conducted on 400 types of food wrappers and containers found that half contain these forever chemicals. And they were found in the blood of 70% of the survey participants. They also leach into groundwater and go straight into our drinking water systems.
I have all these statistics and resources collected with more of this information available on our website and in the show notes. They’re really worth a read.
I definitely feel some guilt when I unwrap my lunch to go. And a decade ago, back when I was in the corporate world, I fought hard for compostable containers at the salad bar, thinking that compostable was the answer. And my friend, Arron, from episode 04? He would dutifully bring along glass Tupperware to every lunch out, ordering his food for dine-in and packing it up himself for the trip back to the office.
I didn’t really consider the enormousness of the situation or the full impact of my choices. And certainly other than lugging my reasonable travel mug with me, I did nothing to make change in this area. And now when things are really busy, I often won’t think twice about some takeout here and there. Even if I am contributing to the problem.
But there is hope. Entrepreneurs like Megan are developing innovative products and services to solve some of the issues surrounding waste with solutions designed to protect the environment from plastic pollution. And our cities are taking note. Vancouver and Toronto both say that reducing single use plastics is a priority and they’re taking steps to improve how we manage plastic waste and investing in these solutions. Vancouver jumped on board these initiatives after reporting that currently, disposable food and beverage containers and plastic utensils are making up nearly half of the garbage they collect from public bins. Megan points out that reducing takeout waste is advantageous financially to our cities, too. We can reduce waste through more circular economy. We can reduce 1.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year. And we can create approximately 42,000 jobs across the country. And that is food for thought.
Megan grew up in Toronto. She spent a lot of time outside in the urban environment as a child. Seeing garbage littering the streets. I mean, it’s part of city life. But Megan remembers noticing it. And on trips up to cottage country, she’d be collecting litter and cleaning up her environment. Cause she’s a clean and organized person. She’s modeling this to her two young children, and she’s happy to see that they followed in her footsteps.
Megan Takeda-Tully: growing up in Toronto, obviously we’re better than other cities, but we, we have our challenges with waste. And when you, walk or walk along a waterway or visit a campground and there’s garbage on the ground, that’s, it’s never nice to see.
Jennifer Chua: Megan also benefited from seeing behaviors modeled by the adults in her life. She played competitive sports growing up. And feels really lucky to have had such great mentors. And now as an adult herself, Megan is a confident, positive person and she surrounds herself with people that support her vision for the future.
Megan Takeda-Tully: I’ve always preferred to take the path less traveled, it’s more challenging, to me it’s more rewarding as well. And I think you can really push, push expectations and all that sort of thing. And I think, growing up and even now, I’ve always surrounded myself I think with people that are willing to support my dream versus those that just sorta knock you down. And not that I haven’t come across those, but I probably don’t look for follow up conversations with those individuals. I think, I think those are big pieces and I think also working with entrepreneurs and seeing what they are doing and, obviously the missions behind what they’re working on, but also the ability to scale something and grow something that’s really, truly impactful. I think, that’s very inspiring for me.
Jennifer Chua: Megan has a background in traditional finance. That’s what she went to university for and where she spent the majority of her working life. But what’s interesting is how her career has progressed. Megan started out with a big bank, a public entity. Moved to a privately-owned larger company and then to a smaller nonprofit. Impact investing, working with entrepreneurs.
Over time, Megan began to really try to align her values with her work and it was becoming more and more clear that she wanted to create change with a business of her own.
Megan Takeda-Tully: My, last role was working with innovators, entrepreneurs all over the world to help build out business models to tackle social challenges, the sustainable, scalable business models to tackle social challenges. I needed myself to be running the business, building it out, and that’s where I have so much passion. Instead of being on the investor side, I’m obviously now on the entrepreneur side. And I find it just so energizing and rewarding.
Jennifer Chua: Megan is motivated by waste. The excess and unnecessary waste. One day back when she was working in the financial sector, one of her directors called a team meeting. Megan can recall why she’s sure it was related to a challenge that they were facing at the time. Her director wanted to show the team a short documentary. He was from India and the documentary he showed Megan and her colleagues was about the Tiffin lunchbox system. It’s an incredibly complicated system of delivering hot and home cooked meals to workers in offices around urban centers. It’s efficient, seemingly impossible. And those delivering the Tiffins make very little mistakes. It’s . Inspiring.
Megan Takeda-Tully: The documentary he showed us was about the Tiffin lunchbox system in India. And I’m pretty sure there was some other message or reason that he showed it to us that was related to my job at the time. But what I took away from it was, wow, this is an incredible system. Look at what they have in place using stainless steel containers and obviously a lot of logistics management, but to be able to serve meals in reusable containers. From then on basically take out was ruined for me with single use containers. So like it’s so preventable. It’s so unnecessary. So we should have something like this and this was, seven plus years ago. So you know, this concept was something that’s been kicking around in my mind for a long time. But I’d say that was like a big that stuck with me for years and years. And the concept of Suppli was, is inspired by tiffin.
Jennifer Chua: The seed had been planted a long time ago with the discovery of the tiffin and their system, but what’s the story about actually coming up with the idea and then moving this idea into an actual business.
Megan Takeda-Tully: I always laugh when I tell this story, we have a close group of friends that we sit around dinner with, or we used to pre COVID. And we we’d pitch, different ideas to each other, so usually it just sort of casually. But there are a couple of sort of entrepreneurs in the group. And this was like six plus years ago. I pitched this idea for a reusable takeout container service. And they hated it. Like they thought it was a terrible idea. They’re like, well, I just don’t see how it’ll work. And they were like, wow, i like the black plastic. Cause then if I lose it, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t necessarily agree with them, but I understood that perhaps the market wasn’t ready. And then I was hanging out with the same group a couple of years ago, and the same people were complaining about a bunch of the single use packaging that they got from some of these meal delivery kits and juice kids and all this, all these, and I was laughing inside because I was like, okay, well the market seems ready for this now.
And so. I had just had my son, my second child. Not that I didn’t have enough to do already with two kids, but I had a bit of a break from my job. And so, I’m a person that kind of as a hobby, my mind’s always running. And so I thought, you know what, like, I’m just going to kick the tires on this because I would really feel complacent. I sort of had a view to how this might be set up and I think I’d feel complacent if, no one had solved it yet and I had a bit of an idea of how it might work. So I started kicking the tires on it and kind of one thing led to another. And here we are today.
Jennifer Chua: That’s really funny that you went back to the same people though, and they finally had the, like, they sparked the aha moment that you had.
Megan Takeda-Tully: Yeah.
Jennifer Chua: When you began to explore take out food waste a little bit more, did you find anything surprising?
Megan Takeda-Tully: It was interesting. When I spoke with restaurants, I think a lot of people assume that because restaurants are using single use containers that. They don’t care about the environment and that that’s not a priority for them. The reality is, is that the restaurant business is so cost sensitive. It’s such a low margin business. Despite wanting to do what they can for the environment, sometimes even the more environmentally friendly single use option. They’re too expensive for some of these restaurants. Right. And if it’s between like surviving or not, then they kind of have to survive. But if there’s an alternative that works with them as Suppli aims to do and really partner and understand what their pain points are and try and solve those in a way that’s cost-effective for them and really that we have buy-in from them on the model. I thinkthere’s a lot to be gained there.
And so that’s one thing I learned. A how really truly sensitive restaurants are to cost, but B would be that, I like some other consumers thought, I don’t know if restaurants are really super passionate about the environment. But I can tell you from firsthand experience, they are like, we have restaurants that unprompted go out and pitch other restaurants on this. Cause they’re like, this is the way of the future. You need to be on board, look at the damage we’re doing to our environment otherwise. So that was, I mean, that was a nice learning from my initial conversations as I was kind of, exploring the,idea and the concept.
Jennifer Chua: COVID times everyone’s dying to support their local restaurants. We’ve had these takeout Tuesday initiatives,and everyone is rallying behind the local takeout, places in their neighborhoods. Right. And even if they’re offering the quote more environmentally friendly options, what are the costs associated with our, take out obsession.
Megan Takeda-Tully: I’m not trying to ruin take out for those that are still using single use containers, but things to consider. So, in terms of the, even the eco-friendly containers the fiber-based stuff at the end of the day, it has to go into the garbage, the landfill bin. Right. And most of them break down over time, probably better than plastic. But the challenge is that when it ends up in our landfills, it ends up breaking down without oxygen, the presence of oxygen, which means that it can actually give off greenhouse gases when it does so. Which is, is the same problem we face with food waste, right? When it ends up in landfill or it isn’t actually properly composted, it gives off greenhouse gas emissions. So that’s a big challenge with those kinds of fiber based single use. And the other piece on the eco-friendly kind of plastic equivalents that are bio-plastics or whatever, those can’t be recycled and then same challenge. They usually end up in the landfill breaking down. Or not in a similar way. That’s kind of the, the challenge with some of the more eco-friendly products, I guess, but taking it up to just like a really high level. So by 2023, the global takeout industry is expected to reach $150 billion.
That’s huge. But if you do like back of the napkin math on that, we’re looking at. Enough packaging, single use packaging from takeout that would stack 15,000 times higher than now to Everest every year. So it’s huge. Right. And this like many other things, if we don’t come up with a solution, we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot from an environmental perspective. Like it’s just not sustainable.
I love that you touched on the economic perspective in terms of supporting local businesses, because that’s the other piece that I think people don’t tie as much in terms of like the impacts, but I think the number of messages we’ve gotten from, or we’ve received from consumers saying, thank you so much for creating this, I really, really want to support my local businesses And local restaurants, but I honestly, I had to either significantly reduce or stop ordering takeout because. I couldn’t deal with the guilt from all the packaging. I mean, that happens if not everyday, every other day, we received messages like that.
And so if we’re able to bring those people back into market and. Be able to support their local restaurants. There’s really important economic implications for our small local businesses. And so, I love that you brought that up and that’s something I like to highlight too, because it, it makes a difference for our communities. When we think about things on a small scale, too.
Jennifer Chua: A lot of these restaurants won’t accept, your takeout containers from home or your glass containers that you’ve brought in and that’s completely understandable, especially in times of COVID that they don’t want to give that risk to their employees or whatnot. Can you explain a little bit about what Suppli actually is?
Megan Takeda-Tully: The Suppli containers that we use are stainless steel basis with silicone lids. And so the options you’ll usually see are either like a more robust plastic or stainless steel, and you can get double-walled or single walled stainless steel. We have single walled, A because it’s cheaper B it’s more environmentally friendly and it’s lighter to transport, which obviously has environmental impacts as well. And, the reason for choosing that stainless steel is really kind of like best in class for cleanliness. It’s the easiest to clean. It goes through the industrial dishwasher really nicely. It also can be 100% recycled at end of life. If you use plastic, it’s well, A not as durable, but B yes while it can be recycled. I, even if you’re taking it back to recycle it, it can’t be recycled for food use. Like you can’t recycle it into another takeout container. Right. You have to have Virgin materials for that. I kind of asked myself, you know, do I want to be producing a whole bunch more plastic? At the end of the day, microplastics are the result anyways. I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. And so stainless steel allows us to a hundred percent recycle indefinitely. So that was a big, big draw for that. And and then the silicone lids they can’t be 100% recycled. They get downcycled, but to me, they’re a friendly, friendlier materialthan plastics because they don’t break down into such small particles. So there are other sort of considerations and that could geek out on lots of container stuff, but that’s that’s kind of like the the quick and dirty on the containers.
Jennifer Chua: So if every household in Toronto ordered takeout and they were using Suppli containers, say once a week, instead of single use plastics, What kind of impact do you think that would have on the environment? Like how many takeout containers are we talking?
Megan Takeda-Tully: We have another quick and dirty estimate. So in Toronto, numbers estimate that there’s around 39 million takeout meals every year. Okay. So 39 million takeout meals, and maybe you have an average of, we use an average of three containers per meal, but to be honest, like there are probably more containers, especially when you think about the little condiment containers and everything.
So if you think about that, the majority of that heading to landfills, we only really recycle 9% of the materials, it’s a lot of wish cycling, unfortunately. And so think about that all ending up in landfills. I mean, that’s a massive amount of garbage. And so, it’s in the interest of the city to, from a waste management perspective.
I mean, we’re essentially freeing up pieces of their balance sheet. uh, For us, I think it’s working with the different groups in the ecosystem to understand the benefits from a sustainability perspective and an economic perspective, to be able to, serve more than more than the share that we’re doing now that 39 million. Right. So I think we can start to move the needle, even if we’re at, 2%, 4% and grow ourselves up – our target is really to, to hit that 39 million.
Jennifer Chua: If I’m a small business owner, so I’m a restaurant owner and I want to partner with Suppli. How does that work?
Megan Takeda-Tully: So right now it’s, it’s pretty simple. We essentially stock you with containers. You add a menu item to your point of sale machine and any other online order platform that you’d like to offer it through. Right now we charge aflat fee of 99 cents per order. And and then you just report the orders to us on a daily basis. We’re actually streamlining pieces of this. So, thinking out to the future, there’s some work we’re doing over the next couple months to sort of streamline and build out the digital and physical infrastructure to be able to move this. City-wide and then kind of beyond that in the next couple of years as well.
Jennifer Chua: And for the takeout consumer, how do they interact with Suppli? How does that work on their end?
Megan Takeda-Tully: So consumers just go to our website to create a free account. It takes about honestly, 15 to 20 seconds, and then they can go ahead and order from any one of our partner restaurants. If they’re ordering online, they add Suppli containers, menu item to their cart, the same way they would add any other item and they just leave their phone number in the notes section.
They get their food packaging, Suppli containers. And then we ask people to rinse andreturn to one of our local drop-off points in a week. So those are listed on our website, but we’ve tried to make them pretty accessible. And you’ll see them in our, some of our partner restaurants, as well as mission aligned, coffee shops and grocers.
Jennifer Chua: In terms of sanitization, what steps are you taking with these reusable takeout containers to make sure that they’re clean and safe.
Megan Takeda-Tully: The cleaning and sanitization process for. Dinnerware, dishware, all that sort of stuff in the food industry is pretty standardized. So we use an industrial dishwasher. It goes through kind of the same, they’re all Ecolab certified. They go through the same cleaning and sanitization cycles.
Pretty much any industrial dishwasher you’ll see on the market. You have to have a certain mix of chemicals. It has to get up to 180 degrees to, to make sure everything is sanitized. And and then they’re kind of ready to go and we have spot our process has spot checking as well. But yeah, it’s, it’s people have asked People have asked whether what we’ve changed to ensure that, in the time of COVID that everything is properly cleaned and sanitized.
And I tell them like, not a whole lot in the process, because it was already pretty robust. Like it’s we’re not, we’re not doing anything differently. Like no one wanted cold germs on their, stuff before or any other germs. So the process was designed to kill those germs and make sure they weren’t present.
So, yeah, I, I think, I think it’s just being really transparent about these pieces and how the process works. No one’s ever been so interested in dishwashing as they have been now. So just making sure that we’re offering that proactively and to be honest, that that really hasn’t been it hasn’t been like a massive concern for people, at least that we’ve heard from.
Jennifer Chua: When you finally took the leap and started this business, was there any moment where you just looked around and said, I can’t believe it, but this is going to take off.
Megan Takeda-Tully: When we did our soft launch, we launched in just two postal codes with four restaurants and I was watching our consumer sign-ups after I’d put out a few teasers to some Facebook groups and whatever. And I remember being so excited when we hit like the hundred Mark for consumer accounts and And I think, some of that was great to see, obviously in the first few months that people were actually ordering and we worked through some of the kinks and that sort of thing.
And then in January of last year, we launched more broadly, like basically opened it up to everyone with obviously still a focus in the East end and our order volume continued to go up and does continue to go up. Which yeah, to me is like, I constantly see it going up and up, which is amazing. We started to have restaurants reaching out to us. So a lot of inbound requests, which also was amazing. I got requests from other countries all over the world to bring this to, to their cities and that sort of thing, which obviously we’re not quite ready for that yet, but that’s the intent.
At the beginning of 2021, when we started to see people really post about it and convey the same things that we felt when we were starting this up, for example, like, thank you so much for starting this up because. I couldn’t deal with all the single use waste. I will now order take out again, the number of messages we got from that perspective was super, super validating. And then obviously watching the number of orders and the number of signups tick up along with that was was great.
Jennifer Chua: The restaurants that were the early adopters. So the restaurants that signed on in the beginning, I’m just wondering what kind of restaurants were they? Were they like the small family owned business, or can you give me an idea of what kind of restaurants leaped on right away?
Megan Takeda-Tully: You know what it’s such a variety and I will say too upfront, like I just, I love our restaurant partners. They are so awesome and supportive. I’ll talk about the first five. There wasa high volume takeout, Japanese style fried chicken spot. And then there was anowner run. I guess it’s like friends and family run. Indian restaurant, and then we had a small local Ethiopian food shop and then a caterer middle East caterer and then our fifth partner was the largest caterer across Toronto and maybe in the country. So we’ve actually had quite a mixture, I would say more so, closer to the owners of smaller. Shops. And I think that has really been appreciated by our consumers because they’d like to support the smaller, smaller businesses and those with a bit of a story behind them. And I think for us, it was really helpful because we got to interact directly with the owners, get their feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, so we can make shifts in our model to be able to accommodate and get the best product and service that we can out there to scale.
Jennifer Chua: So if you’re a retailer, you’re a small business that deals with any kind of consumable. I mean, really a lot of different people could interact with you and offer this kind of service. Right.
Megan Takeda-Tully: Yeah, I mean, we’ve had requests from caterers. That was definitely a, a big one. We’ve had conversations with food delivery services, prepared meal kids or the prepare yourself meal kits. Some of those groups I think. Yeah, I think all this is super exciting to think about and talk about, we try and stay focused to make sure we get, this one product service right before we, we get scaling kind of outwards. But I think there’s so much opportunity for impact in all these different areas that yeah, that gets us super excited on a, on a daily basis.
Jennifer Chua: Can you outline some more of the benefits to the restaurant or to the caterer to using your products? Is it only about reducing waste or is it about attracting new customers? What are more of the benefits we’re not thinking of?
Megan Takeda-Tully: Definitely the attraction of new customers. So what we basically aim to do when we speak with restaurants, we say, listen, we’re looking to try and keep your costs kind of where they are. But increase your revenue substantially. We come with a very loyal group of customers that want to order from restaurants that are in some cases, exclusively on our platform.
We’d say to them, so listen, just to be prepared in your first, the first second week of the launch, you’re going to be really busy. So we’re going to give you this many containers to start, but we’ll come back. We’ll kind of gauge the interest. We’ll come back and we’ll restock you, more frequently than, than usual, just, just in case. And we’ll check in with you. And they’re like, Yeah. yeah. Okay. Okay. No problem. Let’s get a couple of orders here and there. And every single restaurant, I swear, like, they’re like, Oh my gosh, we were really busy.
In some cases we’re driving thousands of dollars in extra revenue per month , for these restaurants. And they come to us and, I think about like the sushi restaurant we onboard and they’re like, what. We were really, really busy and these are all new customers and, they’ve ordered a number of times and like, we’ve done so much more business through this. I feel like they don’t believe us at first, but I think definitely the piece that we try and emphasize aside from obviously the sustainability component is, is the additional revenue we’re aiming to drive. What we really are conveying to restaurants is aside from the sustainability piece is that we’re looking to drive revenue to you, not just from other people that are looking to you. Instead of ordering from this other restaurant is people that actually weren’t ordering from any restaurants because they couldn’t deal with the packaging waste and they are now coming back into the market to help support local businesses like yours because you have this offering.
Jennifer Chua: Are you seeing people converting, like I’m assuming that the low waste crowd or the zero waste crowd are immediately interested in this concept, but are you seeing, people who are maybe only slightly sustainably minded starting to really be attracted to these ideas?
Megan Takeda-Tully: My, my biggest proxy for that is my friend group, to be honest. And there are some that are, are pretty sustainably minded and focused, and those that aren’t as much, like it’s just not a big focus for them. But I do see a bit of a shift in terms of those that are really getting interested in, honestly, asking me more questions about things that I never would have picture them as asking before. And to me that’s a really exciting shift in, in them, but also I think that’s representative more of the community in general, people are just becoming more aware of, what we. Consume the waste that we produce. And I think that that is something that’s really helping boy momentum from this. Once people try. Suppli , the feedback I’ve heard from users is that it’s going to be really hard for them to shift back to ordering from a restaurant that doesn’t have a reusable containers. Cause it’s just, it’s in the experience, right?
Jennifer Chua: When you were building this company, so within your journey, have you encountered any really big challenges?
Megan Takeda-Tully: Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s interesting. A lot of people say to me Oh, you started this during COVID, that’s such a great time to start this because everyone’s wanting to be more sustainable and I’m like, yeah, the awareness is good. It’s probably a little bit, more so than it would have been without COVID, but yeah. Running a business and starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic is really, really challenging. I think about things from Suppli chain to materials costs, to shipping costs, to even, cleaning and sanitization. One of our partners had to shut down for a while that did the cleaning and sanitization, we were scrambling around on the back end. Luckily we have amazing partners and caters that have. The facilities as well, but it, I’m glad that from the outside looking in, it looks relatively calm and smooth most of the time, but there’s so much related to COVID in general that has made things a little more challenging for us.
January of 2021. I think we were going to announce, I think it was on a Tuesday or something that we were announcing our expansion. So we are offering, the service to everyone across these, these restaurants and right before that my co-founder and I Juliana, we were kind of running through some numbers and thinking, okay, do we have enough containers to, to manage this? It should be okay. We feel comfortable cause we’ll just do a little bit more frequent washing, we were only doing once a week, so we’ll do a couple of times a week at our partner’s place. And that should be good. That was Sunday, I think, we were having that conversation. On the Monday, our partner called us. And they were like, I’m really sorry, but we haven’t really been operating, there’s no, there are no events and that sort of thing. So we’re actually going to shut down fully for the next several months. And we were like, Oh, great. Okay. So let’s get plan B into action. And so we scrambled to get these pieces into action, right? And then we thought, you know what? We’ve got the shipment of containers coming into support this next launch in a couple of weeks with more restaurants. And so that’ll be great. And then of course, everything is delayed shipping wise, so it was like four weeks delayed. And so we were just scrambling hard to make sure that our restaurants had enough inventory. And, at the same time, orders are ticking up. Number of customers are ticking up and we have the same number of containers and we’re trying to cycle stuff through. So that was, it was very busy. And I just thought, like, there was like constantly things stacking up on that to make it more and more challenging, but you? know what that’s, when you develop your best. Plan B plan C plan D and I think it makes your business actually more resilient to be, to have those pieces in place. There, there are constant examples of when you’re just like, Oh, come on. Like, nothing is simple here.
Jennifer Chua: Have you considered using Suppli at any point to facilitate any other social initiatives? I was just wondering if there was any ideas flickering in your head about any kind of giving back initiatives or getting kids involved or anything like that you wanted to speak to.
Megan Takeda-Tully: Something that I personally am very passionate about is, and have always been passionate about is youth programming and education. I think for Suppli, it’s not just providing the business, but I think there’s a lot of education needed. Not for, just for kids for, for honestly the, the entire community. And I’m still learning too. But in terms of, what really is the impact of our decisions what are our different options and really actually, what are the results of these different options in terms of environmental sustainability? And I really truly believe that we have to educate the younger population, our kids to be able to learn these.
I still remember as a kid, a campaign that made sure we, we turned off all our lights. This was in like grade school that we turned off all our lights that we turned off the taps when we weren’t using them. And there were these, things you could stick in your toilet, the toilet canister to make sure that it uses less water. Like, I remember all of that from grade school and I still like that. I always remember, I think, Oh, we need to turn off all the lights. And we teach our kids that, it’s wasteful to just leave the water running and we try and teach that. But, more of that. And I think it really, it sticks with people like kids are sponges, right?
And so if we’re helping educate them at young ages is to care about these things and to be involved in initiatives. I have so many different ideas and desires to involve the younger generation and, help them to create things that are looking to accomplish the same sorts of things. The educational component, I think I did do one talk actually with with a couple of classrooms at a school, just talking about entrepreneurship and, but also doing it with A values driven approach. And, again, to the point of, we need to help boy and support dreamers to action on things. And I think, the youth are the most energetic of our population and have so much to offer in that area that that’s definitely an area of passion for me. I just think if every child of ours was taught that the sky is the limit and it, that is actually true, I think we can make leaps and bounds in a much faster pace than we do now.
Jennifer Chua: So when you see these kids and you interact with them and you interact with the zero waste crowd and you interact with these enthusiastic business owners, are you hopeful for the future?
Megan Takeda-Tully: I’m so hopeful for the future? Yeah, I think, I just think there’s so much we can do, like every morning, I wake up energized because I just think there’s so much opportunity out there. And I think other people are really realizing it too, and no time Is better than the present to, to get moving on these things.
One of the other surprising pieces of of kind of building Suppli and everything that I hadn’t really counted on is is how much individuals care about this and want it to succeed? I think that now we’re building much more community and it’s not just, zero wasters, it’s, it’s a community that supports each other to help build this momentum. And I think that’s awesome. And it’s so, so refreshing and energizing and. That’s something that I really hadn’t anticipated, the willingness of our consumer base to give feedback and help us build this. Because that was my intention from the beginning. It’s a service and product service that is built from the grassroots up. And I think that’s the way to form these sorts of initiatives. And I think that sets you up well for building something that really tackles the issues that people are, are seeing.
Jennifer Chua: I think a lot of people think that in order to make an impact, they need to start huge or go for every single restaurant in Toronto. And I appreciate that you started with five, like that’s great. You’re making a huge impact with a small group, really in the beginning.
Megan Takeda-Tully: I think you, you just have to be able to see the bigger picture, right? The bigger vision, like, our goal is really to be weaving reusables into the fabric of the traditional takeout system. Right. So, and yes, we’re starting with four or five restaurants, but if you get it right, then you can grow it. If it doesn’t make sense to try and start so big.I think that’s obviously biased, but I think that’s the way you build these things out into big successful impact is that you have to be able to get it right on a small scale first.
If you want to learn more about Megan and her mission to make single use takeout containers a thing of the past, visit mysuppli.ca. In Toronto? Signup takes under two minutes and the list of restaurant partners is growing every single day. You can follow along with Megan and help tackle takeout waste and support your local restaurant while living zero waste on Facebook or Instagram @mysuppli.