People of Asuwere - Grounded Packaging

People of Asuwere - Grounded Packaging

We love hearing about our members' ventures, and it’s even better when we can connect and collaborate with them. For our next people of Asuwere, we have crossed the ditch, catching up with two of our Sydney based members and now, Asuwere suppliers. 

Josh Kempton and Ben Grant, long time members of Asuwere, are the founders of Grounded Packaging, bringing the world's most innovative and sustainable packaging products on the planet into one platform. We partnered with Grounded in 2019 to create our Asuwere garment packaging and courier satchels. Fast forward 2 years, they have helped us redirect tens of thousands of garment bags from landfill. We caught up with Josh and Ben, who moved from Auckland to Sydney to expand their vision.

What got you both into the sustainable packaging industry?
Prior to starting Grounded, Ben co-founded a New Zealand-based restaurant group (Bird on a Wire) where sustainability was a huge part of the focus of that business. Owning and operating a business like that opens your eyes to the amount of packaging materials used throughout commercial supply chains and the amount of waste generated.

We started investigating commercial waste collection before some friends approached us looking for a flexible packaging solution for their food business; that was the genesis of Grounded. Since then, our goal has been to design solutions that help transition businesses towards a ‘circular economy’ where everything is recyclable, reusable or compostable. 

You’ve both been involved in startups, what have been your biggest learnings that you’ve each applied to Grounded?

Investing in your team is the most important decision you can make. Startups are dynamic environments and talent density is critical to effectively solving the challenges you face on a daily basis. This was a non-negotiable for both of us from the outset and we’re fortunate to have a highly-motivated team working alongside us.

You’ve been making our biodegradable courier satchels since very early on in the piece. Are you seeing more packaging innovations in the supply chain to eliminate waste?

Sustainability in packaging is as much about reduction of materials as it is designing for circularity. Asuwere were our first fashion customer to design an end-to-end solution that doubled as both a garment bag and courier satchel. With the Asuwere bag being the only packaging a garment touches from the factory to the end-user, eliminating the need for double handling and unnecessary waste. 

We work with a number of materials including compostable and recyclable bioplastics, post-consumer recycled plastics and paper products. Our recyclable film made from sugarcane is the latest innovation – beating other plant-based alternatives for its high functionality, carbon negative impact and low cost of production. Developing a film from plastic waste removed from the ocean is one of our next projects.

Which industries have you seen your biggest growth in?
We like to say we’re industry agnostic as the applications for flexible packaging are vast. One of the perks of our job is working with so many modern brands that have sustainability deeply ingrained in their business model, not just their packaging. We’re focussed on developing solutions for these customers operating in what we believe to be future growth industries.

You’ve just finished a capital raise - what was this journey like? Any learnings you can share? 
We raised a Seed round in late 2019 and have just completed our Series A round to help build a data-driven procurement software that allows customers to source and manage their packaging supply chain in one place. 

Our advice would be to be patient, there’s plenty of smart capital looking for a home but the process almost always takes longer than you anticipate. Make sure you choose partners you want alongside you when you’re in the trenches (and you will be) - having supportive investors makes a big difference. 

How do you recharge from the startup grind?

We both live near the beach in Sydney- spending time near the ocean is always a good way to recharge. We’re both fairly active and try to prioritise exercise in our daily routine. A schooner or two at the pub never goes amiss when unwinding from a big week. 

Favourite thing about your Asuwere subscription?
The packaging, obviously. Being sent high-quality essentials each month makes it easy to stitch an outfit together. The timing of seasonal drops keeps you on top of the elements. Also loving the product variation that’s starting to come through- keep it up.


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