Teresa Aylott - Founder, Stroh Teresa Aylott is a current member at Worksmith Collingwood, and the first recipient of the Four Pillars X Worksmith Start-Up Scholarship. In 2018, Teresa launched Stroh, a sustainable alternative to plastic and paper straws, made from straw i.e. pesticide and chemical-free wheat stems. The stems are considered agricultural waste, which Stroh collects and process into a product that is durable, biodegradable and compostable. We caught up with Teresa for a quick chat, and you can find out more about her journey here.
WS: What was it that triggered you to get involved in an environmentally-friendly, beverage focused start-up?
TA: Like many people, I was becoming increasingly concerned with the sheer volume of plastic in the environment. Seeing confronting pictures of marine life choking on our waste made me question my career choice, and I started researching ways I could make a difference. I went travelling to Holland and Germany to get some inspiration and discovered the wheat stem straws there.
WS: What do you find the most shocking and/or frustrating about the food and beverage industry, and what do you like the most?
TA: In Melbourne, we're in a bit of a bubble. I feel encouraged hearing about initiatives being rolled out across venues from food organics collection to ways they are finding ways to use reduce their food waste by creating new recipes and eliminating single-use plastic. However when you hear statistics like 5 million tonnes of food goes into the landfill every year and only 12% of plastic gets recycled, I realise there is a lot to do. But the solutions exist, companies like Enrich360, Yume and Replated to name a few, they just need to get more traction across Australia.
WS: What has your career journey looked like up to today?
TA: I taught sailing for a couple of years, then moved to London to work in advertising agencies which were exciting, fast-paced and stressful, after seven years I decided it was time for some sun so I moved to Sydney. I started working in Digital Marketing for Foodco and then Coca-Cola Amatil where I learnt a great deal about how the big corporates operate. It was there the plastic guilt started to arise!
WS: What do you love most about Stroh?
TA: Where do I begin!? Selling a product which is a waste product and therefore is not depleting our natural resources is rewarding, it is such a simple concept and I love seeing people's reaction when they see it... 'a straw made of actual straw!' The excitement of the endless opportunities that exist in this space! Meeting genuinely inspiring/lovely/entrepreneurial people, who are passionate about the environment
WS: What has been a significant milestone for you and Stroh in the last year?
TA: Securing a big distributor who has made several repeat orders since, proving that wheat straws are becoming more mainstream, and people are waking up to the damaging, long-lasting effects of single-use plastic.
WS: What is your favourite thing about being a part of the Worksmith community?
TA: So much to love. The people! I am surrounded by several young businesses which have had similar issues and they help to reassure, advise and provide encouragement. Being a solo business owner is lonely sometimes so I very much look forward to my time at Worksmith, the collaborations, and networking, and making the most of the microgreens in the farm wall, coffee and Friday drinks!
WS: Where do you see Stroh in the next 5 years, and what is your ultimate/ideal-world goal for you and Stroh?
TA: I would like to find ways to use other agriculture waste to make other single-use products, and also to find a way of making the straws in Australia. WS: Any tips for those in the start-up business, following a similar journey to yours? TA: Just start! Start small, test the idea, validate, speak to as many people as possible - it might lead to something completely different but equally as rewarding!
WS: Please give us three easy-to-implement tips for cutting down on plastic.
TA: 1. Bring a reusable cup and bottle with you everywhere - set a reminder alert on your phone to remember to bring them with you. 2. Refill washing liquid, hand wash and washing powder at the bulk foods store 3. At work, assign a few people to be the sustainability brand ambassador - they can implement initiatives like making sure people are recycling properly and food organics collection.