Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

November 23, 2022

☀️ CleanTech Wood Stain hits Walmart's Shelves! ☀️


Meet Becca Berger, the Silicon Valley-based CleanTech inventor, who is literally harnessing the sun’s power to make wood stain!☀️ She says, “The problem with traditional wood stains is that they’re dual carbon offenders, not only does the manufacturing process offlet carbon. but the product application also off-lets smelly volatile organic compounds or VOCs.”  

Becca’s background isn’t in Chemistry, she’s an artist. A combination of events inspired this invention. The first was a quote from Tim Cook in the “Elysis” project press release. The second was an artisan friend who had a stroke right in front of her. He knew of several woodworkers who had also suffered from early strokes and heart attacks. The artisan strongly believed these were caused by the daily use of toxic oil-based wood stains. 

Concerned for her friend’s safety, and the industry at large, Becca researched volatile VOCs and discovered an even bigger problem. Apparently, the architectural built environment is responsible for the majority of carbon emissions. She spoke with many industry professionals and they asked, “What can be done?” Becca used art to act! She invented a water-based wood stain formula that would “do no harm” to the applicator and used her keen artistic eye to create unique colors. Just one coat of her water-stain initiates a reaction that unlocks nature’s true colors right before your very eyes, and ages wood in minutes, rather than decades. Unlike competitor products, there is no harmful odor, no VOC off-letting, and no need for personal protective equipment. Artisans and woodworkers have described her colors as evoking emotion with warm natural tones. Finishers call WeatherWash “magic in a can!” 

She has made it her mission to take on wood stain carbon omitters, and soon paint! The most impressive part of her story is how she is successfully attacking carbon emissions with low-carbon manufacturing operations and zero-carbon wood stain products. Think it’s impossible? Visit your local Walmart coatings department to see just how possible, the impossible is. 


 Why did you invent a reactive wood stain? 


“While I was getting my MBA, I read a press release about Apple, the Elysis project, and Tim Cook that inspired me. He said, ‘Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and the time for action is now.’ He challenged other companies to join Apple by ‘innovating.’ #TimCook. My friend’s stroke gave me a very good reason to take on Tim’s challenge and I wanted to be part of the innovation initiative. I believe that true beauty exists in nature and no wood stain is more compelling, no color is more beautiful than the colors of naturally weathered driftwood. I searched for base formulas made from sustainable alternatives, like water. I needed to find a way to re-create that inner beauty, but faster and with no off-letting. So I invented WeatherWash. After creating the product, my biggest challenges were holding the color with a topcoat and retaining one hundred percent of the wood grain,” Becca says as she uses an air compressor to mix raw ingredients in a 330-gallon tote.

Check out the WeatherWash portfolio on Instagram @WeatherWash.


Becca bootstrapped sales until she was ready to launch into retail stores. She and her husband bought a nice motorhome and traveled from state to state and grew as fast as sales would let them. Those efforts paid off big, as Walmart was the first major retailer to place her product on the shelf. At present, she is in two hundred and fifty Walmart stores. You can find her product at HomeDepot.comAmazon.com, and of course her own website, WeatherwashCoatings.com.

Becca explains her initial success, “Walmart gave us our big break! Our merchant, Jonathan Feinberg, has been instrumental in teaching us about foot traffic, turns, and replenishment! I’m so incredibly grateful that Walmart sees our CleanTech vision and has made space for a zero-carbon wood stain on their shelves! Made in America, sold in America, that’s America’s future!” πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ 

As states have begun to regulate paint and stain emissions, you saw an opportunity to improve upon the inventions of nineteenth-century industrial giants. How is your wood stain innovative? 


“My product is not only innovative but so too is the manufacturing process. While I was researching base formulas, I learned that Edison, Tesla, Ford, Dupont, Carnegie, and Sherwin-Williams created our modern world through oil-based industrial manufacturing operations. These operations account for one-fifth of global energy use and are responsible for roughly fifteen billion tons of carbon annual off-letting. Most manufactured products use energy to create heat to produce the world’s materials and chemicals. As the oil supply decrease, prices will continue to rise. Eventually, the oil demand will be higher than the oil supply. When that happens, I expect that low-carbon and carbon-free manufacturing processes, like mine, will disrupt old-school oil-based manufacturers. I built my manufacturing operation on renewable energy and renewable raw materials.” Becca tosses what appears to be herbs into a tote. She pinches a little of this and a little of that and mixes it with a wooden oar. 

 “Second, my product is innovative because it decarbonizes wood stain. My stain is tannin reactive and water-based instead of oil-based. Once the stain is applied, I start a natural reaction inside the wood, which yields an aged color, like how the sun bleaches driftwood over decades. My secret sauce is that I know how to stop the reaction so that it doesn’t continue to age over time. The whole process takes just twenty minutes, including dry time. Once I stop the reaction, I seal it with a special topcoat I created to hold almost the exact same color as driftwood. Consumers can’t tell the difference between real driftwood and the wood I stain, which is great because my stain gives them an unlimited supply. The entire process from stain to topcoat takes only two hours versus my competitors’ process, which can take fourteen days. Innovation is easy to spot when you’re reducing labor costs and reducing material costs.” 


What is your biggest hurdle? 


“For the last hundred years, my competitors have held a stranglehold on distribution using assumptions of scarcity, scarce information, scarce choice, and overwhelming marketing power to limit consumer choice. Using the internet I’m working to overcome that barrier by providing a superior product to the customer and hope other big box retailers will give me the same chance that Walmart gave me.”

What are some benefits of using water-based reactive stains rather than oil-based stains? 


 “My formulas harness naturally grown renewable raw materials and utilize renewable energy sources. Old-school industrial manufacturing operations contribute to the fifty-two billion tons of carbon emissions each year. I used a ratio of total gallons produced / energy use and learned that my manufacturing carbon emission is practically zero — and the product itself has no carbon or VOC emissions. It’s beyond carbon, it’s #netzero!” 

Your product is truly magic in a quart, but your operation is next level. You said you use the power of the sun to make the product. Can you tell me how you do that? 


“Sure! When I learned that Apple used solar panels to power its manufacturing plant and work facilities, I was curious about what else photovoltaics could do. Turns out it can make wood stain! I realized I could use the sun’s energy to catalyze the wood stain batch rather than electric-powered heat or fossil fuel heat. I was inspired by Apple’s PV solar panels that capture 20% of photovoltaic protons. If the photovoltaic cell can only capture 20% of the sun’s rays, the scientific question I asked was what percentage of the sun’s rays could I capture to cook a wood stain batch? Right now I’m capturing approximately 80% of the sun’s heat and once we install solar panels, my operation will generate power for the grid. #Negawatts! This is the future of net-zero American manufacturing!” 


You say your primary focus in your operation is on efficiencies. How do efficiencies play a role in CleanTech? 


“Efficiencies are the key to real CleanTech results! The built environment is responsible for 29% of the 52 billion tons of annual carbon emissions. I have five main efficiencies that are reducing carbon, they are raw materials, workspace, energy, labor, and plant power. I have one goal in mind when manufacturing: my energy efficiencies must maximize outputs and minimize inputs. I would say my operation is 78% efficient right now. As we scale to our goal of eight thousand retailers, I expect my efficiencies will be closer to 92%.” 

Becca attributes her success to lessons she learned in her MBA operations class. She has capitalized off of continuous flow manufacturing (CFM) and just-in-time delivery (JIT) processes she learned from an IBM case study. What are some constraints you’re experiencing as you scale? 


“Warehouse capacity and price parity to start. When we first launched in gallon milk jugs on my apartment deck, space was an obvious issue and costs were high. Now that we’ve grown into 330-gallon totes, our next increase will put us in 15,000-gallon stainless steel vats. The biggest constraint of any CleanTech product is to be on price parity with existing low-cost products. Right now my price on the shelf is $19.97. My competitors are around $15.97. The end consumer is paying a CleanTech premium of $4 when they buy WeatherWash, which is 25% higher than my competitors’ prices. With more orders, my total manufacturing output will increase, and labor efficiencies will improve. I’ll pass those decreases on to the end consumer and get my price in line with my competitors’. I might even land at $14.97 on the shelf, once the  COVID supply chains untangle. I’ve learned a few lessons as time has passed. Technology-driven learning, product efficiency, and shared experience will reduce costs per unit as the total volume of production increases. At least that’s what the classic experience curve says. The more you know, the better you can do, and the good news is that the product is profitable. #Profitable!” 


To date, the wood stain industry generates approximately $6B a year in US domestic sales. Wood stain is a commodity, so sales have incredible sticking power. What is your growth strategy going forward? 


My strategy is to get WeatherWash on big-box retail shelves as fast as possible. The DIY coatings market is estimated to be $60B. I wanted retailers with the highest foot traffic because that would yield the highest inventory turnover. I’ve set my sights on Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart. These eight thousand retail stores combined have 191.5M US consumers in foot traffic per week, but Walmart gets most of that foot traffic. For now, retailers are the fastest path to the highest growth. 

You’ve only been on the shelf for a year. How is  WeatherWash growing so fast? 


Once homeowners complete their first project, a sort of hunger for the next project ensues. Most start at picture frames and rapidly escalate to kitchen tables, end tables, TV consoles, headboards, decks, beams, floors, and even home exteriors. As the projects increase, customer loyalty grows.  The need to beautify and fill empty spaces is limitless because DIY is incredibly affordable and easy to do. 
A strong buying segment of DIY clients is 24 to 35-year-old LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.) LOHAS want wood stains that don’t have strong chemical odors. They want low costs. They want wood stains to be efficient and provide the same quality as oil-based stains but with fewer steps. They want a community to do projects with and share projects. In 2020, LOHAS represented one-third of home purchases. Home Depot is the number one retailer in the home-improvement DIY space, with a towering $151B in revenues in 2021. The majority of their clients are LOHAS consumers who are fixing up homes to sell or repairing homes they’ve just bought. LOHAS are best reached by a marketing strategy known as the “same-store sales” model. The goal of this model is to get customers to visit your store regularly and develop a friendly relationship that in turn will deliver lifetime customer loyalty. I see a lot of LOHAS crossover growth between the world’s two largest retailers, Walmart and Home Depot. #Growth! 

 

As states have begun to regulate paint and stain emissions, you see an opportunity. Can you talk about that? 



Government regulation uses tax incentives and subsidies to shape consumer behavior. It would be nice if state and federal governments would give CleanTech coatings the break they give solar and wind. Could you imagine the impact regulation would make if lawmakers required 25% of paint and stain to be carbon-free, the way they require 25% of grid energy to be renewable? The reduction targets two primary points of emission. Reduced carbon from plant manufacturing and reduced carbon/VOC off-letting from product application. Between high foot traffic and government regulation, I believe the growth will be there.” 

You’re ambitious! What is your endgame vision? 


“I would like to leverage the passion economy into a DIY video platform where LOHAS could learn and buy quality products they can trust to be carbon free and VOC free. It would be a community of smart creatives. The purpose of the DIY instructional videos would be to connect ‘the how-to video’ to the retail products, creating a seamless loop of inspiration, instruction, and purchasing.” 

COVID-19 has pushed consumers online. Do you have an online strategy? 
 

“The internet has made information free, copious, and ubiquitous with cloud computing and global connectivity. What I plan to do online would be even bigger than retail shelves! The Cleveland Research Clinic estimates that finishers will make more than half their purchases online over the next three years. I already have a very strong online presence with Facebook, Instagram, and soon TikTok. Amazon, Home Depot, and Walmart are in the top ten most searched websites. What’s missing is a digital community where LOHAS and DIY’ers can experience the human touch. I’d like to build that digital community. Of course, in-store brand awareness will increase online traffic. As sales volumes increase, more and more customers would be attracted. With higher sales volume, I can get faster turns on inventory and more out of my fixed costs. Those efficiencies will continue to lower my price as I feed the flywheel to attract exponential traffic. That is how you grow market share; you build a flywheel and feed it. And the best part? Store shelves would NO longer control inventory capacity. WeatherWash could go GLOBAL! #SCALEORDIE!” 

The coatings market is international, how would you grow globally? 


“I would focus on the users and build excellent platforms with accessible, higher quality services and products. I would use predictive analytics to continuously slice the data and build a solid foundation. More users will result in more UGC (user-generated content.) The goal would be lifetime loyalty. I would create an algorithm that would unify a DIY digital video library with DIY online clients and organize the how-to videos using peer-to-peer human curation. Burberry has successfully created and implemented this type of algorithm. Angela Ahrendts’s Fast Company interview gave me the idea with a model she created. I think that the same model can be used to democratize the global DIY movement by making wood stains affordable and ubiquitous, both on the shelf and online. I mean, as prices for furniture and fixtures continue to rise, who wouldn’t want a CleanTech do-it-yourself shoppable online option? Plus, if you do-it-yourself, you can disrupt the oil-based coatings and get the high-end Restoration Hardware (RH) furniture look at a price anyone can afford. Ultimately, that’s the endgame—the highest-end look at Walmart prices. No finishing experience required and no harm to the applicators equals customer satisfaction!” 

If you had one wish, what would it be? 


“I wish that my product would accelerate the switch from oil-based wood stains to water-based stains on the retail shelf and online, as quickly as possible. Could you imagine the lifetime carbon reduction? Wood is a commodity and stains will be used for hundreds of years to come. Minwax operations have been off-letting carbon for over a hundred years and the product off-lets VOCs.  

What would you need to scale? 


“To take on the whole six billion dollar wood stain category? It wouldn't take much. I would need a larger plant, so that would take funding. I would also need super scalers with proven exponential growth track records to grow us into eight thousand retailers and our online presence. Oh, and a great ad agency. For mentorship, a seasoned CEO who lived through Moore’s law (revenue growth) and Wright’s law (cost reduction) wouldn't hurt, think #TimCook, #BillGates, #JeffBezos. ” 

What would you give up? 


“Take a look around you. Everything I have here is for sale. Hang on, it looks like my staff is overflowing a tote. I gotta go. Are we done here?” 


*****

When I wrap the interview, I’m surprised Becca can even hear me over the noisy air compressors, shouting, and continuous lid hammering. She is laser-focused on “the batch” and somehow manages to answer all my questions even though we are interrupted multiple times by employees. 

Here are some of my key takeaways: I personally have a new appreciation and a new perspective for renewables. I believe renewable energy operations will be revolutionary! Why? Because renewable energies are REPLENISHABLE, whereas crude oil is not. If renewable energy products can perform as well as oil-based products and cost just as much, or less, why wouldn’t we switch? CleanTech products may be able to sell at even lower prices once the machinery is paid off because the cost of generating energy is practically nothing. 

Becca has arrived at a manufacturing crossroads where renewable raws and alternative energy sources intersect. The result is a breakthrough technology that needs no electricity and no fossil fuels to manufacture. Her process may even be cheaper than oil-based wood stains and this visionary entrepreneur has decarbonized the product and the manufacturing operation. She has lit a path for industrial manufacturers inside and outside the coatings industry. The possibility for a transition from oil-based formulas to carbon-free water-based formulas now exists. 

How will the big switch from oil to renewable energy happen? 
Inventors and innovators like Becca will harness renewable energy the way she did with the sun’s power to make wood stain. Inventors are inventing products that will have a ripple of change as products are dropped into the market. Light bulbs, alternating current, and gas-powered vehicles were all products that were like a pebble in the pond. Some ripples will be big, like electric wind, solar, and Elon Musk’s electric vehicle. Some inventions will be small, like biofuels and wood stain. Either way, from big to small, the wave of change is coming. 

When will it happen?
It’s already happening! In the summer of 2020, Germany successfully powered their power grid with 56% solar power. If you want to see the switch happening within the built environment, specifically wood stain, go to your local Walmart store or go online to Walmart.comHomeDepot.com, Amazon.com, or Becca’s website, WeatherwashCoatings.com. Just search for WeatherWash and don’t forget to leave a review! 😊 

Some serious questions, as the big switch begins are: How will innovators get 52 billion carbon tons to zero in these categories: transportation, agriculture, electric power grids, industry, and the built environment? How much is the big switch going to cost? How many fossil fuel jobs will be lost? How many carbon-zero jobs will be gained? 

Many believe 2050 is the cutoff before the 1.6 trillion tons of carbon emission heat the earth up one or two degrees and bring irreversible global damage. Think superstorms, extreme weather, droughts, food shortages, and energy grid collapse. Don’t be afraid of what may come. The big switch shines rays of hope through the darkest carbon cloud, and it’s happening one rippling innovation at a time. 

Thank you for reading, and may each and every one of us find the ability within our consuming capacity to make the BIG SWITCH

February 24, 2021

Digital: The New Land Rush!

The Digital Land Rush - Zachary Lovelady

To digitize or not…Is that the question? COVID is shaking things up in the retail world. This year, digital startups may look like frantic Irish immigrants planting their stakes in the e-commerce land grab. Like Tom Cruise in Far and Away, companies will be expanding market share. 


Who can enter? Really anyone! Meet one competitor in the e-commerce coatings race, Becca Berger. MBA turned entrepreneur extraordinaire. This scrappy little lady owns a company called WeatherWash Coatings, an earth-friendly reactive stain that turns raw wood into barnwood by using tannic acid inside the lumber to achieve a specific color. Her product has no pigments or dies. No VOC’s. She invented the most earth-friendly product on the market. If you check Home Depot online, her reviews are 4-5 stars. Recently her product launched through Walmart online, and from day one sold as much as ten brick and mortar stores. How is that possible? 


Rebecca has a strong foothold on Instagram with 32,000 followers. Type “wood stain” on Instagram’s search, and she’s often ranked #1. She has over 17,000 followers on Facebook. An impressive portfolio. Support videos. Chat support. Phone support. A blog. An app and an algorithm. She doesn’t even have a brick and mortar store. She doesn’t want or need a storefront. 100% of her sales are e-commerce. She started with stains because it’s niche, and the most significant competitor, Minwax, lost distribution with Home Depot after Sherwin Williams acquired the lagging brand for an eye-popping $11.3B. 
         
“Since stain sales were in decline, I thought, this is exactly what Jeff Bezos did with books. He started niche and expanded. I started in stain, and I’m in the process of expanding into the paint.” Speaking to hyper-growth she claims, “I’m a big fan of Jeff Bezos ‘fly-wheel of growth,’ which relies heavily on Amazon’s 2-day shipping model and a simple website. Storefronts are closed for twelve hours. Even when they’re open, COVID has made it so clients can’t enter a Sherwin Williams store. My products can be delivered right to your door once you order them from my website. Also consider that if harmful emissions can be reduced, the coatings industry is going to have to reformulate. The majority of VOC off letting happens in this industry. So, innovators like me are going to have to make every effort to save the planet instead of ‘cover the earth’.”       
         
The largest entrants in the digital market space race are undoubtedly Walmart and Home Depot; Walmart is the world’s largest economy. Depot is the world’s second-largest economy. Four years ago, in their 2017, 10-K report, Depot revealed they plan to compete with Amazon by spending $11B on “store, supply chain, digital experience, and people.” With that kind of funding, the retailer known as the eight-hundred-pound gorilla expects to be on equal footing with Amazon’s 1-click, 2-day order fulfillment by the end of 2020. Can Depot achieve the “flywheel of success” by buying success? Maybe? It should be duly noted that part of Bezo’s high growth strategy is attributable to acquisitions like Zappos, Petco, and Whole Foods. But Depot is not in acquisition mode, so most likely not.
         
In 2001, Home Depot opened its online store. Nineteen years later, they are still nowhere near Amazon’s e-commerce platform. According to Depot’s 2019 10-K, their ambition is to be a “One Home Depot experience.” However, that vision is not clearly defined. What is clear is that Depot’s initial $5.4B investment in e-commerce is taking longer to recoup than expected. Why? There are many reasons, but one major obstacle is that 90% of developed software will not be utilized. Not to mention when the software is finally available, the hardware used to write the software is outdated. More software development questions will buzz around like murder hornets, “What is our hardware budget? What should we expect to pay for software development? How long will it take? Why isn’t it working? Can we outsource development?” Bezos has already answered ALL of these questions, and he did it about nineteen years ago. 


Bezos developed a sturdy platform from HTML source code to the back-end JavaScript. He also custom built the hardware so soundly, he is one of the few companies that survived the dot com bust. He then expanded Amazon by investing in more hardware and software. Bezos owns AWS and an undisclosed share in Google, meaning that large retailers relying on Google’s SEO or Amazon’s AWS services will compete with Amazon on Amazon’s hardware/software. The end game may be what happened to mom-and-pop bookshops, here today, gone tomorrow. 

Competition is also ramping up. E-commerce is a different game than retailers are used to playing. Historically, retailers had to battle for sales in newspapers, radio, and TV ads. Suppliers were never a threat. Each retailer competed on price, product, and availability. Now retailers could lose sales to suppliers. A cheetah gazelle relationship is developing between the two. So, who is the cheetah, retailers or suppliers? That’s hard to answer because suppliers like Sherwin Williams are building websites that sell directly to end consumers while simultaneously maintaining 4,106 brick and mortar stores. But they aren’t the only ones building websites. Inventors like Becca, mom-and-pop shops, Walmart, Depot, Sherwin, Ace, and Amazon all have websites. The cheetah is whoever gets to the Do-It-Yourself or Do-It-For-Me e-commerce consumer first, captures the gazelle, stakes their claim, expands their fences, and grows market share. 

Amazon will maintain a steady lead once it grows into hardware and paint because the e-commerce onboarding process for Depot and Lowes can take up to a year and costs suppliers several thousands of dollars, which means lots of suppliers won’t even make it to Depot/Lowe’s online e-commerce platform. Not only that, but Depot is marking suppliers’ products up 100% even though they aren’t shelving suppliers’ products, picking, packing, or shipping. The value seems to be the brand. Lowe’s onboarding process is equivalent to Depot’s. Sherwin doesn’t even have a process for onboarding suppliers. They have an email that they don’t reply to. Most of these overlooked suppliers will go straight to Amazon for no other reason than it only takes fifteen minutes for suppliers to onboard, giving Amazon a favorable lead. Of course, a faster cheetah i.e., inventor, could sprint to the lead by leveraging platforms like social media, a professional website, and leveraging relationships with established e-commerce brands. Still, these contenders are often acquired early on, so finishing the race becomes questionable. 

In a nutshell, Mr. Bezos may have fired the first shot for the digital market space land grab, took his place on the start line, and quickly sprinted off with the competitors. Time will tell who captures the gazelle and carves out their claim. Will it be retail brands? Suppliers? Inventors? Mom & pop? or Amazon?

Zack Lovelady