Episode Summary

Did you know the vast majority of recycling doesn't actually get recycled?

Like many, Zuleyka Strasner wasn't aware of the unsettling studies that showed only 9% of plastic recycling is properly salvaged for other products. When she came to this realization a few years ago, she decided to go plastic free.

In 2018, she founded her own zero-waste grocery delivery company called Zero Grocery. "The goal here is to radically ... radically shift the supply chain," Zuleyka says.

Zuleyka began with zero capital and lofty fundraising goals. She assumed she would meet maybe 20 people, and a few of them would cut her some checks adding up to $500,000. In reality, she ended up meeting with 263 people for that first round.

"I wasn't prepared for it to be such an arduous process to kind of convince folks of what I was doing. Remember, I had no team, it was just me. So I really had to sell me [and] my vision," she explains.

Since then, Zuleyka has raised $4.7 million in two years, and business is booming. ย 

In this episode of How I Raised It, Zuleyka discusses leveraging your network, the power of persistence, dealing with a barrage of nos, and finding the right investors that can help you not only grow, but flourish.

How She Raised It

๐Ÿ’ฐ Who: Zuleyka Strasner

๐Ÿ’ฐ Company: Zero Grocery

๐Ÿ’ฐ Where to find her: LinkedIn | Twitter

๐Ÿ’ฐ Money quote: "You've got to be thick skinned and you must persevere, which means for as many hours as there are in the day, you can be pitching. Constantly."

๐Ÿ’ฐ Noteworthy: One of Zero Grocery's main early investors, Charles Hudson, was also a guest on How I Raised It. He was genuinely interested in Zuleyka's vision from the start โ€“ finding investors who truly believe in you is key.

Capital Gains

[3:50] Plastic-filled paradise ๐Ÿ‘‰ Zuleyka's wake up call happened on her honeymoon in Nicaragua, when she saw the sea filled with plastic. That's when she decided to stop recycling and go no-waste instead.

[19:00] Neighborhood research ๐Ÿ‘‰ Before fundraising, Zuleyka began with $2,500 and her own informal, unscientific market research. She asked her neighbors if they'd be interested in zero-waste products and services.

[21:05] Pitch blitz ๐Ÿ‘‰ Zuleyka met her initial goal of raising $500,000โ€ฆ but only after 263 pitch meetings within a few months.

[25:30] Harnessing your network ๐Ÿ‘‰ Zuleyka already knew several VCs and angel investors from her previous work in Silicon Valley. Zuleyka asked investors who said no to connect her with more people โ€” eventually that persistence helped her reach her goal.

[29:54] COVID growth ๐Ÿ‘‰ Ultimately, the pandemic boosted Zuleyka's fundraising efforts; people were turning to grocery delivery platforms, and investors took notice.

[41:08] Not your typical Silicon Valley founder ๐Ÿ‘‰ Although Zuleyka doesn't bring up her identity as a Black trans woman in meetings, her identity comes with a thick skin โ€” and any founder needs the tenacity and perseverance of a thick skin to succeed.

[45:51] Underdogs have superpowers ๐Ÿ‘‰ Zuleyka prefers hiring underdogs and people from diverse backgrounds. They can draw from their experiences and turn their tenacity into superpowers.

Top quotes from the episode:

"There were some people I really tried hard with over and over and over again. And the honest answer is: They're just not that into you. ... They're just not that into your company. And if I hadn't learned that, I probably could have gone to 463 meetings in the four months instead of 263."

"If somebody said, 'No,' that's fine. But ... each one person can unlock another three or four people, maybe another one or two people."

"Resilience is key ... you have to be able to go into the room, you have to be able to have somebody tear it apart ... and [then you] say 'thank you very much' and smile. Maybe you get something from it. Maybe you don't. โ€ฆ And every meeting you go into you cannot take the baggage from the last meeting."

"We have many different folks at the table today, very diverse backgrounds, but they have usually been underestimated somewhere in some capacity, or they can draw from that experience โ€ฆ Those are the superpowers I want at the table."