Sustainable Storage With Rishika

Rishika Vinnakota is a 17 year old from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is an incoming high school senior who's passionate about ecopreneurship - business and the environment!

She is the founder of Reusii, a reusable silicone food storage bag that targets single-use plastic in our daily lives. Reusii was initially just a mission: an affordable and accessible way to be environmentally-conscious. But after researching and developing the original product they decided a silicone bag would fit perfectly into the market and knew it would help a lot.

How did you create your team? What qualities does a good team member have?

Reusii is actually a product of Junior Achievement. JA is a non-profit organization that’s been teaching kids about entrepreneurship and financial literacy for over 100 years! I’ve been able to start TWO companies through this program and it’s been life changing. My team is composed of 23 high school students from my community who came together to learn about entrepreneurship but bonded over a similar mission.

A good team member is one that knows when to teach and when to learn. When you’re part of a team you’re playing to each other’s strengths and pushing forward. A good team member is able to work well with their peers and grow from it.

Why did you choose silicone as the material for the bag?

When I initially proposed my idea to my team, I knew it had to be silicone. Silicone is one of those materials that can do no harm. It’s incredibly durable, non-toxic, doesn’t break down, temperature-safe, and more. Most importantly it’s an inert low-impact material, which means if it were to come into contact with nature it cannot hurt its environment, like other plastics and materials do. When you combine all those features, it’s undoubtedly the best material to use.

What is the process of developing a product from ideation to execution?

There are so many ways to create a product. One way is to first go to the drawing board and figure out exactly what you want your product to look like. This is also when you start considering how the material facts product function, look, texture. It takes a while but after you have finally decided on the product you want you can reach out to manufacturers who specialize in creating products with that material. Sometimes it requires molds, canvas layouts, and more to actually create that product. This process requires lots of prototypes and trial and error, because up until this point you never realized how your product would look in real life. Sometimes it takes one or two prototypes and other times it takes more than a dozen, but the important thing is to keep fighting and working at it until it's perfect. After a series of prototypes, when you reach that one sample where you think every inch of it is exactly what you want, that is when you start manufacturing in larger quantities.

There are so many things you have to do on the sidelines when you're creating and developing a product. So remember to keep in mind your target market/audience, pricing and profit, and your mission. Because at the end of the day you're not just creating a product for yourself, you're creating it to fulfill something or solve someone else's problems. There is no straight cut path to go from ideation to execution, but it’s up to you to see it through.

How do you contact and select a good manufacturer to create your products?

In this day and age it's pretty easy to find someone out there to manufacture your product. All you need is a thought-out plan and great communication to make it happen.

A good way to find a manufacturer that is suitable for your needs is by figuring out where your material is developed and made into other products, oftentimes these are the places that have the capacity to create your product. You can even find wholesaler websites online that make similar products to yours, all you have to do is reach out to these people and tell them how you want your product to be different and if they can make it. I would suggest having a canned email to send to manufacturers detailing your

When you reach out to a manufacturer with an idea in mind it is important that you are able to articulate your needs and financial constraints with the product. Sometimes you even have to decide between a number of manufacturers to make your product.

When you are deciding on a manufacturer you have to consider communication and quality. Having a good relationship with your manufacturer is key, so if you're unable to communicate with them effectively and get the information you need it's going to hurt you in the long run. You also need to consider the quality of the products they manufacture. Everyone wants to provide a high-quality product to their consumers and that all depends on your manufacturer's ability to create your product. Lastly (and I would strongly consider this) their environmental impact. Do they utilize a lot of plastic in day-to-day operations? Do they release a lot of pollution? What are working conditions like for their employees? These are all elements you have to consider, especially if you are getting your goods from overseas. When Reusii was being developed, our mission of targeting single-use plastics was implemented into our supply chain processes as well. We communicated to a manufacturer that we did not want each product to be individually wrapped in plastic and we wanted them to use our carbon neutral shipping processor to send over the product. Since we vetted our manufacturer earlier in the process, we knew they would be able to fulfill our requests.

What are your other interests, passions, and hobbies outside of running Reusii? How do you maintain a balance between work, school, and living life like a normal teenager?

I'm a pretty normal teenager. I love social media, binge watching films and shows, reading, and writing/journaling. But, I’ve been able to hone in on my interests and turn them into passion projects. I love social media, so I decided to learn about marketing and websites and I help local small businesses market their products. I love writing and design, so I decided to start a blog:! Lastly, I love reading so I set reading targets for myself so I make time for it. Surprisingly, I have time for all this while completing schoolwork, SAT prep, college applications, and more.

The only way I've been able to balance all of my activities and passions is by organizing my day into tasks and tiny accomplishments. I religiously keep a minimalist bullet journal with my calendar, tasks, lists, and notes. I also use Google Calendar to organize my meetings and commitments. I still burn out sometimes, but at the end of the day having control over my day allows me to keep living a fun life.

What advice do you have for teenagers who want to start their own business?

My advice for teenagers who want to start their own business is: set a great foundation first. It's like building a skyscraper. You need the base to be completely solid in order for everything else to stand up perfectly. When you start a business your foundation is figuring out your target market, marketing strategy, main platforms, and the materials. You have to think ahead a couple steps so you know you're headed the right direction. It's one thing to say you're going to start a business but it's another to plan it out completely before you dive in. Work hard in the beginning so that works out in the end.

How can we encourage people to become more aware of their impact on the environment?

I think educating yourself on the environment and effective ways to recycle and reduce is a great way to create positive impact. Currently what we see is all these plastics, recycling methods, and so much progress being done towards getting rid of our waste. But we don't see enough being done to stop the creation of our waste.

When it comes to recycling, one of the best ways to create positive impact, it's as if we've been given all the tools but haven't been taught how to use them. Their specific ways to recycle and reduce and throw things away but a lot of people are unaware of exactly how to do that. I encourage people to become more aware of how they can consciously throw stuff away so things end up in the proper recycling plants and respective landfills.

Do you think existing businesses need to do more when it comes to their environmental impact? If so, what can they do to improve?

A lot of businesses are based on profit. Their main goal is to grow and become this powerhouse. However, there is a wave of social responsibility coming in to our economy but it's not coming fast enough. I believe there are so many ways businesses around the world can cut down on their usage of plastics, water, and chemicals.

There are so many things companies can do, but I believe the biggest thing they can do right now is stop greenwashing their products. Greenwashing is the deceptive marketing of a product, policy, or company as environmentally beneficial. In today's day and age, people like to see that their purchases are helping the environment, but oftentimes companies don't live up to the promises or symbols the place on their products/labels. I believe companies should stop saying they're helping the environment without actually doing so.

What does the future look like for Reusii? What does the future look like for you (projects, college, career)?

The future for Reusii is constantly changing. We are just a small student company who sources its products from overseas. Given the current world climate is not smart for us to restock our products, but we hope to pursue custom orders with large companies, grow our product list, and continue to advocate for the changes we need to see in corporations and companies everywhere.

My future consists of applying to college, going to business school, working for some impactful brands, and continuing to develop my passion for business and creativity. I would like to continue my passion projects and push them to the next level.

Name three exciting things you would like to do when quarantine ends

  1. Go swimming!

  2. Ride a roller coaster

  3. Go thrift shopping :)


Check out Reusii and Rishika's blog, Split Screens!

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