Arsh and Jannat Kakar launched their compostable packaging company TishWish in June 2020, as the world grappled with the early pandemic. Consumers were ordering online more, and many businesses were pivoting to e-commerce.
Some businesses were shipping products for the first time with classic plastic mailers and bubble mailers that are difficult or impossible to recycle. So the couple created a solution – a product that would break down in a compost pile.
They realized while researching that there were few options for compostable mailers that could be ordered in small quantities. Often a business had to order 10,000, an option that’s difficult for many small business owners to say yes to.
“Especially for smaller businesses where the small costs are everything,” Arsh Kakar said. “And at a time like the pandemic where people are just consolidating resources as much as they can.”
That’s why TishWish offers a quantity of 100 mailers, which it sells for $55 to $80 (depending on the size). The two plan to launch a 50-mailer package soon, said Arsh Kakar, who’s also the director of global business at Regency Packaging in San Francisco. Eventually, they hope to sell a quantity of one mailer.
TishWish also offers compostable bubble mailers. Businesses can customize their mailers by color and add a logo.
The company is funded by private investors and has had revenues of more than $1 million since it launched, he said. The company has six employees.
TishWish has partnered with Shelburne, Vermont-based One Tree Planted and United Kingdom-based Eden Project to plant a tree with each purchase, and 500 trees for each large purchase, Arsh Kakar said. So far, they’ve contributed to 7,200 new trees, and hope to reach 35,000 by the end of the year (though, Kakar said they’ll likely contribute the necessary funds to reach this number either way).
As the company grows, the Kakars continue to listen to their customers, Arsh Kakar said. For instance, the customization was a request they heard a lot. Soon, they plan to add a feature for customers to choose what region of the world the tree from their order is planted.
Soon, they plan to launch a compostable shipping label, since traditional ones are laminated and not recyclable, Arsh Kakar said.
It’s often more expensive to be sustainable, Kakar admits. So, businesses should wrap sustainability into their business model as early as possible so it’s not a cost increase down the line.
“There will always be a cheaper option available that’s not sustainable,” he said. “If you’re able to adapt that in your business model earlier, it’ll be easy because later when you’re already scaling and you’re growing, it’s hard to make those changes because you become more cost conscious.”
Arsh’s advice for small businesses wanting to take steps toward being more sustainable:
- Start in the area you’re most passionate about. Whether it’s recycling, or energy saving or emissions, it will likely be an area you know about, or if not, want to learn about, he said. This will keep you motivated.
- Find out what your customers care about. Work on what a majority of your customers prioritize, he said. This will help grow community and business
- Envelop (pun intended!) sustainability into new plans and business growth. This will avoid having to make drastic cost increases down the line.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.