Recently, I sat down with Stacy Flynn and her wonderful team at Evrnu’s offices in the SODO area of Seattle to find out what has life been like since winning big in the 2014 SVP Fast Pitch Final Showdown. It’s apropos that the Evrnu offices are located in SODO Park, a historic repurposed 1907 brick building on 1st Avenue that was once home to Stetson-Ross Manufacturing Company. Evrnu’s space on the top floor is light filled, open, very edgy, and welcoming. In sync with Evrnu’s mission, the industrial building’s preservation and reuse with its great wood floors and high wood beamed ceilings demonstrates ecological sustainability.
Evrnu was a Finalist and the First Place winner of the Investment Fund for Profit at Social Venture Partners Fast Pitch event in 2014, an annual fundraising event sponsored by Social Venture Partners of Seattle. Evrnu was also the winner of the Audience Choice Award that same year.
Stacy and her partner, Christopher Stanev, have a lifetime of experience in the textile industry. Stacy recalls with clarity the day she recognized the damage the textile industry had already done to the planet and its peoples, that was an ongoing global problem that needed fixing and soon. She vowed to stop being a part of the problem, and instead to devote herself to finding a solution that would work within the confines of how the industry functions.
The statistics surrounding this issue are astounding. 700 gallons of fresh water is required to produce a single cotton T-shirt! We wear it, maybe we pass it on to someone, but every year, 14.3 million tons of textile waste ends up in U.S. landfills. (I’ve let myself feel good by taking my used clothes to Goodwill but then I don’t spend even one minute thinking about what happens to them next. Like there is some clothing fairy. Now I can hope for a much better outcome because I know there is a solution. )
Stacy set out to develop a process that could reduce the waste and repurpose products not once, but twice.
The process does not sound simple to me, but it is fascinating to consider the possibility. Evrnu can strip dyes and other contaminants from cotton textile products. They pulp the cotton, which breaks it down into fiber molecules. The fibers are recombined and extruded as a new pristine fiber, which can be engineered to custom specifications.
This customization process allows Evrnu to engineer fibers that can create garments as soft as your go-to t-shirt or as durable as your favorite pair of jeans. And, being able to cater to such a wide variety of performance expectations makes bio-based fibers not just good for the planet but an exciting field to be pioneering.
Evrnu’s strategic invention decouples catastrophic environmental impact from growth. Evrnu aspires to use no virgin resources in the creation of their products and create no waste as a by-product of the process.
Stacy and Christo’s commitment to the quality of the product and process are uncompromising. She is relentless in her pursuit to realize a final product that met her standards and that they had created the most beautiful fibers possible. Fibers with finer denier (a unit of linear mass density of fibers) than silk and stronger than cotton.
I had the opportunity to find out what Stacy had been up to since winning her Fast Pitch award of $140,000.
Michelle: Congratulations on your Fast Pitch success! We would love to hear what this win allowed your organization to accomplish.
Stacy: Thank you. The Fast Pitch win allowed us to attract additional investors; very specifically, by December of last year, we were able to bring in the additional operating capital we needed to start our year out and get our fiber technology off the ground.
Michelle: Sounds like a critical accomplishment! What would you say was the greatest benefit in working with SVP and the Fast Pitch organization?
Stacy: I competed a lot before SVP but it was more of an academic environment, mostly business case competitions. I was so impressed by watching other for profits and non-profits pitch a business. Not a business case, but a business – and why that business made a difference in the world. For me, that changed everything. Once I saw how other people were engaging with their actual business, the nuts and bolts of how to run a company, it shifted some logic in my mind and ultimately made our pitch much stronger.
Michelle: I’ve seen some of the pitches and felt incredibly inspired.
Stacy: I don’t know how the judges can even make a decision. Even when someone is in the infancy stages of a project, the passion that they bring and the reason WHY they are doing it is just thrilling to watch.
Michelle: What message would you want prospective participants to consider about engaging in Fast Pitch as a venue?
Stacy: I would say that one thing I realized about myself and about other social entrepreneurs that we are working on behalf of an issue so much larger than ourselves. I would say that advancing or not advancing in SVP – just keep going. Keep moving. Get in front of people. Continue to pitch, continue to move your business forward in any way you can because the work that you are doing in the world is yours; and yours alone. And if you feel like it needs to happen, just stay with it. With these types of venues come a lot of rejection but also a lot of feedback. That feedback is designed to make you better and you just need to practice, practice, and practice.
Since her award at SVP, Stacy has continued to move her business forward at an impressive pace. Evrnu is in discussions with 3 major fashion retailers and expects to be announcing collaborative ventures in the near future.
In addition to raising additional funds, Stacy has a TEDx talk that is very informative and funny- tough to do in 10 minutes! You can enjoy it here:
“Now I am one person, and this problem is so big, so much bigger than me, but I am also pissed and incredibly well trained.”
Stacy is such a force of nature and so passionate about her project that I didn’t want to leave the office. She is shining a bright light on a problem that is so far reaching it is hard to grasp what her success will do for so many.
Personally, I can’t wait for the next chapter in Stacy Flynn’s story.