I spoke with Emily Doubilet to get a pre-show Susty Party interview. Episode 526 was supposed to air several weeks ago, but it got bumped, so I'm WAY ahead of the curve here!
Emily is a party girl at heart, and she has a big heart, too. Originally an entertainer, Emily made the NYC party scene by hosting and producing parties to showcase herself and other performance artists. She had a ball doing it, but her “green sensibilities” were offended when she saw all the waste from party supplies; she thought “there has to be a better way.” That was around 2007. In 2009, she started working with Jessica Holsy to get Susty Party started.
“I essentially became obsessed with the idea. I wanted to combine my passion for entertaining with making a positive impact,” she says. “I wanted to do something good for the planet, so I began searching for compostable and biodegradable party supplies.”
Emily Doubilet meets Jessica Holsy
“I started working with Jessica in 2009,” continues Emily. “She's a former Wall Street gal and economics major from Harvard. We have complementary strengths and we both like entertaining and sustainability. We also believe in what I call the triple bottom line: good profits, good impact for the planet, and good people.”
“Sourcing products took years of research. We literally scoured the earth looking for the best materials, scientists and factories. We currently use National Industries for the Blind factories to do some packaging and for manufacturing our cups. We brought more employment to the visually impaired community.”
“We started out in 2010, but didn't have our own products yet, so we sold other products that met our standards. Susty Party was a study in slow growth; Jess and I only invested about $40K each over the years. We continued scouring the earth and found certain materials scientists and factories that had potential, but there was still no tableware on the market that met our standards. The tableware we settled on uses bamboo and bio-based plastics. All our products are made from sustainable materials; I realize a lot will still end up in land fills, but everything we sell is still sustainably harvested. In the mean time, we try to educate people as much as we can. It's a challenge until curbside composting becomes more common. Curbside composting is in about 90 cities. San Francisco had it for 15 years or so and it's coming to New York soon.”
“In May, 2012 we launched with our own products in some Whole Foods stores. A year later, we were in every Whole Foods and we had United Natural Foods (a national distributor) selling for us. We started launching new products like our cutlery and the first bio-plastic tablecloth.”
Susty Party goes in the Tank
“I'm a huge fan of the show – I started watching in season 4. People kept saying ‘you should go on Shark Tank.' We applied to the show in January of 2013, a few months before going national with Whole Foods. We sent an email, then another about a month later and a producer called us. We ended up taping last September on one of the last days of taping. I think the hardest part was keeping the secret for SO long. Once we got an air date, we could finally talk about it.”
Emily can't tell me what happened, but Shark Tank did film a segment at their offices in Brooklyn for the broadcast. They've beefed up their website, which is hosted by Shopify, so they won't crash on show night. Emily Doubilet and Jessica Holsy were a bit put off when their episode got rescheduled.
“We arranged a viewing party and we had to change it all around, luckily the place we're having it was able to accommodate us.”
Whether Susty Party gets a deal or not, they're already winners. In 5 years, they've taken their business from an idea to doing around $1.3 million in sales! I asked Emily what she does to maintain her company's success:
“I say just respect the earth and party on! That's how we Susty Party! As for advice for other entrepreneurs, I'd tell them to jump on in, the water's fine. A lot of people hold themselves back but if you have an idea, get started and figure it out as you go along.”
I had another question for Emily Doubilet. She answers it on The Hot Dog Truck.