Five questions with Queen of Raw
5 minute read
Corporate attorney turned fashion tech and sustainability entrepreneur, Stephanie Benedetto is the Co-founder of Queen of Raw, a global marketplace for buying and selling unused textiles.
Corporate attorney turned fashion tech and sustainability entrepreneur, Stephanie Benedetto is the Co-founder of Queen of Raw, a global marketplace for buying and selling unused textiles, keeping them out of landfills and turning pollution into profit. Queen of Raw uses AI-powered supply chain tools to eliminate and monetise textile waste, tracking and analysing data to keep unused raw materials out of landfills and turn pollution into profit. An integrated dashboard allows its customers to visualise their savings and environmental impact across the Queen of Raw platform.
Prior to starting Queen of Raw, Stephanie worked as a lawyer in the fashion, media/entertainment, startup and technology industries and co-founded a sustainable textile manufacturing facility. An advocate for women in business and sustainability, her companies have been featured in NPR, Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, WWD, ELLE, Cheddar, Parade, WCBS, United Nations, Fortune, Entrepreneur, WIRED, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Fast Company. Stephanie is a 2020 Inc. Female Founders 100, NASA/NIKE/IKEA/DELL LAUNCH.org Innovator, a Grand Prize WeWork Creator Awards Winner presented by Ashton Kutcher, a Cartier Women's Initiative Laureate, an MIT - Solve Global Challenge Winner, a Climate Change Finalist in Mohammed bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity, a Finalist for The Elevate Prize, a thredUP Circular Fashion Fund Recipient, and an LVMH Innovation Award Finalist. She is a member of Pledge 1% and New York Circular City Initiative and Founding Member of Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, along with Aveda, Kering, and Stella McCartney.
01. What was the inspiration behind your company?
We know many women leave work for a variety of reasons, including having children. I launched my business at the same time as I had my first child. This has only made my personal and professional life stronger. I am doing what I am doing to make a difference in the world, not just for myself anymore but for my children and my children’s children. I want them to have clean water to drink, clothes that aren’t toxic to wear and a planet to live on. Together we will change the world.
02. How do you feel being a female founder gives your startup a unique advantage?
Women’s choices impact up to 85% of purchasing decisions. By some analyses, they account for $4.3 trillion of total consumer spending in the United States ($5.9 trillion), making women the largest single economic force not just in the United States, but in the world. That is power. Having women not just on staff, but in positions of leadership is therefore a huge advantage to businesses, and makes women a key player in solving the world’s climate crisis.
03. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since first developing and launching your startup?
Our enterprise customers are fashion brands and retailers. What are the primary pressures that are bearing down on them and encouraging them to change? Money, money, money. We lead with the impact we are having on our customers’ profitability, and then follow with the fact that fixing the problem is also good for people and the planet.
Don’t get me wrong: I know a lot of businesses are trying incredibly hard to become more sustainable, but they also need to answer to stakeholders and investors, so it’s vital that we get the economics right. From that point of view, you can resell waste to free up costly warehouse space, recoup up to 15% of your bottom line, and also get a better sustainability story to tell that improves your top-line sales. Then it’s a win-win-win, and how do you say no to that?
04. How has the pandemic impacted your company?
The world is currently experiencing a crisis of supply—more unused inventory than ever before because of canceled orders, closed stores, huge returns, and entire missed seasons and collections. It is a top business priority for our enterprise customers to solve, while digitally innovating their way out of crisis. Through the pandemic, our number of transactions increased by 80% and our number of users increased by 40% month over month. Solutions like ours that drive results for people, the planet and profit are the future.
05. What is the one piece of advice you'd give to other women thinking about starting a company?
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to take risks, put your ideas out there and test your solution in the market—these are important steps to being able to improve your offering and iterate your product effectively.
Another thing no one tells you: Don’t be afraid to move into a crowded market space with many competitors. You can learn from the mistakes of those who came before you, do it better than them, command their market share and be the last player in the market who really dominates.
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