Emma Rose Cohen is the CEO of FinalStraw, a company that was founded after her obsession to end single-use plastic was born. She and her friends began a beach cleanup initiative while also establishing Save the Mermaids to educate children on single-use plastics and the negative impact they have on the environment. Unfortunately, by April 2019, her company was already dealing with copycats who are tarnishing the brand with their counterfeit products. Her efforts are nevertheless remarkable since the product became the first reusable and collapsible straw in the world. Let’s see how she managed to make such strides towards saving the planet.
1. An accident made her leave her medical career
Emma was convinced that she wanted to be in the medical field. Therefore after graduating from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a major in neuroscience, she went ahead to be a certified EMT. Thereafter, the entrepreneur decided to cement her studies with pre-med classes at Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, after a longboarding accident that left her hospitalized with 30 stitches, she knew working in a hospital was not something she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
2. Her first business
Emma has always been interested in conservation; therefore when she was seven and saw her neighbor’s fruits about to go bad, she convinced her sister and friends to go to the Farmer’s market and sell them. At the time, she did not understand a thing about conservation but was only doing it because she felt it was making sense to make money and prevent the fruits from going bad since people would like some.
3. Her reasons for rejecting two offers on “Shark Tank.”
Being in “Shark Tank” is every start-up’s dream, but Emma and her co-founder Mike were not looking to be on the series. They were, therefore, surprised to have “Shark Tank” contact them and ask them to try and pitch their idea since they knew they needed the money; after all, Emma and Mike had a Kickstarter Campaign. By then, Emma did not even know what a balance sheet or profit and loss account were, but they still decided to try their luck. Unfortunately, the two sharks to make offers did not meet Emma’s expectations. As she told UC Santa Barbara Alumni, Mark’s valuation was too low and Kevin was only interested in the financials instead of the business’s mission.
4. She thinks Coca Cola is the largest polluter worldwide
Emma hopes that manufacturers will be held responsible for the waste they leave behind. She gave the example of Coca Cola as the largest polluter, reasoning that the bottles of soda end up in a landfill, yet the company does not pay for the damage caused to marine life or the cost of cleanup, but the taxpayers do.
5. Her plans for the future
Emma has already found her calling to save the planet, and with the success of her first product, she is setting her sights far and beyond. Therefore by the time spring comes, she wants to have launched another product, FinalFork, to replace cutlery sets; just like FinalStraw, FinalFork is a collapsible fork. Since the entrepreneur sees waste is due to a design flaw, she will continue looking at everyday products to see what can be done to reduce the waste they cause through redesigning them.
6. Her mother did not want her to quit her job
The comfort zone has prevented many people from living up to their potential because they do not want to take risks. Emma’s mother also was afraid of her daughter failing; therefore, when Emma said she was quitting her government job, she did not support her. Luckily, Emma was already bored and needed a new challenge; thus, when she was introduced to her former co-founder in October 2017, she knew she had made the right decision. The former co-founder had the concept of a portable and reusable straw. Since Seattle was about to issue a ban on straws, Emma saw it was the right moment to seize the opportunity as she told Starter Story.
7. She credits her former boss for pushing her to change her career path
When Emma was working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she was also studying at the University of Mexico for a JD-MBA program. While for most that would have been the ideal way to get two degrees in four years, for Emma, none of the classes resonated with her and worst of all, she did not connect with her professors. After talking to Patricia about her problem, the former employer told Emma about the Extension program at Harvard, and it turned out to be the perfect match. Consequently, the only word she could use to describe her experience at the university was “game-changer.”
8. She is an excellent multi-tasker
Unlike men who have been said to concentrate on only one task at a time, women are, on the contrary, great at juggling tasks. She had to balance work, family life and studies while still ensuring that she maintained her fitness routine. Therefore she used to go to the gym, and while sitting on the bike, Emma would read her notes. Moreover, when walking her dog, the entrepreneur would listen to notes she had downloaded on her phone and maximized her time by doing homework during lunch breaks.
9. She hoped to raise $12,500 in the Kickstarter campaign
Starting a business demands capital, and when Emma began working on FinalStraw, they only had $30,000 hence decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign; the goal was to raise $12,500 to help fund a design patent. Much to their surprise, their expectations were exceeded because in 48 hours, they had raised $200,000, and in four weeks, the amount had gone up to $1.89 million.
10. Her advice to other start-up businesses
You will never be 100% ready; thus, Emma advises those interested in starting up a business to dive right in and not be afraid to fail. In either case, you can either fail or win, but with each failure, you are learning. She adds that one must be committed to the plan saying that she had to quit her job, eat ramen and work on her Kickstarter campaign for three months.
Written by Allen Lee
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