$240K/Month – Building Beautifully Designed Reusable alternatives to Everyday Single-Use Products – Isabel Aagaard of Last Object
INTERVIEW VIDEO (Length – 51:59)
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Isabel Aagaard, co-founder of Last Object, shares the story of building a company that designs and creates reusable alternatives to single-use items. She talks about the iterative design process, massive success in launching a reusable swab, and challenges in building consumer awareness of reusable products and getting mass distribution.
Isabel Aagaard is the founder of Last Object, a company that designs and creates reusable alternatives to single-use items. Their first product, a reusable cotton swab, was a surprising success and led them to expand their collection to include various designs and variations. Their products are washable and designed to closely replicate the feel of single-use items, such as cotton rounds or makeup editing tools. Aagard emphasizes the importance of creating sustainable and high-quality alternatives, continuously evaluating and redesigning their products to make them more eco-friendly. She also discusses the value of crowdfunding as a way to test market traction for new products and the importance of having multiple manufacturers to avoid reliance on a single source. Aagard believes in the potential for mass adoption of reusable alternatives, particularly if they can be sold alongside single-use items in supermarkets. She also highlights the importance of convenience and marketing strategies, including targeting niche markets and utilizing social media. Aagard encourages entrepreneurs to embrace mistakes and continually evolve their business, enjoying the process of building a company. She credits her mother, a successful entrepreneur, as her inspiration and role model.
- 00:00:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses her journey into the sustainability space and how she came up with the idea for her company, Last Object. As a designer, she wanted to create something that would make a big impact and found that the single-use industry was a major problem. She realized that even though she considered herself to be sustainable, she still had a lot of single-use items in her home. This led her to design reusable alternatives, starting with the cotton swab. After the unexpected success of their first product, Last Object has since expanded their collection to include a variety of designs and variations.
- 00:05:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard explains that her company focuses on creating reusable products that replace single-use items. The value proposition of their products is that they can be used over a thousand times and are hygienic. The materials used are washable, either by machine or by hand, making it convenient for customers. The products are designed to closely replicate the feel of single-use items, such as cotton rounds or pads, but with the added benefits of being washable. For example, their reusable swab has a plastic core that is very strong and the ends are made of TP, a rubbery material with a structured surface that catches ear wax. Isabel also mentions that they have developed products for specific functions, such as makeup editing, where the material is designed to catch mascara or eyeliner. All the products are washable, either by machine or by hand, depending on the item. Overall, their approach to sustainability is through creating high-quality, reusable alternatives to single-use items.
- 00:10:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses the thought process behind creating sustainable and reusable products. She explains that while sustainability is a core value of their company, they also have to consider what is perceived as sustainable versus what actually is. For example, they initially considered using bamboo for their product, but realized that it was not as sustainable as it seemed due to the required surface treatment. They ultimately opted for plastic made from corn, which was a more sustainable option. Aagaard also mentions that they continuously reevaluate and redesign their products to make them more sustainable. In terms of consulting experts, she explains that they conducted their own research and experimentation to find innovative and sustainable solutions.
- 00:15:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses how her team has grown and now has the resources to work with specialists in different areas. They have been able to develop new products with the help of experts and even conducted life cycle assessments to measure the environmental impact. The assessments turned out better than expected, which allowed them to use the results in marketing and explaining their product choices. Aagaard also mentions their experience with crowdfunding, stating that it was a good validation process for their ideas. Despite facing some backlash, their campaigns were successful, and they gained a significant number of initial customers. They continued to use crowdfunding as a way to test market traction for new products.
- 00:20:00 In this section, Isabel discusses the value of Kickstarter for new startups and shares her experience with the platform. She mentions that while Kickstarter is still valuable for showcasing products and gaining exposure, it may not necessarily serve as market validation. She also notes that Kickstarter tends to be male-dominated and more suitable for gadgets and funny, moderately priced items. However, she mentions that some of her female-oriented products have not performed as well on Kickstarter compared to her company’s web shop. Isabel suggests that the success on Kickstarter depends on the product and customer group. She also addresses the manufacturing process, emphasizing the importance of testing and iterating with potential manufacturers to find the right fit. She highlights the need to continually assess and improve the process, as different manufacturers may be involved in the production over time.
- 00:25:00 In this section, the speaker discusses the importance of having multiple manufacturers to ensure the company is not solely reliant on one source. They mention that working with manufacturers in different countries allows them to take advantage of the strengths of different cultures. For example, Germany’s history of precision and machine work makes it an ideal place for certain products, while China is known for being fast and affordable. The speaker also mentions different ways of finding manufacturers, such as personal connections, LinkedIn, Google search, and platforms like Alibaba. They highlight the role of middlemen in simplifying the sourcing process and eventually, as the company grows, they plan to handle manufacturing themselves.
- 00:30:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses the benefits of working directly with customers in the beginning stages of building a brand, such as having more flexibility and avoiding pricing issues that come with retailers and distributors. She also mentions that building partnerships and conducting thorough research are important steps in finding manufacturers. Aagaard then addresses the challenge of pricing and the unique nature of her reusable products, explaining that sustainability is prioritized over immediate growth. While return customers can be difficult for her business, she has managed to offer lower price points compared to single-use alternatives, which has been well-received. Additionally, Aaagard mentions the need for continuously designing and launching new products, while acknowledging that there may be other businesses attempting to solve the same problem of creating reusable alternatives.
- 00:35:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses the market landscape for sustainable products in the menstrual care and beauty industry. While there are other companies offering similar products like menstrual cups and reusable makeup rounds, Aagaard believes that her company, Silo, was the first to introduce reusable swabs. She acknowledges that there are various niche markets for different sustainable products, but she sees the greatest potential for mass adoption of her product if they can be sold in supermarkets alongside single-use items like tissues and cotton rounds. Aaagard believes that normalizing reusable alternatives in everyday shopping aisles would encourage regular consumers to consider making the switch. However, the interviewer suggests the idea of sustainability-focused retailers or chains, to which Aagaard responds that her approach is more about reaching people who are not actively seeking out sustainable options.
- 00:40:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard discusses the potential for sustainable stores and the importance of convenience in the market. She believes that there is space for both sustainable and conventional options, and that businesses can still be successful by prioritizing sustainability in certain areas. Aagaard also talks about her company’s marketing strategies, including targeting niche markets and using real people to promote their products on social media platforms. She emphasizes the importance of a multi-faceted marketing approach that includes both digital and physical efforts. Additionally, she shares the lesson she has learned about embracing mistakes and making them quickly as an entrepreneur.
- 00:45:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard emphasizes the importance of making mistakes and constantly evolving in business. She believes that making mistakes is not a sign of failure but a way to learn and improve. She shares her own experiences of making various changes and edits in her business, such as using different plastic types and modifying packaging. Isabel believes in the continuous optimization of products and processes to stay relevant and successful. She also recommends the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” as a helpful tool for entrepreneurs to become more efficient. Additionally, she expresses excitement about an innovative baby bottle designed to mimic the breast’s feel and a Portuguese company that repurposes broken umbrellas into raincoats and bags.
- 00:50:00 In this section, Isabel Aagaard talks about her inspiration and role model, which is her mother who is a successful entrepreneur. She admires her mother’s business acumen and is proud to have her as a role model. Isabel also shares her best business advice, which is to have fun throughout the entrepreneurial journey and enjoy the process of creating a company. She believes that while failure is important, it’s equally important to love and enjoy the process of building a business. Isabel concludes by thanking the interviewer and providing information on how to purchase her products.
People & Resources Mentioned in the Episode
- Artificial Intelligence
Book: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
What You’ll Learn
Interview with Isabel Aagaard of Last Object
|[00:00:08] Introduction to Trep Talks|
|[00:01:00] Introduction of Isabel Aagaard|
|[00:02:00] Motivation for Sustainability|
|[00:03:00] Creation of Last Object|
|[00:04:00] Evolution of Last Object’s Product Line|
|[00:05:00] The Value Proposition of Last Object Products|
|[00:06:00] Hygiene and Materials of Last Object Products|
|[00:07:00] Sustainability Decision-Making Process|
|[00:14:08] Consultation with Experts and Prototyping|
|[00:15:00] Manufacturing Process and Resources|
|[00:17:00] Market Reception and Kickstarter Validation|
|[00:20:00] The Role of Kickstarter in Product Validation|
|[00:23:00] Manufacturing and Cost Structure|
|[00:25:00] Diverse Global Manufacturing Locations|
|[00:27:00] Finding Manufacturers and Cost Considerations|
|[00:28:33] Sourcing Textiles and Factories|
|[00:28:55] Utilizing Alibaba and Middlemen|
|[00:29:13] Using Larger Manufacturers and Packaging|
|[00:29:30] Streamlining Production and Assembly|
|[00:30:00] Kickstarter and Direct Customer Engagement|
|[00:31:00] Learning and Adaptation in Manufacturing|
|[00:32:00] Pricing Strategy and Sustainability|
|[00:33:00] Unique Position in the Market|
|[00:41:38] Introduction to LastObject and Their Success|
|[00:42:00] Utilizing Facebook and Instagram for Marketing|
|[00:43:00] Transitioning Focus to Home Market and Marketing Strategies|
|[00:44:00] Importance of Multi-Angle Marketing|
|[00:44:21] Learning from Mistakes and Continuous Improvement|
|[00:47:05] Book Recommendation: “The 4-Hour Workweek”|
|[00:47:58] Exciting Innovative Product: Sustainable Baby Bottle|
|[00:48:49] Recommended Tool: Figma for Design|
|[00:49:18] Acknowledging a Unique Business: Raincoats from Broken Umbrellas|
|[00:50:10] Inspiration: Isabel’s Mother and Her Entrepreneurial Journey|
|[00:50:53] Best Business Advice: Have Fun and Embrace the Process|
|[00:51:47] How to Purchase LastObject Products (Website)|
In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.
Isabel Aagaard of Last Object
- Book recommendation that you would make to entrepreneurs or business professionals (Response: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss)
- An innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Sustainable Baby Bottle)
- A business or productivity tool that you would recommend (Response: FIGMA)
- Another startup or business that is currently doing great things. (Response: Raincoats from Broken Umbrellas)
- A peer entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Isabel’s Mother and Her Entrepreneurial Journey)
- One networking tip or building and sustaining valuable professional relationships
- Best business advice you ever received.
(Response: Have Fun and Embrace the Process)
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Hey there entrepreneurs. My name is Sushant and welcome to TrepTalks. This is a show where I interview successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, business executives, and thought leaders, and ask them questions about their business story, and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses.
And today I’m really excited to welcome Isabel Aagaard to the show. Isabel is the co-founder and designer of Last Object. Last Object is a company dedicated to creating reusable alternatives to single use items. And today I’m going to ask Isabel a few questions about her entrepreneurial journey. And some of the strategies and tactics that she has used to start and grow her business.
So Isabel, thank you so much for joining me today at TrepTalks. Really really appreciate your time. [00:01:00]
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Thank you. Thank you for having me
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So very interesting idea, you know, I think i’ve interviewed a couple of other entrepreneurs who worked or are working in a similar space um, you know creating sustainable products for the single use or finding um, you know sustainable solutions I should say To this problem of, you know, having plastic products or items that are kind of, you know, people need again and again, and, you know, just creates more and more plastic and You have created a similar kind of an idea, um, uh, or product.
I think you started with a single product, which was like a swab. Um, can you share a little bit about your story? How, what motivated you to kind of get into the sustainability category? And how did you get the idea of creating this business?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, yeah, of course. [00:02:00] Um, well, I think getting into the sustainability mindset is something I’ve had, like, since childhood.
And I’ve just always been very drawn to understand how we can make things better, um, and more sustainable and what is not and how, and it’s a very complex world. So, um, trash in general has actually just been very, very, um, interesting for me, uh, to look at. And the, um, well, Last Object, uh, we created Last Object four years ago now, um, with two, um, co founders.
One whom also is my brother and the other my design partner and we’re all three designers and I think our how we got to create last object was actually from a mindset of Being a designer designing all these like furniture and I was in hospitals mostly and doing a lot of interior but also [00:03:00] in concrete product design and and it was very very amazing.
It was great, but I felt like it was just like one more chair, one more table, one more, you know, it didn’t feel like it was like the last of something. And And when we started talking, we had this joint office and, um, us three designers, we started talking about what would really make a difference. And, and what would, what would we actually, if we could do anything and like anything we wanted to, what we want to do, and we ended up, um.
Agreeing on something sustainable and it was it didn’t have to be. It had to be something that could be huge, like something we could scale, but but mostly something that really had a massive impact. And then we started researching, what would that be? And we could do, you know, a very sustainable chair, we could do a very sustainable building.
And then we. We actually started researching, [00:04:00] we just fell over the whole single use industry and, and we’re kind of surprised about, like, even, I’m pretty sustainable, or I felt like I was pretty sustainable in my everyday life, but I had a lot of single use items in my home, and it was something that I was brought up by, and it was something that my grandma didn’t have.
It was like, Where, where did this come from? And, and how can we, cause so it was, it was an attack on the whole like notion of single use items that we kind of dove into, and then we ended up, um, designing a lot of different alternatives and a reusable cotton swap was the first. Design material wise and form wise that actually formed.
Um, so that was our first product. And then we just launched that. And, and after the success, a very, very overwhelming success that we hadn’t expected at all. Uh, we just started going from one end and now we have a collection of, of eight, 10 different designs and different variations of the [00:05:00] different designs that are reusable items that replace single use.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So it’s a combination of design and sustainability. So can you, can you share a little bit about your products themselves? What is the value proposition? Um, when I think about like, um, You know, let’s say a single use cotton swab or sorry, you know, um, you know, a cotton swab that you can reuse again and again in.
I’m thinking there’s a lot of things that are coming to my mind. So I haven’t really read on your website. I mean, is it hygienic? How do you like, do you just wash it? So can you share a little bit about how does this these products work and what is the material that they’re made out of? And. Okay. Thank you.
Yeah. What is really the value proposition here?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Definitely. Um, well, all of our swap can be used, uh, over a thousand times. Is it [00:06:00] tested laboratory wise and it’s yes, very hygienic. Uh, the, the whole base of it is completely a closed surface. Um, it’s actually kind of a, of a form of, um, It’s a TPU at the ends.
Um, no, but in general, let’s, um, let me first take the first question. In general, all of our items are reusable multiple or like thousands or hundreds of times. And of course, they are all very hygienic. They are in materials that are washable. Either by machine or hand. Um, so, so that’s a huge focus for us ’cause it has to be easy and all of our customers need, needed to be something that’s still quick, something that’s still for a modern lifestyle, we can’t be using too much time on, um, on, on implementing these products into our lifestyle.
So that’s very important too. Um, and, uh, well the swab in itself, all of the different products are made of different materials with different, um, Thoughts, a [00:07:00] thought process. And also what we really try to do is that we try to make reusable items that are as close to the feel as the single use would be, because that’s what we’re used to.
So the cotton or our cotton swab has nothing to do with cotton, but it has the same feeling. It has our, especially our rounds. It feels like I’m cotton and single use cotton rounds. Um, are, uh, Our pads are menstrual pads are as close to the single use experience, but it’s washable. And the swab, the last swab of usable swab is, uh, the core is a plastic, like you would see, very enforced.
So it’s very, very strong. So you can use it so many times and won’t break. And then the ends, um, are made of something called teepee. And it’s, it’s a, it’s kind of a feels like silicone. So it’s rubbery then has a [00:08:00] surface that, uh, that is like, um, bubbly or like it has a structured surface that actually catches your earwax.
So the one that we use to clean ears, you can like actually catch, and we ended up actually developing something that’s much better for your ear too. So even we have the, you know, ear doctor saying like, this is actually okay to use because there’s been that whole, like, you shouldn’t use a Q tip. Um, so there’s been some really nice developments, um, that wasn’t expected that came afterwards.
And then, um, You have, for example, the swabs that are made for, like, editing makeup, and they are more caved, like, the holes are caved into the material in itself, so it kind of catches. Your mascara or your eyeliner, whatever you are like editing up. Um, so it has different functionalities to what it’s being used for.
Um, but it’s all a closed surface. You wash it under the sink with warm water. [00:09:00] And so, um, and then our rounds and our pads and our tissues. Um, they’re all washable by machine wash. Cause that’s the easiest thing to, to implement in your, like your everyday life. Um, yeah, and then the cases hand wash. It’s different thing.
Yeah, I can’t I can’t really explain it in one sentence. So,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: um, when you were going through this idea generation process of, you know, trying to solve this problem of sustainability. Did you come up with like multiple kind of options, you know, I’ve seen some people where, you know, the way they’re solving the problem is by.
Yeah. Replacing the plastic packaging. So they’re, you know, uh, making the impact through the packaging itself. So, you know, the product is still the same, but they’re changing the packaging so that, you know, people don’t have to throw out the bottles every time they’re, you know, they’re buying a new product and things like that.
Um, of course, you are [00:10:00] creating the product itself is sustainable and reusable. So when you were doing the research, um, What was your thought process? Like, were you, um, thinking about a way to make the biggest impact in terms of, you know, sustainability solution or, um, And and, you know, how did you come up with this?
Um, I mean, I’m assuming that you kind of, you know, found that one, you know, to come up with a one product and then that worked. And so you started working on other products as well. But I guess my question is, from a sustainability perspective, how do you measure the impact that you’re making? And were there different options?
And you thought that this this option would make the biggest impact?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Of course, there’s always like multiple options and, and it’s, um, it’s a process. The good thing is that like our company and everything that we do is based from sustainability. So that’s the first thing. Um, but [00:11:00] one thing is what is actually sustainable and then what is perceived sustainable.
Um, so sometimes we have to have things look more sustainable, even, even though maybe the most sustainable thing is to going a different direction. So for example. We were in big discussion in the beginning if the case to the swab should be in bamboo because that was something very in at that point and it was something everybody was doing, it was very sustainable.
But when we actually looked at how this bamboo is made and how many times you have to close the surface for it to be hygienic and all these things, it was just far from sustainable. And then we ended up going a different direction and making it in, um, in plastic that was made of corn. And this was Way more sustainable.
Um, but it was perceived as sustainable. So that’s something that we kind of work a lot on, like trying to explain why we are making the decisions that we are because we also we always make the most sustainable solution and decision. [00:12:00] And then afterwards, we have to sometimes explain why it is the way it is.
And then we also change our minds like two years ago, we found out that we could get. Ocean bound plastic. So that’s plastic that is taken up from the ocean and is, you know, granulated, divided in colors and then use that. And then we had to take some colors out of collection, but then we changed that for casings because that was actually a much minor Um, it had a better impact because it didn’t take as long.
It was, it was cleaning up, plus it didn’t take as much energy to, to heat it up than like new plastic, even though it’s made from corn and not oil. And so they’re like, you change your mind, new technologies come up and new, and also economically new resources are available to you. So, um, so there are things like that that go into the design process.
So I would say. My first product that I launched four years ago, we were still [00:13:00] redesigning it. Every time we look at the forms and we have to reorder them, we need to take a step back and kind of reevaluate. And so that’s been changed multiple times and to be more sustainable. And we did a little edit, may take a little bit of plastic out that you can’t really feel.
And then, um, and then we made it like, it’s a, it’s a constant process. That’s the first thing. And, um, And from the from there on, I would say that the design process in itself is is anchored in what decisions we take there and and how we build it. Then there’s the whole design aspect. So there’s materials, but there’s also a whole process on how should it be rounded, how should it look, how should it be executed.
Perceived, and that’s where we really try to be as close to the single use product as possible so that it also makes sense how you should use it. Like I don’t wanna make something that I need to have a huge manual on. Like, you pick it up here, [00:14:00] you hold it like this, you turn it around like that. It has to make sense when you have the, but that’s, that’s just a good designing.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: um, Given that you were kind of new to this whole sustainable idea, did you kind of consult different experts while you were going through the prototyping process? Um, or was it really just, uh, you know, reading your own, doing your own research? Um, Into what different materials are available, what is more sustainable than others and so forth and really coming up with an innovative solution.
Um, can you share a little bit around, you know, the prototyping and, uh, testing out different ideas and iterating and things like that.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, yes. Um, and there’s kind of two answers to that question, because, um, first of all, when we started out, it was very much bootstrapping. It was just us three, economically also, like, trying [00:15:00] to, to develop this, and as our company has grown, our team has grown, and now we have the resources to also talk to a fabric specialist.
We have resources to actually, we have an amazing team. Um, uh, team now that actually really can go in and go into depth with different areas. And that’s also why we’re, we’re jumping into new territories and new product launches, um, that we now can actually get specialists around, um, Really helping us develop it because, um, I don’t, for example, I don’t know so much about a detergent, but now I know a lot.
And that’s not because I’ve just been reading books. It’s also all the amazing people that have been helping us in the process of us developing our laundry detergent sheets. Um, and, and in that process, we also have, um, had the opportunity. When we got and we got funding two years in [00:16:00] and we put a lot of money on making life’s L.
C. A. S. Life cycle and assessments, which is a third party going in taking our products. having all the data around how it’s made, what it’s made of, where it’s shipped, and the end customer, how much, like, what is the footprint actually on this product compared to everything else. And that was actually really cool because we had made some assumptions and we got different directions, but now we can use that.
And these assessments in our new launches, um, we didn’t change anything. We’re really surprised actually, uh, how much better our products were, uh, more than we actually had in mind. So we started also, we could use this in marketing. We could use this in, in actually explaining, uh, each element and why we made this decision of, uh, ecological, um, uh, what do you cotton or, or ocean bound plastic and all these things.
So that was [00:17:00] really, really cool.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So, um, as you said, you know, you got a great reception from the market as well. So, you know, it’s one thing to create a good product, create a business perspective, of course, you need the, the, the customer in the market. And it seems like you had a really great reception from the market as well.
Um, Can you talk a little bit about that? I believe you started out with crowdfunding and that was kind of your validation process. Can you talk a little bit about that and what did you learn in that process about the customer?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, yeah. Um, yeah, we’re, we’re huge startupers, so this is not our first idea.
Um, but it’s definitely the best one, uh, until now. Um, so we’ve done different kickstarters and that’s also. Why we wanted to to kickstart this because we’ve done a reusable q tip to clean your ears it was like it’s something that nobody else has done ever and We didn’t know [00:18:00] if the people were gonna think it was like disgusting or amazing So it was a really good way of us not like putting too much money into it.
So we kick started it And so three months into the process before we had a like a working prototype and everything. It was completely Food strapped And we, uh, we kick started, uh, kick started it, and, uh, the response was crazy. Uh, we, of course, like, when we did, like, Face at that point, Facebook was really hot.
And, um, and we would do, like, a post on Facebook, and half of the comments were gonna be like, Oh my God, this is absolutely disgusting, what, what are you doing? And the other half would be like, Oh my God, I want one. So kind of like it was, it was actually, it was more icky four years ago than it actually is now.
I think now the world is also changing and we’re seeing with the weather everywhere. It’s just the summer that everything is, is gone to shits. So we really need to do something. And at that point, [00:19:00] it wasn’t as much of a focus for like the entire world as I see it now. So, so it was a really mind, uh, It was, it was, uh, yeah, it was like half hate, half love kind of situation when we launched.
And then, um, but we did a really good Kickstarter and, uh, and we funded, we produced, uh, we actually made the, everything was Photoshopped, but we actually made it and then produced it and sent it to everybody. And that was like the 20, 000 first customers. Um, that we had, um, that backed us there. And from, from there on, it’s been, um, it’s been different, um, because, or of course we, we, we kept kickstarting actually our, were our products because it’s, it was still a good validation.
Like, Oh, what about. tissues is that too much or is it okay and do you like this and the pad and so we’ve tried like to kind of launch them slowly just to see how much traction [00:20:00] that also made it possible for us to stretch funding and that we didn’t have to look at that in the beginning but We’re actually just slowly building our, yeah, our company.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: That’s awesome. Um, do you think Kickstarter is still the way to, for new startups to kind of test their idea or has it become way crowded now?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: It’s very difficult. Like every single campaign I did from that, like when we did last round, every other product has not gone as well as the first one. And I can see on our web shop that the other products go.
better. Some, some of them go better than our first product. So it’s not really, it’s not a market validation thing. I think there are two things I would think about when looking into Kickstarter. I think it’s still valuable, like extremely valuable because you can get out and, and like show everything, showcase everything within, you know, a [00:21:00] few months.
Um, I would. Personally, I look very much on where the product is going. Kickstarter is very male dominated and it’s great for gadgets. It’s great for something that’s kind of funny and a gift wise. And if it’s, you know, not too inexpensive, not too expensive. It’s like a, in the, if, if, if the price makes sense and the, and your customer group makes sense, then I would definitely do it.
But a lot of my, Female oriented products, um, have are doing really well in the company, but hasn’t haven’t done that well in on Kickstarter. Does that make sense?
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, definitely makes sense. Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s interesting that that almost tells me that, you know, Is, are men mostly the, the ones that are, you know, more interested in trying out new products or kind of supporting these new [00:22:00] innovative or interesting ideas?
Or maybe women, you know, uh, look, look in other places or, or maybe different mediums or means, I don’t know. But, but definitely very, very interesting insight for sure.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, definitely. And I think our… Our demographic is, you know, 80, 85 percent women buy our products, and we’ve been really successful on Kickstarter, so it’s not like one to one.
I think it’s just, um, I probably wouldn’t buy an innovative, um, diaper on Kickstarter, but I would buy a really innovative blender. So it’s about what it is. And what it and if you can hit something that’s, you know, not so female oriented, I don’t think you’re good with like only male oriented. I think you just need to like, yeah, catch a lot of them.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. Very interesting. Um, can you talk a little bit about your [00:23:00] manufacturing? So, you know, you have a great idea, you got the market validation, but You know, the business still has to work from everything from, you know, manufacturing and the cost structure and the price point and things like that. Um, can you talk a little bit?
I mean, I want to ask you about the pricing, but can you talk first a little bit about your manufacturing? How did you go from having this idea to finding the right manufacturers to getting it manufactured? And has your processes, uh, have they changed over time?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Um, well, we were pretty savvy when we started in getting things manufactured with the companies that we had, like each of us held beforehand.
So, so it was, it’s, it’s really just about like scanning everything and then testing, testing, testing. So like, um, you know, if you need something that’s made a proper way, then the list of [00:24:00] manufacturers are. Just, you know, smaller, and then you just keep, um, testing them, like, okay, then you send everybody, uh, like, you send five manufacturer, or 50 manufacturers, your design, and, uh, can they do this, and this, and this, and then you’ll get, like, 10% maybe back that, uh, maybe, yeah, 20%, 20 it’s 10% back.
That actually can, and, and meet your requirements and also meet your, your deadlines and everything that, um, and the pricings. And then, uh, from there on, you just, you cut it down, you know, either further you get them to, uh, do a prototype. Five of them will actually end up doing that, and you’ll find out that, um, we have two good and three are crap.
And then mm-hmm. . Keep iterating. Also, when you have produced your item, you keep doing this process because it doesn’t end there. The ones that started, you know, producing the swab is not the ones that are [00:25:00] producing it today. And it’s also good to have multiple manufacturers and so that you make sure if like suddenly there’s a big order or there’s a company that closes or something so that your whole company is not.
Relied on one source and it’s also better pricing wise, because then you can look at different qualities and put them up against each other. Hey, can you do it like they are doing it? It’s much better, but I like your material or whatever that so it’s a. That’s a whole department of people going back and forth and you need some really strong people on that.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: so is it, is it, um, is it based within Europe or how, like, how do you, or is it kind of like going to China? Uh, and, and, uh, did you, um, did you have to go visit your manufacturers and factories and things like that to, you know, to, to talk to them in person and things like that?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: [00:26:00] Um, we have had manufacturers in all over the world, in the US and Germany and Denmark, in China, in Vietnam, Cambodia, like name it.
Um, and we still do, um, have them very different, like different places because it’s. It’s really not, it’s about, um, what typically, uh, there are different cultures that are just much better at different things, so for example, the swab is being made so beautifully now in Germany, and that’s because they just have a history of machine work, and they have a history Making things very precise and, uh, the molds are absolutely beautiful.
They work with us too, in innovating. And, and so that has just, we took it to Denmark that did not go well. We don’t have that history. We don’t have that, um, that focus. [00:27:00] Um, And I think you can do a lot of different things. It’s a lot about what the product is, how complex it is, where you are at in the process.
Most of the things that we do, we maybe start out in China just to get prototypes, but maybe we end up not even producing it there. Um, but they’re very fast and very good at actually getting something to you affordable to, um, that makes sense.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, for sure. Uh, well, I guess the follow up to that would be, um, where, how do you find these manufacturers?
Like, do you go on LinkedIn and do search or you do Google search? Or, I mean, I’m assuming for Chinese manufacturers, there’s Alibaba. Um, or is it like through personal connections, uh, that you come to know about manufacturers? What is the best way that you found, um, So, you know, something like in Germany, um, you know, [00:28:00] manufacturer, um, how would you know that this manufacturer creates a swab?
Um, and then, you know, there’s of course the pricing aspect of it, you know, I guess the more high performance, high precision manufacturer, I’m assuming the cost. Uh, structure for them to create the swab would be much, uh, more expensive than, you know, something that’s not as precise or made in China or something like that.
So can you expand a little bit on that?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Um, again, it’s different things different. I remember, um, when we were, uh, sourcing a lot of textiles, that was a completely different process, different factories. And so we were asking around and people we knew that had clothing made different places, trying to get different offers, um, it’s also.
Going to yeah, you can also go through Alibaba and you can just like scrape. Okay, everybody [00:29:00] who is if you’re doing a bag and then things that look like something you would do and then you can also get pricing inside of that and there’s typically middlemen that make the process a bit easier in the beginning.
So, so you can use some, some bigger manufacturers that actually cover a lot of different things and then they end up, uh, and then you end up just producing your things through them and they’ll gather all the things. So they’ll get that made from there and there and there and there and there and then they package it there.
and they get the packaging made a completely different place. So that’s of course, um, when you get bigger, um, you will end up doing that yourself. So you’ll get everything made, like the case is made there, the swab is made there, the packaging is there, and then you’ll assemble it somewhere else because it makes it more lean.
Um, set up at some point, but in the beginning, uh, you also have to figure out, like, how, how much, how much, how difficult you want it to be. Um, because if you [00:30:00] start on Kickstarter, you don’t have, as you also kind of, yeah, got into a little bit before, but you don’t have all the retailers, you don’t have distributors, you don’t have that pricing issue that you’ll have later, um, where you need more people if you want to grow the brand.
Um, yeah, in, in on the The cache. So, um, so there’s a bit more flexibility in the beginning when you’re working with direct customers. So, um, so it’s, it, it, yeah, to answer your question, it’s kind of a process and it’s also getting into different, um, it’s also just scraping a list that’s also pretty easy.
And you can also get somebody on Upwork to go through and like find me all the manufacturers that can make this. And there are so many different ways you can go. We’ve tried everything. Um, and I, I can’t even like point on something. We have some good partners now that we keep using. Um, so you just build that up, but you build it up through years of experience.
Um, I had some friends doing something in a silicone department and that was [00:31:00] also. Easier for me just to be like here because I actually just did the whole research and took me three years and Here’s the best one for us at least and so that’s what I was And then they were a bit early in the process so they needed you know, the middleman to also make all the other stuff for them and and I am yeah, so A
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: lot of learning process, I guess.
Yeah. Can we talk a little bit about pricing? Um, so, you know, given that, of course, this is, um, a real reusable item, beautiful design, you know, all this back end stuff that goes into manufacturing it. Um, So this is, uh, obviously I would assume a higher price point item than, um, you know, the single use counterpart.
And then the, there’s the other aspect of it also is you’re in a way discouraging people from rebuying this item, you know, because this is supposed to be a reusable. So, you know, in e commerce or in business [00:32:00] in general, you know, it’s usually said the better, the better businesses are the ones where people have to go and rebuy that, like the subscription kind of model and things like that.
So in a way it’s kind of anti subscription or anti re purchase, um, so how do you take into account all of those things is, you know, and how do you come up with that, the pricing so that you’re, it still makes sense from a business perspective.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, um, well you’re spot on, on a lot of the problems that we’ve had.
We are, for me, we’re sustainable first. So, we can grow and we’ll just grow maybe a little bit slower than, than what you would if you did some kind of, um, subscription. Uh to start off with for us It’s really about we were also really lucky that we were three designers so we could just keep adding new designs to the collection and the good thing is people come back and get Because they love the swab and like oh i’ll [00:33:00] try the tissues and i’ll try the pad and so it kind of grows in that sense, but yes return customers are um Are a bit hard.
We’re very low price point compared to the market So that means a lot of our products are within Very few uses already cheaper than single use alternatives, which has been really, really awesome. And the swab is hard because that’s so cheap, but rounds have been economically better for customers to, to buy into.
So that’s been pretty interesting to, to take a look at, um, and to change up and, um, yeah, so, so we’re really lucky that we could like lower price point on a lot of products because we had so much. Um, knowledge about production and about how we could get this to market. So, so that was a big, that was, that was a big win for us in that sense.
It’s not been a big win to create reusable in general. [00:34:00] Um, that is, um, that is hard to kind of. To build on, and we’ve been really fortunate to just, uh, yeah, have all the different products, but also have these amazing people that, that also gift a lot to each other and, um, and that our customers typically have multiple products of ours and not just one.
So that’s our kind of return customers. But that also is expected that we keep designing. You
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: have to keep turning out new products. Yes. Um, are there competitors? I mean, I don’t know if competitor is the right word, but are there other businesses, other companies that are kind of trying to solve the same problem in similar way?
Um, um, with the reusable idea that, um, um, have you come across other businesses or are you still kind of the unique one, uh, in this space?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: I would say, like, creating reusable alternatives [00:35:00] to single use products, we’re still the only ones in that space, um, but they are, there are, for example, um, brands that are doing menstrual cups and menstrual panties and menstrual, uh, like, that’s not a new thing, that we’ve had that for ages, so, and then you also have companies that are doing other reusable rounds, um, to take off makeup and stuff like that, um, So, so you have like silo, you have different products that are also being made in the same scope.
The suave, we were really the first ones. Um, so, so there, yeah, so there are, but it’s not one company. We don’t really have, we have one company, which is like kind of a single use industry. That’s the only like, Where you have one company that own or that sells a lot of the same products, um, but the others it’s more like unique.
It’s more, um, yeah, menstrual care or it’s, um, beauty or it’s, yeah, um, wipes for babies [00:36:00] or, you know, it’s very, um, siloed.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: From a market adoption perspective, I know you talked a little bit about, you know, how you had kind of this love hate, uh, thing when you kind of launched, um, is your business now completely, you know, global, like where is the biggest market for you?
And, um, what is kind of the obstacle? Because of course the, you know, the, the idea of this product is really great and it’s solving a problem and it’s beautiful design and everything, but I’m assuming that there is still like the general consumer. Uh, the regular person. Uh, you know, um, what is the challenge to getting it like mass adopted in the world?
Is it? Is it really around education? Is it around pricing? Um, what is, uh, you know, where is your biggest, biggest market? And what’s, what’s kind of the biggest challenge to [00:37:00] adoption? Well,
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: and this is, I think there’s a lot of, um, opinions on this. Um, so this is just my opinion. But in my opinion, I think that our biggest chance of being getting like becoming huge is if we stand right next to single use items.
And where do you buy them? You buy them in the shopping in the supermarket. So if we can get to some point, stand on every single aisle in your local supermarket. next to tissues, next to wraps, next to swabs, then I think we can hit the masses, masses more. And it shouldn’t be like its own aisle, like, Oh, here’s sustainable things.
It should be in the aisles where you would pick that up. Because then you’re like, Hey, okay, wait, there’s a reusable alternative. You can clean your ears with that’s weird. Let me take a look at that. [00:38:00] And then you will, you will get into that space without Because right now we are hitting the sustainable market really well, and everybody who wants to make a difference, who’s doing a difference, who’s changing up habits, and who’s really looking at themselves and their lifestyle.
And that’s absolutely amazing. And this is like, this is the place to be. But, um, I believe that if we should hit the masses and really make sure that we make an enormous decision where we can actually see that single use swabs and tissues and cotton rounds are being sold less. Is if we get into these mass chains,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: maybe, maybe what’s needed, I mean, I’m, I’m assuming that these mass chains would be a little bit hesitant putting these items next to their regular items, because in a way they’re saying, Hey, let me reduce my, uh, you know, uh, my revenue year over year coming, coming up.
[00:39:00] Maybe what’s needed is like a retail chain or, you know, retailers who are purely sustainability Focused and all the products that they are kind of, uh, collecting there are The sustainability items or, you know, they have all this collection of sustainable ability products that people can easily access.
And I would assume that initially it is, it is going to be a bit of a niche market. Not. Everybody is going to be into the sustainability idea. Um, of course, you know, I think it’s going to probably take, um, take time for people to adopt it. But, uh, but I think there may be an opportunity for, like, sustainability focused kind of retailers or retail chains.
Uh, Any, any thoughts on that?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Um, yeah, but it’s kind of, um, it’s kind of the opposite of what I’m explaining. I think that we should get into where people are not create. I do believe in sustainable [00:40:00] chains and sustainable stores and sustainable places where you can kind of get all that. And I think they will grow.
But at some point, it’s all about convenience and it’s where you’re getting your tomatoes anyway, or where you’re getting your food. Um, pasta and I think it’s, it’s, um, I think there’s a space and yes, there’s conflict of business, uh, with them keeping like, uh, keeping the revenue, but there’s also something about the different chains starting to, um, really be more sustainable in regards to being the most sustainable, like, so that you choose them compared to something else.
So if they, we just start going there and buying their tomatoes, they don’t care if you don’t buy their single use swabs. Um, so I think it’s, um, it, it, it just needs time. I’m actually pretty positive of where we’re going and, and, and just our little company has opened up some huge chains and some doors.
And I think that we’re, we’re seeing a lot of [00:41:00] success there. And so, so I do think that it, it is, yeah, it’s, it’s possible going that way instead of the other.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay, sure. Can you talk a little bit about, um, your marketing, um, and how you’re kind of acquiring new customers? And, um, and I don’t know what your metrics are, you know, is it really the basket size or, you know, it’s probably not, uh, uh, returning customers, but, uh, I mean, it is returning customers.
I think you said, you know, you have a gift or some things like that, but yeah. Can you talk a little bit about your marketing in general?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah, um, well, in, in, in general, we do, we’ve done a lot of different things again. Um, we have, we have a lot of success in, uh, different products and, and showcasing them to niche markets.
That’s been really our biggest success. Um, but, uh, but now we’re hitting with some other products and we’re doing [00:42:00] mostly like in Facebook, Instagram, um. Yeah, it’s like a short snippets where we have real people talking about real problems, and so it’s not so commercialist, it’s not, it’s very like, um, it, it, it hits people, because it, it’s normal people with normal problems and normal thoughts about different things.
Um, and I think that’s, um, yeah, that’s been really successful for us. Um, there’s also, in general, when we look about, look at marketing, we’ve been very, we’re, we’re in Denmark, Copenhagen, and we’ve been looking a lot at the U. S. and building our market there first, um, because my brother and I are, lived there for many years and we understand it, um, and we have now actually started to focus on our own home market, um, and try to kind of build You know, do Facebook ads get in like the right stores in [00:43:00] Denmark, make sure that we get the right partners and like really focus on marketing, like physically, digitally, and, uh, awareness wise, doing a lot of things with other brands in Denmark, influencers in Denmark, such a little country, and that has had a massive effect.
So I think, um, what we’re looking at now is actually looking at countries and looking at, um, translating our website, like small things like that. And then also looking at doing hits, but making them a bit more massive and looking at the PR aspects, looking at the marketing aspect, digitally, physically stores, partners, like the whole thing.
Um, because you kind of feel it yourself. Like I don’t. I don’t see an Instagram commercial and then just chop that. I typically hear about it. Somebody sends me something and now I’m in the loop. Maybe I sign up [00:44:00] to a newsletter and maybe I see it in the store next to me. Like, if I get hit from a lot of angles, then I am more likely to.
Um, have understood that product and because our product is not so easy to understand always we need that like, um, multiple effects, um, kind of situation.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: For sure. Um, in every entrepreneur’s journey, there’s always mistakes made, lessons learned, you know, um, failures. I mean, you’ve been doing this for four years and it seems like, I mean, you’ve pretty much built everything from scratch.
What has been like your top? Failure or lesson learned that you, you think that you could have done without. And. What can other entrepreneurs learn from it? Um,
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: I think that the biggest lesson I’ve learned is make mistakes, make a lot of them. And if you [00:45:00] make them fast, I think that’s good because you keep editing in not being too hard on yourself when you, when you make a wrong decision, when you don’t.
choose the plastic type and then two years after you change that up and you make a, you use another plastic type. I don’t think that was a mistake. That was a, that was a development. Um, and, and, and, and I could argue both ways. So I think it’s really important to just keep making mistakes. Like we’ve, we’ve had success, for example, in our own, um, our own country because we’ve attacked this so many ways.
It wasn’t a mistake that we looked at the US to begin with, um, and, and I think that we’ve had a lot of success there, but in a different way, um, more like shopping chain way. And, uh, so in that way, I think that anybody who’s building a business, like I think biggest, like the The best advice would be keep [00:46:00] making mistakes and, and, and it doesn’t stop.
It’s not like we’re perfect now. Keep making mistakes, keep editing, keep looking at it and being like, okay, maybe I know we launched this and I know we have 1000 on stock of this, but next time, the next time we, we buy this product in, we change the font or we change the color or we do like, we change it up.
Um, like even with packaging, I’ll see edits and I’ll be like, ah, why didn’t I check up on this? I didn’t see the prototypes and all this. And it’s like, yeah, okay. But we’ll, we’ll get these thousand out in the market. That’s not a problem. And then we’ll change it up from there.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s definitely a constant optimization and the moment you stop doing that, I guess, you know, then then you stop evolving.
So for sure. Now I’m going to move on to our rapid fire segment in this segment. I’m going to ask you a few quick questions and you have to answer them. Maybe. in a couple of words or a sentence or so. [00:47:00] Uh, so the first one is one book recommendation for entrepreneurs and why?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Um, a five hour work week, not that your work will be five hours, but it’s actually really amazing to get into understanding how you can be more efficient and how you can look at your daily life.
So that it makes more sense. Um, you know, your, your work life will be, you know, 100%, 24 seven, as soon as you start your own business and which is amazing, um, but it is, um, it’s good to have those tools.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: So this is five hour work week. Wasn’t there another one called four hour work week also? I mean, four hour work week.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: That’s exactly how it goes. It’s never going to be four.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: I thought maybe somebody wrote, wrote kind of like competitor I , um, an innovative product or idea in the current e-commerce retail or tech landscape that you feel excited about?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Uh, okay. Say that again, sorry. [00:48:00] Um,
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: another innovative product or idea that, that you feel excited about.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Okay. Um, well actually, um, two of my friends just, uh, invented a bottle, like a, um, a baby, a bottle for babies. That is like the breast, like actually is as like same sacked feeling for the baby, and I’m so excited about this innovation. It’s taken them years to develop, and it’s an absolutely amazing product.
And as a mother, I just know how difficult that whole process is. So, um, yeah, I’m very excited about
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: that. Do you have the name of the company by any chance? Care. Care. Okay. Um, a business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend or a productivity tip?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Figma. For anybody working in, yeah, creatively, like, creative wise, like, I don’t use Photoshop in design, almost.
I don’t use those product, uh, programs [00:49:00] anymore. And I was living in them for 10 years. So I think that’s an absolutely amazing, um, uh, yeah, tool.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Uh, a startup or business, uh, that you think is currently doing great things? Yes. Besides the one that you already mentioned, um,
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: I actually saw some, I just want to, you know, I have, I have, of course, have like a list of sustainable companies that I actually love, but I saw something yesterday that I actually felt was really fun and exciting.
It’s a raincoat. Um, it’s, uh, it’s a Portuguese little company locally produced where they, where you send in a broken umbrellas and they make raincoats out of it. And I think it’s so cute and cool and you can only make it if you, you make it locally, but it, it’s, um, yeah, very
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: cool. Wow. So you, you send them broken umbrella and they will take out the fabric and create raincoats.
Wow. Very, very interesting
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: idea. And then they sell the raincoats [00:50:00] or, and I think also bags and hats and
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Wow. Uh, appear entrepreneur or business person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: And this is going to be so corny, but my mother.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Okay. She, is she also an entrepreneur or she’s?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. She’s a huge business woman and she’s always been. And yeah, I’m very. I’m really proud of her and I, uh, yeah, I’m excited to, um, yeah, to have had her as a role model.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Is she still in business? She’s still running
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: businesses? Still working. Yeah. Even though she has like seven grandkids, she’s still working.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Well, um, final question. I know you, you already gave your best business advice to, you know, fail. Often . Any other best business advice, uh, that you received or you would give to other entrepreneurs?
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Um, I think have fun. Um, would probably be the second one [00:51:00] because yeah, of course it’s really, really good to, to fail , but it’s also a long journey.
Sometimes you’re like, I can make a business in four or five years and then just like sell it off and some can, and that’s also a process, but then it’s really boring afterwards. So like having the process. Are really loving the process of creating the company. And yeah, that’s a really good experience.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Well, Isabel, those were all the questions that I had. Thank you so much for sharing your story for kind of bringing sustainability to, uh, to the world a little bit more. And, uh, yeah, for, for sharing your business advice. Uh, thank you so much again for your time. And, uh, if anybody wants to purchase any of these products, what’s the best way they can do that.
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Last object. com.
Sushant Misra of TrepTalks: Awesome. Well, thank you Isabel again. Really appreciate it and wish you all the very best. Thank you
Isabel Aagaard of LastObject: Thank you thank you.
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