Startup Spotlight: Generation Conscious
A introduction to a sustainable personal care and laundry company that’s committed to environmental justice
Today, whenever you buy soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, or personal care products, you’re also buying a piece of garbage — the single-use plastic container that it comes in. Generation Conscious thinks you shouldn’t have to, so they’ve come up with a solution that removes waste without sacrificing quality. Generation Conscious is a sustainable personal care and laundry company that’s committed to environmental justice by making it easy and affordable for consumers to shop sustainably with their unique water-free products and on-premise refill systems. Visit their website to learn more or to request a refill station near you: https://www.generationconscious.co/, @GenCoWorld on Instagram.
From Passion to Profession
Though co-founders Matthew Rosenbaum and Greg Genco first met at Amherst College during undergrad, they didn’t start Generation Conscious until early 2019 when Greg called Matt with the idea. Prior to forming the company, Greg worked at UBS as a HY Trading Desk Analyst and later as an entrepreneur, creating a platform to augment collaboration between artists and corporations in the media space. Matt, on the other hand, began his career in media, first at ABC World News and then on the 16-episode climate change documentary series, “Year of Living Dangerously”. During this time, Matt grew more passionate about environmental sustainability and began to see it as a problem he felt a personal responsibility to address. It was through this experience — documenting stories of the deteriorating planet — that drove Matt to found Generation Conscious full-time with Greg and to make his transition to Columbia Business School.
“When I first started [working] on the docu-series, of course, I cared about sustainability, but in the same way most people in our generation did. I knew it was a problem, I knew it was real, I knew it affected us, I knew we should do something about it, but figured that somewhere somebody else was handling it,” Matt explained. “But after covering these stories, learning about how dire the situation was and how little time we have to address it, I became very passionate about the subject. The reality is, if we don’t find scalable ways to solve [climate change] soon, all other issues won’t matter.”
“The reality is, if we don’t find scalable ways to solve [climate change] soon, all other issues won’t matter.”
Product Evolution & Early Traction
When Matt and Greg first started Generation Conscious, they were most concerned with eliminating single-use packaging from personal care products. To do this, the founders created a pop-up at Amherst College and Temple University where they set up shop at high-frequency areas like student centers and dining halls. Sitting at tables with homemade signage, Matt and Greg would stop students on campus to ask if they would buy personal care products in reusable containers if the founders promised to come back to refill them in a month. Surprisingly, students were very excited about the concept and over 500 signed up to participate. On their first day of campus visits, Generation Conscious sold $2,000 worth of product, capturing about 6% of the colleges’ student bodies.
After the MVP at universities, Matt and Greg surveyed and interviewed their customers asking what they’d like to see next and how they could improve the experience. Through this primary research, they found that laundry detergent was overwhelmingly requested, which led to an interesting revelation for the founders. Matt and Greg realized that single-use plastics were only a component of the larger environmental issue they were trying to solve. If the founders stuck with this original idea, not only would they be using more water to create their products, but their filling stations would be the size of vending machines.
With help from their research and a newfound commitment to eliminating water from their products, Matt and Greg pivoted to focus on laundry detergent sheets that are about the size and thickness of a playing card. In addition, because of their discrete shape and lack of water, Generation Conscious’ detergent sheets are more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient to ship than most comparable products. This efficiency extends into the homes of Generation Conscious consumers, who can use the products as-is, without needing to combine with water or shake to mix like with competitive cleaning tablets (e.g. BlueLand). Instead, Generation Conscious’ detergent sheets, soap strips, and soon-to-be-released toothpaste and mouthwash tablets use the water from users’ mouths, sinks or washing machines to do this extra step, naturally.
The concept is simple. If you’re already using water to clean your hands, teeth, and clothes, why do you need a product with a base ingredient of water to assist? All this does is increase the weight of the product, wastes water in the process, and requires more fuel and money to transport to consumers.
How it Works
Under Generation Conscious’ current business model, the market generates its own demand by enabling environmental advocates to drive trial. On its website, Generation Conscious instructs users to request refill station(s) to be set up at their school or building by having people fill out a survey. Once the survey has enough signatures, Generation Conscious works with the users’ landlord or dean to bring their products on-premise. After the refill system is established, users sign up for a refill plan and can begin using products immediately.
Generation Conscious’ on-premise refill stations also eliminate the barrier of online purchase and the climate-destroying CO2 typically generated through shipping. Refill stations enable Generation Conscious to ship their product in bulk for consumers to buy on-site where and when they need them the most, in spontaneous moments of necessity.
Generation Conscious is relaunching in the spring on three college campuses — one of which has already committed to buying a month’s supply of detergent sheets for its entire student body. From there, Generation Conscious will install its refill stations across the campuses and introduce its tablet products in the coming months.
Generation Conscious is also in the process of completing a full lifecycle assessment to measure exactly how much carbon and waste they are reducing through the usage of their products. “We’re not interested in greenwashing,” Matt said. “Buildings, campuses, and customers want science-based evidence to confirm that they are reducing their carbon footprint, and we’re committed to giving it to them. We are at this unique time where sustainable solutions and profitable solutions can be the same thing, and we are proving it through our work with Generation Conscious.”
“We are at this unique time where sustainable solutions and profitable solutions can be the same thing, and we are proving it through our work with Generation Conscious.”
Generation Conscious is currently looking for Seed funding under a $1.5M Safe Note with a $5M post-money valuation. They are open to all inquiries from VCs and Angels. Contact: email@example.com.
This blog is a repost of my original piece, written for StartU. Finding, featuring, and promoting the next generation of founders, StartU’s weekly newsletter is the only study guide you need to stay on top of the latest student-led startup news.