ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES
The making of...
We were fortunate enough to meet Jordy and Julia at an RMIT event last year and were so thrilled with their idea we just had to share their story on our blog. Their ambition to create an alternative to plastic pallet wrap is huge… so why not support such a great cause. Here’s the story behind Great Wrap.
The making of... Series
Welcome to The making of... blog series. To start, can you give us a brief background into who you are and where you’ve come from?
Hi, I am Julia Kay, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Great Wrap. Great Wrap is a materials science company and we are on a mission to end the human reliance on petroleum-based plastics. Currently, we manufacture and supply home compostable cling wrap and pallet wrap, made with food waste, from our factory and fulfilment centre based in Tullamarine, Victoria.
That’s a great mission and definitely something worth fighting for. Who is the other Co-Founder and what is your collective background?
My husband, Jordy Kay, and I founded Great Wrap in 2019.
Before Great Wrap was born, I worked in architecture and spent my career obsessing over the materials I used. I saw huge amounts of waste in the construction industry, which never sat right with me.
Jordy was making natural wine and farming organically. He was shipping his wines worldwide and became extremely frustrated with the amount of petroleum-based plastics required to package and transport goods.
Having both used pallet wrap at work and realising that there was no sustainable alternative for it, we decided we wanted to do something about it.
Jordy and Julia Co-founders of Great Wrap
We can’t believe how many people ignore how much plastic is used in pallet wrap. For most, it’s an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing. Can you tell us how you decided to take the plunge and start Great Wrap?
One day Jordy and I were sitting on a beach together and asked ourselves a question: If we weren't operating in our respective industries, would they be any different without us? The answer to this felt like a no, so we decided we needed to do something more meaningful for the planet and ourselves.
We both love spending time in the ocean and knew the negative impact plastic was having on it, so tackling this particular problem was a good fit for us.
We think there are many people out there having similar thoughts. Taking the plunge is another thing. What about the research? What did you do to arrive at what you've got now? How did you test your product-market fit?
We knew we wanted to use compostable stretch wrap ourselves, but we weren't sure if this was a product the rest of the world cared about. So we had some pallet wrap contract manufactured, then posted it on our own personal Instagram accounts. It sold out within hours! That's when we knew we were doing something important and how essential it was to make it ourselves to ensure we could give customers the best products possible.
Now, a lot of our research and development is conducted in collaboration with Monash University and overseen by Jordy and our Materials Innovation Manager, Dr Martin Markotsis.
We also run internal testing and had pilot trials for our innovations so we can get first-hand feedback.
Using social media to test the market is a great idea. It’s no-cost and pretty much instantaneous. How did the first runs go with the contract manufacturer? What were the first iterations of the product like?
Our first product was manufactured overseas and it wasn't what we’d hoped for quality-wise. When we started to make Great Wrap at our facility in Tyabb, we were able to learn a lot from each iteration we created. Now that we have our much larger facility and an amazing manufacturing team, we've been able to tinker with the formulas and try different ways to make Great Wrap perform to a high standard.
We can only imagine how much capital all the testing and refining would have required. How did you initially fund everything?
Early on in our journey, we received a grant from The Australian Government. After that, we gained a lot of media attention, which connected us with a few interested investors.
Since then, we've run pre-seed, seed and Series A funding rounds with more investors that are aligned with our mission.
It's great to know that the Australian Government backed an initiative like this. And why wouldn’t they? Getting additional funding afterwards only confirms how awesome this idea is. And what about your branding? Can you tell us what you’ve done and how you arrived at where you are today?
I did the first branding for Great Wrap myself in Photoshop (luckily, I knew how to use the program). We had a really natural and honest feel that I think we portrayed well.
Last year we were ready for a rebrand. We wanted something a bit more grown-up and tech-focused. We worked with a great company with this rebrand, and we are so happy with the outcome.
So with the rebranding out of the way how are you getting the word out there? How are you scaling the brand?
For brand awareness, we use a mix of organic social media channels, PR and media engagement in Australia and America, paid Facebook and Google ads, e-newsletters, online journals, awards and local and international events.
Our business scaling has typically been through investment and team growth.
That all makes sense. And future challenges? What's the biggest challenge or challenges you think you'll face moving forward?
I think supply chain issues would be one of the biggest issues we may face. This potential challenge has led us to start working on our biorefinery, so we aren't as reliant on suppliers.
We also need to make sure we can keep up with demand. Our huge factory is filling up fast with machinery and products, and we have seen a lot of interest in our Compostable Pallet Wrap so far, which is both a challenge and a blessing.
Supply chain issues are an ongoing concern for many businesses. However, like everything you need to take one step at a time. On another note, it’s impressive to hear about the huge factory. Filling up fast is a good thing. Ok, here's our final question. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give another entrepreneur who is embarking on their own startup journey?
I think the best advice I can give is to speak to as many customers as possible and get a clear understanding of the problems they want to solve. You really need to be across what people want and need when you start any business. And speaking to them doesn't have to be daunting; it can be a quick chat here or there or a little catch-up email. Speaking to them also fosters a good relationship, which is essential in the sustainability industry.
Talking to our customers is something we will always do.