Retold Recycling is on a mission to decrease the quantity of used clothes and textiles which end up in landfills in the US each year. Every year, about 12 million tons of these materials are disposed of in landfills. The company hopes to do this with their mail-in recycling service for used clothes. Will the the Sharks believe that Retold Recycling can convince people to pay for the privilege of recycling their used clothes by sending them off through the mail? Find out the answer to this question and many others in our Retold Recycling Shark Tank update.
What is Retold Recycling?
Retold Recycling is a company which offers a convenient and sustainable mailing service for recycling unwanted clothing and textiles. The company is located in Los Angeles, California.
Retold Recycling seeks to eliminate much of the 12 million tons of textile waste which goes into landfills in the US each year. Customers simply fill a Retold Recycling bag with old clothes, and drop it in the post. The company then has the items sorted and sent on to thrift stores, upcyclers, or it is turned into pulp material for various manufacturing industries.
Who created Retold Recycling?
Retold Recycling was co-founded by Alan Yeoh and Amelia Trumble. Alan Yeoh started his professional education in Sydney, Australia, where he attended the University of Technology, Sydney for his Bachelor’s degree in Business and International Marketing. He also has two graduate degrees, a Master’s in Commerce from the University of New South Wales, also in Australia, and an MBA from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Alan has held development and marketing positions in Australia, Singapore, and the US, and he has worked for major corporations, including Esteé Lauder, British Telecom, Uber, and AirBnb. Along with Retold Recycling, he still holds a VP position at Walmart.
Amelia Trumble also attended college in Australia, where she studied Business and Marketing at RMIT University, a global university of design, technology and enterprise. Like her co-founder, Amelia also worked for Esteé Lauder, where she held a number of senior positions at the company over 9 years, including Vice President, Online. Prior to founding Retold Recycling, Amelia also established Trumble & Tribe, a New York City based consulting business, specializing in all facets of digital marketing. While the team is working to get Retold Recycling off of the ground, she is still working in her consulting business.
How did Retold Recycling get started?
Co-founder Amelia Trumble told Modern Luxury Angeleno magazine that as she was renovating her closets in her small Brooklyn, New York apartment, she was frustrated to find no solution to easily declutter unwanted clothes, particularly without adding to the global landfill issues or contributing to carbon emissions.
Amelia told the magazine that she was “Ubering unwanted clothes to Goodwill, only to find them not accepting donations that day, or trying to work out what to do with old undies or solo socks because I realized throwing them away was bad.”
Amelia said that over dinner with a friend, Noelle Sadler Delory, the idea crystallized one evening, and she went home and documented it in an email, and that idea is basically their business plan today. Not long after, Amelia and Noelle met up with Alan Yeoh, and he volunteered to join in the business. Thus, when Retold Recycle started, there were three co-founders, with Noelle Sadler Delory also on board with Amelia and Alan; however, Noelle left the company in 2022.
What happened to Retold Recycling before Shark Tank?
Prior to entering the Tank, the Retold Recycling team worked to put together the system in which they could send a postage-paid bag out to customers, who would then simply fill the bag with up to five pounds of used clothing, and just drop it in the post.
The bags would then be sent to a recycling partner’s warehouse, where the used clothes would be sorted so that they could either be sent to thrift shops, upcycled, or sent to a facility to be pulped and used as material for other products.
When Retold Recycling entered the Tank, the company had been trading for less than two years, and after they launched in mid-2020, they had only $12k in revenues for their first year. In 2021, their sales jumped to around $175k, and at the time of their pitch in the Tank, they were projecting around $500k for 2022.
The company was looking for a Shark, both for investment and increased visibility, because they really needed to scale up quickly in order to be able to negotiate down their very high shipping expense.
What do customers think of Retold Recycling?
While searching through all of the usual review sites online, we did not find any third-party reviews for Retold Recycling’s mail-in used clothing recycling service. We next took a look at both the company’s Facebook page and website, and surprisingly, there were no customer reviews on Facebook; however, we did find some reviews on the website.
Generally, we prefer to examine third-party reviews, but with none available, we checked out the company website. We found that The Threesome, 3 Retold Bags for medium-sized cleanups, had the most customer ratings. There were 60 ratings for The Threesome, with an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars.
What are customers saying about Retold Recycling?
On the Retold Recycling website, as expected, we found mostly very positive reviews. One happy customer wrote, “I am so happy I found this product. I have no places in my area where I can recycle my clothing. This is affordable and convenient. I love this place. I know I will be back. Thank you for this service.”
Another Retold customer wrote that she was happy with the service but thought that the bags might be a bit larger: “Yes, the bags are a bit smaller than I thought they would be, but that’s on me. The dimensions are clearly printed. I just read pillowcase and thought about my king size pillowcases. The bags look small but hold quite a bit. I’m using this service for items that need extensive repairs, such as broken zippers in hoodies, clothing with rips or holes, single socks, or pairs almost worn through. The best part? They accept bras and underwear!”
Most of the comments on the website were similar, with customers happy with the recycling service, but some wishing that the bags were a little larger, and perhaps easier to pack and seal closed. It will be interesting to see some reviews from customers on third-party sites if the company successfully expands.
When did Retold Recycling appear on Shark Tank?
Retold Recycling appeared in the Tank on Season 14, Episode 14, which aired on February 17, 2023. The company pitched to regular Sharks Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec, and Guest Shark Emma Grede, co-founder of fashion brand Good American.
Along with Retold Recycling, Season 14 of Shark Tank saw several companies with an environmental focus, including an interesting pitch by Cabinet Health.
What happened to Retold Recycling on Shark Tank?
Retold Recycling co-founders Alan Yeoh and Amelia Trumble entered the Tank and asked the Sharks for $300k for 15% of their convenient and sustainable mailing-service business for recycling of unwanted clothing.
Retold Recycling founder Alan Yeoh, started their pitch by telling the Sharks, “It goes without saying, everyone needs to wear clothes.” To which Amelia Trumble added, “Well, unless you want to get arrested. But seriously, there is another cost to not going naked.”
After this cheeky start, Amelia then told the Sharks that in the US alone, around 12 millions tons of discarded textiles go into landfills every year, and she said this was the reason that the team had created Retold Recycling, a convenient and sustainable mailing service for recycling unwanted clothing and household textiles.
The Retold founders explained to the Sharks that the company sends a pre-paid mailing bag to customers, the customer then fills it with up to five pounds of old clothing, and simply drops it in the mail. The bags then go to a sorting center where items are sorted to be sent to thrift stores, upcyclers, or to manufacturers to be turned into pulp which is used in other products.
It appeared that before the pitch was even complete, the Sharks were ready to ask questions. Kevin O’Leary spoke up first when he asked how the company found customers to fill the bags with unwanted clothing, and he learned from Amelia that the partners had been running Google Ad Words, and the demand from people typing in ‘clothing recycling near me’ had fueled the business so far.
Next, Robert wanted to know if the people sending in the clothes were paid for the items sent in, and he seemed a bit surprised to learn that the customer actually pays $14.50 to send in a single bag. He followed up by asking the team to walk him through the economics of a single bag.
Amelia told him that the customer is charged $14.50, and Retold Recycling then receives about $.50 per pound from their recycling partner, most of the cost of the transaction is shipping expense.
Mark Cuban spoke up next, and he said that he donates a lot of clothes, but he just drives to Goodwill or other charities, so he wanted to know why he would pay for this service. Amelia replied to Mark that Goodwill would not take old underwear or things that they can’t resell, so a lot still goes to landfill.
Lori next said that was worried that the $14.50 price was too high, but Amelia said that, honestly, the company had not seen much price resistance. Mr. Wonderful was now in gear, ready to hear about sales, and he learned that the company launched in 2020 and had $12k in sales, in their second year, 2021, sales jumped up to $175k, and they expected around $500k for 2022.
Guest Shark Emma Grede finally joined in to ask, “What’s your path for growth? How are you going to scale this?” She learned that Retold Recycling had recently been contacted by a number of brands which asked if they could adopt their customer-facing recycling service as a plug and play feature for the brand.
The Sharks then learned that Retold had landed just one company for this plug-and-play program for their brand, but most of the Sharks seemed to believe that this was the best way forward for the company, though Kevin O’Leary thought that it would take him forever to get his $300k back.
Next, there was some discussion of the high cost of shipping and the need to scale to negotiate shipping charges or to have multiple warehouses to cut down on shipping distance and expense.
At this point, it appeared that most of the Sharks thought that at the very least, the company needed to make a huge pivot to make the numbers work, so most of them looked ready to swim out to deeper waters.
Did Retold Recycling get a deal on Shark Tank?
Retold Recycling successfully negotiated a deal in the Tank with Mark Cuban. Cuban agreed to invest $300k in the business in return for a 25% equity stake in the company.
Mr. Wonderful was first to declare his intentions, when he said, “I’m looking at the $300k, and I’ll have been recycled before I ever get that back.” Lori Greiner followed O’Leary, and she told the Retold team that while the mission was obviously important, she didn’t see how to make money out of it.
Robert then had a discussion with Alan and Amelia and felt as if he were rewriting the company’s business plan, as he saw it as a marketing ploy to get brands onboard with the plug-and-play recycling service, but when he asked Emma Grede whether she would use this service for her brand, Good American, Emma replied, “100%. But I think that this should be a non-profit that brands fund. I just don’t get the business case here.”
Emma’s belief that the Retold Recycling’s service would be better suited as a non-profit organization funded by apparel brands was enough to take both Robert and herself out of any potential deal. With Emma and Robert heading out to deeper waters, this left only one Shark circling, the biggest Shark of all, Mark Cuban.
Mark asked if the Retold partners would be willing to really focus on scaling the branding program, and if so, he believed that he could help them. Mark then offered $300k for 25% and said it was non-negotiable; however, this did not stop Amelia from asking if he would do it for 22%, to which Mark responded immediately, “No.”
Then Amelia smiled, and said, “You’ve got a deal.”
Retold Recycling Shark Tank update, what happened next?
The big news for Retold Recycling since their episode aired is that it appears that the deal with Mark Cuban closed quickly, and both the investment from the Shark, and his connections, have already made a big difference for the company.
In an article in Modern Luxury Angeleno, co-founder Amelia Trumble reported that the company had already recycled and diverted 18 tons of textile waste from landfills. She also told that magazine that “both the exposure from our episode of Shark Tank airing and working with Mark and getting our funding, have propelled Retold into another stratosphere. Mark has been very supportive and communicative, but even just being associated with him has opened many doors and given our mission of #nolandfill such legitimacy. We have so many companies and brands coming to partner with us too, and many of these are based here in L.A., which is exciting!”
Amelia also reported that the company has also expanded and is now working with more than one recycling partner, so they now have locations to which they can ship from different regions. Of her new recycling partners, she said, “The companies we work with prefer to be behind the scenes, but they are often decades-old firms who are excited to be partnering with a digital business like Retold to disrupt the category!”
Finally, the company also revealed that they hope to have their first packs of recycling bags for sale in retail stores before the end of the year. With Mark Cuban on board, and Retold Recycling rapidly expanding, this is one eco-friendly business which will be worth watching in the future.