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Lifelong is Sweden’s most sustainable, plastic-free lifestyle brand. We spoke to Silvia Ulloa and Fernando Molin to hear more about their growing startup and get their advice for other entrepreneurs tackling the climate crisis.
What is Lifelong, and what problems are you trying to solve?
Fernando: Lifelong creates plastic-free, natural personal care products (like body wash and shampoo) that come in fully compostable packaging. We also use a powder-to-liquid formula so people can just add water at home, lowering transport emissions by 94%.
Silvia: So there are two sides to it - reducing the amount of plastic waste we use and also reducing transport emissions, which are both integral to solving the climate crisis. When you buy our products, a small percentage also goes to Seven Clean Seas or ON A MISSION (you choose which one). So it’s a before and after fight against pollution and plastic waste.
Fernando: We’re also addressing a big problem from a customer perspective: convenience. People want a one-stop shop for sustainable personal care and household products. Now, they have to manage multiple subscriptions, which is a pain. That’s why we’re expanding our product range as quickly as possible so we can get everything they’re looking for in one place.
How did you become part of the team?
Fernando: I heard about Lifelong from a friend and when I checked out the products I got it immediately because I am a Huel fanatic, so the vision was super clear. Then I started looking at my life and realized that I do live pretty sustainably, it’s important to me, and I wanted to work with it. I approached Adam - who needed a co-founder – and said here’s what I can bring to the table: project management skills, branding and design. Thankfully he said, ‘this is perfect, it’s what we need’! He's also extremely inspirational and had amazing energy, so I guess you could say it was love at first sight…
Silvia: I’d worked with Adam before at another startup so I’ve known him for about five years. I remember him coming into the office one day and talking about his idea and how he wanted to get rid of single-use plastics, and as Fernando said, I felt really inspired. We kept in touch, and at a certain point, it was a good time for me to come onboard. It’s been really interesting watching it grow from a little seed in his mind into an actual company with real potential.
What’s it like working for a startup?
Fernando: Never forget why you were hired. You need to be able to sit on many different chairs but also know what you’re really good at. Because 90% of the time, you're learning and when you’re in the learning process you get insecure about what’s wrong and what is right. You need to remind yourself why they asked you to join the team. It’s also not for a person that wants a 9-5 job, which means you have to set boundaries. In our team, it’s okay to message someone after five but it’s totally fine if that person doesn’t respond until the next morning. We also schedule things on slack a lot.
Silvia: Being part of the foundations of a company and watching it develop is really gratifying. And then you have the passion that drives it and the desire to make a positive environmental impact. It feels good to know you’re making something happen. It’s also amazing when you see the hard work paying off. There was a point when we had no interest from investors, then suddenly we got major interest from two. Then you realize you worked until 2am for a reason.
What are the most important things you think you've learned so far?
Fernando: It's a constant battle to stay focused on the right thing. As a startup, there’s so much to do, so you have to really prioritize and figure out the best way to use your time. You also have to learn what to do internally to become a better team, while learning how to become a better company for your customers. I’ve learned that these are two different things, though of course they’re intertwined. If one is lacking, the other will hurt.
Silvia: I've learnt when to say no. We all want to help each other as much as possible, but if someone says can you help me with this, I always explain what I’m doing and tie it back to our shared goal for that sprint and try to weigh up how much help they need and if that should take priority.
What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
Fernando: Listen to your customers, for crying out loud! Also don't forget to celebrate the small wins. Otherwise, you look at your to-do list and it’s 10 miles long and unlike a marathon, no one is cheering you on, so give pep and good feedback when it’s due.
When it comes to prioritizing, we decide what our immediate goals are and have regular check-ins to make sure we’re all on track. It’s also fine to say to each other ‘no, this isn’t the focus now, remember our goal is X’. This is super difficult because you have so many important things to do, but Sting has been great at helping us hone our focus. In the beginning, it’s overwhelming, but then Sting’s coaches and experts come along and when seven out of 10 say ‘focus on this’ – you know it’s probably the right thing to do.
Silvia: If you can’t disagree, discuss and come out well on the other side you’re probably not with the right people. Having a team that you can share your honest opinion with and develop with is so important. Everybody should also feel like they’re working towards the same goal. Right now, for us it’s making a bigger positive impact on the planet through company growth.
How have you found Sting so far?
Fernando: For me, Sting is by far the best thing that could’ve happened to us. I've been in an accelerator before, but I could see quickly that Sting offers so much more. It's a better accelerator in the sense that it’s better organized, and you just get so much more.
Silvia: It’s really nice to be in this environment, and all the different classes and things that are offered are really cool. It’s also fun to see other people go through the process and hear about what they’re going through and what they consider to be their priorities.
What's next for lifelong?
Silvia: We have several products in the pipeline that are already being developed, including cleaning products and deodorant. So, the next step is offering more products to the Swedish market, then expanding further into the wider European market.
Would you like to learn more about Lifelong?
Visit their website or reach out to Fernando at email@example.com.