Against the backdrop of a whirlwind year, Okeanos CEO Florencio Cuétara sits down with Set In Stone™ to look back on the accomplishments and challenges of 2020. From Teams calls in our kitchens, to the challenge of developing physical products without being physically present, we take a candid look at how far we’ve come.
Q: 2020 has been an exciting yet challenging year. Looking back, what would you say you are most proud of?
A: When starting a business, no founder ever plans for the scenario that happened this year. We had plans for every possible contingency and eventuality – or so we thought. Then we got hit with COVID, a one-hundred-year storm during the first weeks of operation. I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve been able to overcome the most challenging year anyone could have ever imagined and against the odds, have adapted, and grown beyond our wildest of expectations.
Q: After what you’ve learned this year, do you feel optimistic about the future?
A: I feel incredibly optimistic. As a team, we have faced great challenges. We were worried about family and loved ones, we were not at work, it was hard to communicate, we couldn’t travel, we couldn’t send our people to shows or allow others to touch our product or even do the factory implementations live. With a vaccine on the horizon, having life back to normal will only drive us further and faster.
Q: Of Made From Stone’s upcoming projects, which do you feel is the most important?
A: The reality is that every kilo of plastic removed from the environment is a kilo that doesn’t have to be picked up and degraded. This is an incremental battle, every kilo replaced has an impact on plastic pollution and carbon emission. Every kilo counts.
I’m amazed with the technological breakthroughs that we’ve made in degradation, manufacturing applications, material and environmental innovation. We’ve built a sturdy global supply chain – eight manufacturing plants around the world, making use of AI, and soon, blockchain technology to track our products from the stone quarry to the consumer.
Q: What can we look forward to from Okeanos in 2021?
A: We’ve rolled out our first phase, which is the B2B phase, and we are really encouraged about seeing B2C being unveiled.
The three areas we are starting with in Q1 2021 are:
- A replacement for paper-like material that not only is renewable and environmentally recyclable, but it’s also PFAS-free.
- Made From Stone branded food-service items. We’ll be starting with a sandwich wrapper, straws, salad and food containers, and will move into other items.
- New barrier films made with stone, a material that provides extraordinary protection and recyclability.
Q: What are the challenges you foresee in 2021?
A: Challenge #1 is how long it will take for the world to go back to normal. There are a lot of questions. How soon can we defeat the virus? How soon can consumers go back to their lives? How soon can our team get back to the road in support of implementation? How soon can we get people focused on the reality of the damage done during COVID to the environment? We are now set up to tackle these challenges. We are adding additional manufacturing, technology, partner brands, so I’m not concerned about the implementation of the business – I’m concerned about when the world will be ready to focus again for a serious conversation.
Q: The Okeanos team is expanding around the world. Where can we expect to see Okeanos in the coming months?
A: The big areas of expansion for Q1 are going to be Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, and Egypt. This is a big program that is both aggressive and ambitious – we are going to focus on those five countries with six more manufacturing facilities.
Q: Finally, looking back, what are you most thankful for?
A: We are thankful for the health of our team and their families. We are also thankful to those partners around the world that have opened their businesses, welcomed– even through the toughest of times –to share our ideas and converse with us. We are so very thankful that are joining us on this journey.
We also need to be thankful for this amazingly smart, united, and passionate Okeanos team around the world. More than 65% of the Okeanos team have never met each other – our bonds, relationships and even closed friendships have all been forged online. That is not only a miracle of technology, but a testament to the people who have joined us.
Our mission is even more important today than when we started. Due to COVID, we’ve all taken our eye off the sustainability ball this past year to focus on safety and surviving. Though, what we have done as a society, is add more plastic at an unprecedented rate in the form of PPE, take-out containers, and single-use bags; we have polluted more. Now, not only do we have to clean up what was there before but what have we have created since. Our mission now is more important than ever.
Want to join the Okeanos team? Check us out on LinkedIn!