In January 2018 Kat Nouri, CEO and Founder of Stasher, the reusable storage bag, took her product on ABC’s Shark Tank, the Emmy award-winning reality television show where companies and entrepreneurs seek investment from successful head honchos in the business and finance sphere.
Two sharks backed out from funding. Robert Herjavec, whose global firm, Herjavec Group, is networthed at $2 million, did not “understand the advantage of the product.” Barbara Corcoran of the multi-million dollar real estate firm, Corcoran Group, declined based on the product’s price point.
For Nouri, health and food had long been important topics. Her father, who was a professional wrestler in Iran, and her mother, who earned a Ph.D. in nutrition, preached about the unique synergy that prevails between the food we eat, our health and the overall well-being of the planet.
But it was not until she became a mother herself that the seeds of what would become Stasher came to fruition.
“I was packing all of these healthy and nutritious lunches and then stuffing them in plastic bags when I really questioned and thought there had to be a healthier and more sustainable way than single-use plastics,” Nouri wrote to me in an email.
Made of a unique pure-platinum silicone design with a patented air-tight Pinch-Loc™ seal, Stasher is the only Pinch-loc storage bag of its kind. Its innovative design, an undertaking that took Nouri and a team of engineers three years to execute, has stamped out thousands of plastic bags from littering the planet since it hit the market.
“Silicone does not have the rigidity plastics have, which was a challenge when creating an airtight seal,” Nouri said. “As soon as we nailed down this technology, we quickly developed our brand and within three months went to market. The growth of the plastic-free movement and Stasher has been astronomical ever since.”
Within the last year alone, the Stasher team has grown from five to 38 employees. Shark Tank may have provided some publicity, but it’s clear the brand didn’t need the investment. Instead they have been fueled by customers who want to reduce plastic and support sustainable businesses.
Stasher was designed “so that there would be a seamless transition between the one-time use plastic bags that [consumers] were already using in their everyday lives,” Nouri said.
The product line, consequently, offers pocket, snack, sandwich, stand-up and half gallon-sized bags that conveniently stash a variety of items. A peek at Stasher’s Instagram page (followed by 205,000 people), portrays a plethora of usages from pocket-sized pouches that store vitamins, money, keys and miscellaneous valuables to half gallon-sized sacks ideal for meal-prepping. Its multifunctional uses set Stasher on a unique shelf in the kitchen.
An affinity for the environment is apparent down to Stasher’s product names. The product-line’s palette — citrus, mint, lime, raspberry, rose quartz, jade, moonstone, obsidian and milky way — highlight elements found in the natural world that Nouri said “inspire us or are in need of our protection as they will be lost if we do not change our consumer habits.”
Recently Stasher has rolled out the “Mojave Collection,” a line of storage bags in desert hues such as terra cotta and agave. The company will donate 1% of this collection’s sales to the Mojave Desert Land Trust, a nonprofit devoted to land preservation.
Stasher was born out of a necessity, Nouri said, because there was no alternative that functioned as well as a single-use plastic zip-up bag.
“Being a mom of three, packing lunches everyday, as well as a woman who loved bags, I found an opportunity to have a tremendous impact in a space where no one had done so before. There were reusable bag options in the marketplace, but none that functioned as well as Stasher, and so the idea of a reusable silicone storage bag was born.”
Kat Nouri credits her mother’s zeal for the woman she is today.
“She was always really passionate about our health and the nutritional value of our food source,” Nouri said.
She, like her mother, wanted to make her passion her work.
“I knew whatever I ended up doing I wanted to always feel as excited and as driven as my mom was.”
At The University of California, Berkeley, Nouri found a niche that not only drove her passions but also mirrored her character.
“As a girl with a traditional upbringing resulting from a product of an old culture, I have always been a rebel. I never wanted to conform to the norm, and I always questioned the status quo. As a result, I yearned to go to a school I could respect.”
Since the Free Speech Movement, its 1,000-student sit-in to protest civil rights and the Vietnam War, The University of California, Berkeley has long been recognized for its predisposition on both social and environmental activism.
“Somehow, I always felt that it was the difference that made me feel whole,” Nouri said of her education. “I felt at home there, and I believe it was the place where my foundation was reinforced as someone who cares about their community and the environment.”
Today Stasher revolves around Nouri’s desire to find a balance between consumers and the planet. Aside from buying items in bulk at food co-ops and storing food in the pantry, fridge or freezer, Stasher storage bags can be used to steam, boil, microwave and sous vide your favorite meals. Inquisitive chefs can check out Stasher’s website for a variety of recipes to get the most out of their Stasher bags.
Because they are made of 100% pure platinum silicone, these bags are dishwasher-safe, can be written on with a ballpoint pen or dry erase marker to record dates and — most importantly — do not leech harmful toxins into food. The comprehensive “50 Ways to Use a Stasher Bag” further demonstrates the product’s functionality.
With prices ranging from $7.99 for the pocket size to $19.99 for the half-gallon size, Stasher might be an expense that consumers have difficulty dishing out. Stasher’s silicone-design, however, can be reused 3,000 times, confirmed on its website (Stasher bags that exceed their 3,000 lifespan are encouraged to be returned where they will be repurposed for playground pebbles). Never having to buy single-use plastics, plastic-cling wrap or those plastic containers whose lids inevitably end up lost in the abyss that is the tupperware draw — it’s an investment that pays off.
Transparency is an essential element to any successful business, and consumers are increasingly seeking out companies that practice such candidness.
“I have always been forthcoming that Stasher as an organization is always innovating and striving to find more sustainable solutions,” Nouri said.
As a certified B Corporation, Stasher is held to a higher level of accountability as far as scrutiny and transparency are concerned. To obtain this certification, Stasher is legally required to consider how its products impact consumers, society, the environment, charities as well as the workers and suppliers responsible for executing these products. Each year, a third-party nonprofit audits these practices to ensure optimization.
Stasher, a mission-driven business from its inception, proved to be an ideal candidate for this certification, as well as the certification required to become a Green Business. By partnering up with 1% for the Planet, Stasher joins the 1,800 individuals who believe in this global movement’s mission to protect the environment’s precious natural resources.
“Because companies profit from the resources they take from the earth,” reads the 1% For The Planet website, “they should protect those resources.”
Partners, including Stasher and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, donate 1% of their sales to local nonprofits that align with their beliefs and are similarly invested in the salubrity of our land and seas (Johnson’s 1% goes to protecting the shores of his native Hawaii).
To boast that “1% of all our sales go to high-impact nonprofits that protect our oceans” on its website, Stasher not only exemplifies magnanimity but also allows consumers to be a part of a cause they can take pride in.
“Psychologically, it makes me feel better knowing that my money is going towards the greater good,” a friend recently told me while on the topic of 1% businesses.
In March 2019 The Shelton Group, a national marketing communications agency dedicated solely to sustainability, conducted a survey that cited respondents had greater concern about plastic than they did about climate change (65% say they are concerned/very concerned about plastics in the ocean compared to 58% who were concerned for climate change). The study also found that 58% of respondents say that when a brand uses no plastic or limited amounts of plastic in its packaging, it positively affects their opinion of the brand. Consumers will be happy with Stasher’s plastic-free packaging design.
Consumers have gravitated toward plastic-free products, such as Stasher storage bags, because of an increased awareness in the plastic crisis at hand.
When asked about the obstacles Stasher has faced, Nouri spoke with candor.
“Our platinum silicone Stasher bags are a better alternative to plastic, but we aren’t perfect.” She also possesses a marked impulse to continuously strive for better outcomes: “We’re always looking for technologies and ways to be better for people and the planet.”
Like many of us, Kat Nouri often gets worked up over the well-being of our depleting planet. She finds a silver lining by reminding herself that even small changes to our daily routines in the crusade for sustainability can crystallize considerable environmental change.
Stasher storage bags have been hailed across the board, including write-ups in Forbes, The Boston Globe, Huffington Post, The Washington Post, CNN Money and the Los Angeles Times. Curious about Nouri’s take on sustainability, we decided to ask her a few questions:
Public Goods: What does the success of a company like Stasher reveal about contemporary social values?
Kat Nouri: I think the beautiful thing about Stasher is that we are more than just a product, Stasher is really part of a larger movement to eliminate single-use plastics.
Public awareness around plastic pollution has never been higher and people are more mindful about their own personal impact to the environment and their health. Stasher is one of many mission-driven companies who are now playing an active role in trying to create a healthier and more sustainable planet.
PG: What does sustainability mean to you?
KN: Sustainability means everything to me. It is the underpinning of Stasher; it’s why we do what we do. I wanted to create a company that was mission-driven first and foremost while also trying to inspire consumers to try and live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. As a Women-Owned Business, B Corp and 1% For The Planet partner, we walk the walk every day to try and rid the world of single-use plastics that end up in our landfills and oceans.
PG: Where do your ideas come from?
KN: I am one who has always connected the dots between things, people and ideas. I am a dreamer and a doer. Additionally, I am really curious and a student for life. I never stop reading or listening to different podcasts. I think that combination in my personality is what triggers all of my ideas. I am extremely energetic and I try to put my energy into always moving things in a positive and forward motion.
Most of all, I think ideas are wonderful, but at the end of the day they are just ideas. I am more driven by the execution and the activation.
However, I have my best ideas when I am exercising. There is something magical about rebooting your system that allows your mind to be free and creative.
PG: What advice do you have for consumers wanting to practice sustainability?
KN: My advice is to start small and consume consciously. It can feel overwhelming when you start to realize how much plastic you use daily and like you’re not making an impact, but even the small changes can add up. Not everyone can immediately dive into a plastic-free lifestyle, but you can play an important role by consciously making choices to live a lower impact life. When you’re shopping at the store, don’t put produce or bulk items in plastic bags. Remember your reusable items (cup + Stasher) when you go to grab coffee and a snack or even ride your bike as a way to decrease your environmental footprint.
If we collectively make small changes, we can have a huge environmental impact.
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