Values Based Entrepreneur Spotlight: Chelsea Estebanez of Coastal Straws

Ever have one of those moments where you feel like the Universe really is conspiring for you? That’s how I felt when I learned about Coastal Straws. There had been quite the debate on my Facebook feed about using straws v. giving up straws v. reusable straws. I started using reusable straws a few years ago, and once the Amphitheater started talking about eliminating plastic straws (and plastic in general), I felt like the world was catching up. Seeing the articles about McDonald’s and Starbucks working together to go straw free was a moment of huge celebration for us. Almost the same day, my friend Kori, who owns Coconut Barrel shared a photo of her newest vendor, Coastal Straws. I knew immediately that I wanted to feature them and to do whatever I could to help grow their business and spread the word!

Also, I can tell you that refusing a straw in the drive through is totally no big deal because I do it multiple times a week. No one has ever looked at me strange or been confused, they just say thank you. And more than once the person has said something like, “Oh good for you! I’m working on that too!” I hope you enjoy learning more about Chelsea and her family business, and that you will support them by visiting their booth at Coconut Barrel or shopping online!

Website: CoastalStraws.com Instagram: @CoastalStraws

Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it? 

We are a family run business that is devoted to helping our oceans. We sell glass straws to get away from single use plastic straws. Our straws help stop the use of the over 500 million single use plastic used by Americans everyday. We started in 2018 and are loving every second of it!

Why did you start your business? 

We have grown up on the beaches of Florida - our whole lives it seems. We have grown up seeing all kinds of marine life come and go - raising babies and those babies coming back to raise their own. Our favorite has always been the turtles. We have seen nests on our shores every summer and have watched as many babies hatch as we could each summer. We were devastated when we saw the video of a turtle with a straw up its nose back in 2015. We knew we had to do something. Our straws are a small part to a bigger problem. Even big corporations like Starbucks and Disney are already banning plastic straws (starting in 2019). And we are as excited as ever to be a part of such a movement.

What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you? 

It means a lot that our company is value based. We have always been a beach family, and it means a lot to us that we can give back to, not only our beaches and marine life, but also to our community. We love sparking the light in other people to raise awareness about how our beaches are treated. So much trash is left on our shores every day and it is great to see people opening their eyes to the reality of it all. If we can do our little part to help people not trash our beaches then who knows what other great ideas can stem from that.

What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started?

Our favorite moment so far was probably our first sale. We started out in an artisan shop in St. Augustine called Coconut Barrel. We were setting up all of our displays and getting everything to look fantastic and were able to sell a few straws right then and there. Before we had even put the finishing touches on everything, we had made someone’s day brighter by telling them our story and why we do what we do. They left that day with a few straws and made a really great impact. The smile we get to see on people’s faces, when we tell them why we love what we do, makes our job that much more awesome.

What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business?

The hardest part about everything is getting the word out there. Most people are okay with their morning iced latte with their cups and straws. When we made the decision to start using reusable straws, we never realized how comfortable the routine feels of just grabbing your drink and immediately jabbing the straw against a table to get the paper wrapping off. Most people don't realize that they can refuse a straw at a restaurant. Some people might even feel silly asking not to receive a straw. Bring your own and pop it into your cup! Getting the word and the knowledge of how much damage its actually causing isn't enough for some people to jump out of the norm and bring their own straw or spread the word to others. We are here to change that!

What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years? 

We would love to grow so much more locally in the next year or so. We would love to see our friends and neighbors ditching their straws and going for reusable ones. Within the next five years, we hope to see a bit of a change in the world’s plastic problem. We want to see the impact the straws start. The point of reusable straws is to show people that we do not need to depend on plastics. Maybe it will remind someone to bring reusable grocery bags or use a tumbler cup today. And there would be amazing results, not to mention it would save everyone a ton of money!

Who are your business icons, heroins, or mentors? 

We don't necessarily look to one person in general. We look to our community when we think of business icons and mentors. In today’s world it seems as if only big businesses who have been around forever are the ones who can stay afloat. We look to those around us, the mom and pop shop type, for our inspiration. We love hearing success stories, even when it seems like they came from nothing. It makes us feel good that a community such as ours is supporting each other in their endeavors. We truly believe in shopping small and giving back anyway we can.

What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business? 

Our biggest tip would be to make many friends! It’s always great to share your product with people who are as genuinely interested and excited for you as you are for them. It’s great to get advice from all kinds of people with all kind of experience. Especially in a small business community, it is important for people to know you support them as you hope they would support you.

What is the last book you read? 

The last book I read was a book called "Who Moved My Cheese" by author Spencer Johnson. It’s a book about two sets of individuals who lead very different lives. They were all runners in a maze. The first set have found their "big cheese" in life. They even move their home closer to it. What they don't notice is that their big source of cheese is getting smaller but they keep growing more comfortable near it. The other set is always on the move. Looking for new cheese everyday. Never stopping, always getting just what they need and going off on another adventure. The first pair eventually run out of cheese and their world seems to come to an end.

What I took away from the story is to never look at something that ends as "the end." Keep moving and keep searching for something that is really worthwhile. Don't fear change as it could lead to more "cheese"! Keep your head up. Running is easy, it's just one foot after the other.