THE BEAUTIFUL SOUL BEHIND SOL CUPS
“My challenge came in selling the product. Once the designs were finalised and production was all set, I placed my first order of 8,000 cups. It was an eight week delivery. I had eight weeks to pre-sell the products, I sold all 8,000 in two weeks.”
Rebecca and her SoL Cups brand is a Bondi Beach institution, growing up in Bondi, the place and it’s people were an integral part of the zero to 100 success story.
Rebecca shares with me the story behind one of Australia’s great sustainable brands, the health crisis that became the inspiration for the business and her tribe that supported her all the way.
THE MINI ENTREPRENEUR
Rebecca’s childhood was not an easy one. Her parents are Russian, emigrating to Australia with nothing more than their drive to create a new life. They began life in Australia in housing commission and worked and worked and worked to get ahead.
This created a toll on the now young parents, and they separated when Rebecca was only small. For Rebecca this meant a lot of moving from place to place, a lot of uncertainty. It also helped shape her as a human being. She learnt to be flexible, nimble and resilient. All traits that signify a successful entrepreneur.
From the day Rebecca learnt to talk she began to sell things.
“When it’s in your blood it’s in your blood,” shares Rebecca. “My family had their own business producing promotional items; with their own factories and warehouses. I grew up around production. I used to take the samples from their factory and sell them at school. I was making a lot of money, I was in grade three.
Rebecca remembers the day she was called to the principal’s office… “I thought, this is it, I have been caught, I’m in trouble.”
But when she arrived the principal said to her “you know those folders that you were selling? My daughter really likes them, can I have a couple?”
Rebecca gladly gave the principal some folders in exchange for not telling her parents. So negotiation started early.
OUT OF THE ASHES SOL CUPS IS BORN
Rebecca started her first company when she was 18, as a personal trainer. She was managing gyms and studying business and psychology at university at the same time. She was busy. She had her personal training clients, the gyms to manage and at the same time she was running mental health workshops in high schools and corporate spaces. Plus she was competing as a bodybuilder.
Until everything came crashing down when she got sick.
She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Fibromyalgia – a debilitatingly painful chronic disease. She woke up one day and couldn’t walk. At age 22 she was confined to a wheelchair.
“We’re talking wheelchair, walking stick, two years of rehabilitation, hospital, every nightmare you can imagine,” Rebecca explains.
There was no more business, no more university, no ability to make money. She couldn’t do anything. She went through a complete mental breakdown. Her whole life was movement and now she couldn’t even walk. She was told by the medical practitioners that things would only get worse for her, good luck.
Rebecca had to move back home. As an independent young woman this was devastating.
“SoL Cups started within that. I remember it being this wonderful idea I came up with while I was bed ridden, an idea to help create a zero waste world. SoL Cups was this passion project I was doing from bed, and it gave me something exciting to focus on. And as I began to heal and repurpose my life with a focus on holistic health, the business slowly began to work. And then it just went from zero to 100,” Rebecca shares.
Rebecca doesn’t know the exact reasons as to why she got better but she is an avid believer in the connection between mental health, gut health and actual health. Meditation therapy really helped. Constant positive affirmations of “I will get better, I am getting better, I am better.” And a big dose of self-love. She went down an Ayurvedic health path — mind, body, spirit — and she healed.
“Doctors wanted to put me on cortisol and antibiotics and everything else and I was like, ‘no thank you, I would rather have the pain,’” Rebecca resolutely shares.
Rebecca realised she had been punishing her body. No rest, not enough nourishment. She was living on pre-workout smoothies and coffee. She believes that partly she did this to herself. She took full accountability and responsibility for her health condition and now wants to educate others on what healthy really means.
AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS
Success with Sol Cups literally happened overnight. Rebecca has great family connections and a family history in production so she knew how to get this product made. That was never a challenge.
“My challenge came in selling the product. Once the designs were finalised and production was all set, I placed my first order of 8,000 cups. It was an eight week delivery. I had eight weeks to pre-sell the products, I sold all 8,000 in two weeks,” exclaims Rebecca.
“I worked within my community. I don’t even think I had a sample with me and I just went to every coffee shop in Bondi, every store that I knew personally, ‘cause being a Bondi bubble baby you have a community. You talk to everyone. You share with everyone and you just do the work. You physically get off your arse and you go do it.”
“You’re on the phone all day, you’re emailing all day, you’re walking around for hours. That was the first little spark of joy where I would say, ‘okay, you can do this, people like this,’” smiles Rebecca.
Rebecca did this three times in a row. She sold 12,000 cups in another three weeks and 30,000 cups in an eight week period. All wholesale into stores.
From there she launched the e-commerce website and was able to start her relationship with customers, selling her stock at full price.
And then the universe came to the party (or perhaps it was the media)… the war on waste was declared. There was an ABC series that literally declared war on waste, and Sol Cups went from having 100 stockists to 1000 stockists.
“I was so happy, I was so fulfilled and I was listening to myself. I went from having no employees and doing everything myself to having seven employees and having my own warehouse and a warehouse manager and a team to help. It was crazy.”
IT’S A FAMILY THING
Rerbecca’s Mum, Rima, has been integral in her success, as has the rest of her family. Her family members (including her highly successful entrepreneur brother) are all partners in the business. Despite her parents’ separation, Rima continued to work in the family business. Once family, always family. Rima does all the book keeping and accounts for the family business and took on this role for SoL Cups also.
Rebecca shares that she never quite knows when her family will turn up on her doorstep. It’s always unannounced and always with a lot of noise.
“The best thing about working with family, is there’s no bullshit. We get the best result because you’re not tip-toeing. You can have a screaming match for five minutes but it’s because you’re so passionate and you want the best out of each other and you’re not hiding. There’s full transparency. Your inhibitions are gone, there’s no ego, you’re talking,” explains Rebecca. “If I had had a business partner that wasn’t family I don’t think we would have succeeded. You need that uninhibited ability to communicate with rawness.”
THE ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH ARE INTERWOVEN
Rebecca always talks about the environment and health as one. She believes the two are intrinsically linked. So when we’re doing good for the planet or you’re making conscious consumer decisions, it impacts us directly.
If you buy organic produce direct from a farmer’s market, which is a much more sustainable option, you’re nourishing your body, you’re being kind to the planet, you’re cutting out the middle person to support the grower. If you do the right thing for your body, you nourish it, you take care of it, it only feeds back goodness.
Rebecca was brought up in this way. She had quite a sustainable upbringing. It wasn’t perfect. She only knew what she knew back then. Her family didn’t have a microwave in the house, she wasn’t allowed to use plastic. Her dad is a health-conscious freak. She was that weird kid that didn’t have sugar. While other kids had processed sugary snacks in their lunch box, she had brown, healthy snacks. Like does anyone want to swap?
Rebecca’s health crisis was a wakeup call. A reminder to come back to herself and back to a sustainable way of living.
Rebecca’s big goal for the future is the complete eradication of unnecessary plastic production, while finding balance and putting her health first.
One beautiful soul, making a big difference in this world.
REBECCA’S ADVICE ON BUILDING A BRANDReally understand your purpose, values and strengths. If your purpose is innately within you, it will shine through every element of the business you touch. This will become your brand story and will help you build your authentic community and tribe. These are your brand cheerleaders! They are vital for organic growth.
Your business should reflect on your personal values, this should never ever be compromised. Authenticity is the key to long term success and will support you in building meaningful relationships with your customer.
And lastly, you really need to understand what you are good at! That’s where you start. Create a circle of experts around you to support you on the things you’re not so great at. Build your base team.
REBECCA’S LIST TO INSPIRE– Anything by Simon Sinek
– Pitch Anything – Oren Klaff
– Principles – Ray Dalio
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