Spare a thought for your spent coffee grounds.
Where do they go to end their life? Likely your kitchen trash bag, destined to a future in a landfill or a trash incinerator, depending on where you live. A Brooklyn Center resident is a co-founder of a young company that intends to change that, up-cycling spent coffee grounds as part of a body and face scrub called Perk.
The company was born out of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s entrepreneur scholar program. Precious Drew, a Brooklyn Center resident who graduated from the College of St. Benedict along with her co-founders, joined the program in January 2017 during her junior year. The program provides students with an opportunity to design and implement a business venture and takes a group of students on a global business trip. Drew traveled to Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Silicon Valley during her time as a student in the program.
Drew started the program with a side business creating videos for local artists, but after approximately three months in the program, she dropped her video production gig and focused on Perk.
Drew – who attended the UN Climate Change Conference in Germany in November 2017 – and another two students at the college developed the idea that would grow into Perk.
“Just seeing the environmental impact that humans are having on the world really moved me,” she said. “I always knew that individually, we can do a lot of great things … we all can play a part.”
While many coffee shops take efforts to be green, reducing their single-use paper cup offerings and the like, few have given much thought to re-using their spent grounds, Drew said.
“There was a group of about three of us that actually came up with the idea. Basically, we just looked around campus at what we could make better … No one was really paying attention to the waste product that was coming out of coffee,” she said.
The company partners with a College of St. Benedict and St. John’s coffee shop, Clemens Perk, to access spent grounds. They are working to collect grounds on a larger scale, generally scale-up the operation, and increase the brand’s visibility, Drew said.
“For every three scrubs that we currently sell, we actually directly divert 1 pound of CO2 from [landfills],” Drew said. “We’d love to see that number hit 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 in the next few years, but again, it’s really about can we scale up, and then reach demand and create that demand.”
While still in college, Drew met professors and others who had connections with the Finnovation Fellowship Program, a social business catalyst which has offices above the Finnegans Brewery in downtown Minneapolis and works together with Impact Hub to help entrepreneurs launch ventures. After several people encouraged her to apply for a fellowship, she applied and was accepted in September 2018.
The nine-month program supports early-stage entrepreneurs with ideas for sustainable change and environmental impact. Fellows are provided with a living and health care stipend, a dedicated workspace, a curated curriculum to help navigate the beginning stages of a business venture, and experienced mentors. The opportunity has provided Drew with the ability to learn about herself, and find what she needs in partners and support, she said.
“During this time, you really get to grow personally and learn about yourself, and once you learn about yourself, you really understand what type of team you need build around you and what type of resources you really need to pull in from the outside,” Drew said.
The formula for Perk, which Drew said is designed to provide exfoliation, tighter skin and has anti-aging properties, was developed through trial and error, she said. The founders took a do-it-yourself approach and explored what other beauty gurus were using in their products. They consulted chemistry professors at their college as part of the process. The company created various formulas, testing the product, and gathering reviews before landing on their final formula, Drew said. The natural formula contains coffee grounds, coconut oil, vitamin E, tea tree oil and lavender oil.
Moving forward, the company has plans to explore further beauty products, such as a face mask or eye serum, Drew said.
The company is also exploring ways to further its efforts to be environmentally-friendly and sustainable, Drew said. The company has moved away from single-use plastics in its packaging, offering a re-usable tin jar that could be refilled or used elsewhere in the home, she said. Where possible, the company also tries to source its materials from local companies and fair-trade companies.
Perk is primarily a web-based sales company, with occasional visits at local pop-up shops, Drew said.
To purchase Perk, visit perkbeautylab.com.
Follow Kevin Miller on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunpost