Lynn Julian: Putting the ‘Eco’ in Food Containers

Lynn Julian and Chance Claxton decided they wanted to do something about huge quantities of plastic waste created by food packaging. So they started eco-friendly food-container company, U Konserve.

Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange By Nusha Balyan at The Story Exchange

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Lynn Julian – Co-Founder – U Konserve – Phoenix, AZ

Lynn There are literally millions and billions of straws, and coffee cups, and plastic baggies, and single-use items going into landfills every single day.

TEXT Lynn Julian – Co-Founder – U Konserve – Phoenix, AZ, USA
Lynn U Konserve designs, manufactures reusable waste-free food storage products for everything from food on the go in your car, to reusing to pack a school lunch, to taking a lunch or a meal to work. I like to look at it not that we’re selling thousands or tens of thousands of containers every year, but how many thousands of pounds of trash we’re saving from going into the landfills.

TEXT Lynn grew up in near San Francisco.

TEXT When she was 3, her father took the family to Europe, bought a van and spent a year traveling.
Lynn They were definitely adventurous parents. I always like to say that that started my love and my passion for travel.

TEXT Lynn attended San Diego State University to study economics and finance.

TEXT She spent a semester at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

TEXT There she met Chance Claxton.

Lynn We traveled together, we studied together, we enjoyed that incredible opportunity together and Chance and I just became very, very close.

TEXT When Lynn graduated in 1988, she began an ambitious career in corporate finance.

TEXT She married in 1994, and 5 years later Joey was born.

Lynn When I had my son I was fiercely optimistic that I was going to continue to work. I was at the height of my career. I was doing really, really quite well. The second I took a look in Joey’s eyes I laughed and said, “I am so not going back to work.” And then Rose came along very, very shortly thereafter.

TEXT Lynn and her family moved to Phoenix in 2000.
TEXT She and Chance remained close.

Lynn We talked about, you know, “Wouldn’t it be fun and interesting to start a business together?” And fast forward, our children started going to school and we thought, “Wow, you know, there’s just a lot of trash when you pack their lunch every day.” And just speaking for my children’s elementary school--800 students, at least two water bottles in the trash can every single solitary day, plastic baggies, yogurt containers, little cracker bags. There are no recycling programs. So we were thinking to ourselves, “Where is this all going and what is, why is nobody doing anything about this?”

TEXT In 2008 Lynn and Chance pooled savings and began to research reusable food containers.

TEXT They visited factories in Asia.

Lynn We knew we wanted to be only working with very reputable and sustainable manufacturers. We were hoping to use as much recyclable material as possible. For example, our insulated bags and the sweat-free ice packs, all of that fabric is actually made from recycled plastic water bottles.

TEXT With first- to sixth-graders as their target users, they named their company Kids Konserve.

Lynn Kids Konserve was the name of the business that we logoed, we trademarked. After that we thought, “It’s a free for all. We can say what we want on our tags, and our catalogues,” and there was one particular phrase that we thought was very catchy that we put on every single solitary product and we didn’t know that somebody else owned the trademark.

Lynn This was an LA firm and they tried to flex their muscles with us, even though I said, “We will immediately cease use of this phrase, we’re so sorry, we had no idea.” Well they wanted money and they were potentially threatening to go against us personally for our equity in our homes. And I said, “You know what? This is a very good lesson that just because I’m creating a fun, cute little product, I need to keep my business acumen going.” I hired my own attorney and actually did a little research into their background and their business, and when they learned what I learned, they never bothered me again.

TEXT In 2011, to meet demand from teenagers and adults, they began to make larger containers and changed their name to U Konserve.

TEXT The company is growing steadily with customers like Whole Foods, the
Container Store, Amazon, and small kitchen supply stores.

Lynn We’ve been very passionate about keeping the ownership as a 50-50 owned company.

SOT We’re getting a couple of orders a week, I mean, it’s been really, really good. They really like one particular--

Lynn You can only grow as a small, leanly-run, self-funded business for
so long. In our busy season we go out of stock in our top selling items and it’s very frustrating for us because that’s basically money out the window because we don’t have the product to sell. We can’t sell product unless we purchase it.

TEXT Lynn and Chance are now looking for investment partners to help them expand.

Lynn The good and the bad of being a successful business is you get mired down into the minutia and the details of running it.

SOT Hi! What are you doing here?
-Hi. I wanted to bring you some snacks.
-Oh, sweetie! But remember, not this.

Lynn But the fact that my kids were a part of the process and they saw me work
really hard at something, and never give up, and create something that is doing something good for the earth--it could sound a little corny at times but it’s the absolute truth and that is really, really exciting.

Posted: July 18, 2017

Nusha Balyan at The Story ExchangeLynn Julian: Putting the ‘Eco’ in Food Containers