It's been ten years since Stony Creek Colors was launched. Your website says, "She quickly realised the difficulty brands face when attempting to integrate plant-based dyes into their designs." So, how many have things changed in these ten years? Looking back, what were your expectations at that time? Do you stand vindicated?
Unfortunately, it is still difficult for brands to verify if their dyes are natural or not. Today, Stony Creek Colors remains the only source of 100% biobased indigo as certified by the USDA BioPreferred Program.
Yet in the past decade, since Stony Creek’s founding, we have made strides in R&D that have led us to the launch of new product innovations, mechanised production systems, and significant gains in yield per indigo plant through our in-house plant breeding programme. We have completed successful capital raises that have allowed us to build out our indigo extraction facility. We are also in the middle of a geographic expansion that will transition our business operations to a year-round indigo production model. Lastly, we have developed a trusted network of global industrial customers that bring our plant-based indigo to pioneering denim brands and the list of interested partners continues to grow.
Stony Creek Colors collaborates with farmers, chemists, mills, and brands. What has been your learning on this count? How easy/difficult is it to get something that's right for all stakeholders.... and also for the planet? What would be your advice to others who want to take your route?
Creating any vertically-integrated business model is not ever easy. Fortunately, our model is founded on working with farmers to improve soil health. This allows for full traceability that all of our stakeholders' demand and trust. By focusing on advancing indigo plant development, we enable environmental improvements for the farms growing the crop and by extension, the denim market customers that use our natural dyes at scale. My advice to others would be to maintain the same level of intentionality around improving true sustainability innovations as you do improving profits.
From the beginning in designing the business and operational model, I knew we would have to invest in technology to truly deliver on a win-win solution across so many stakeholders. It has undoubtedly been a challenge to keep our production growing while developing and validating the next-generation solutions at scale with resource constraints. We knew we would need external equity financing in addition to grant support for our research. We were fortunate to connect with funders who shared our vision for developing a profitable operating model without compromising sustainability, for example, The Nature Conservancy as an investment through their soil health initiative.