In Conversation with Ushma Pandya of Think Zero LLC
Describe your business in a few words?
Waste reduction and zero waste advisory firm.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
Several factors – I was looking to break into the environmental space but was having a hard time finding a role; I realized that waste was my area of passion and when I was looking there were few waste related roles.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Head of strategy / GM at American Express; former management consultant.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
My business partner and I met with waste management companies to spread awareness of our business. We also used our personal network to meet with property managers and owners.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
We had verbal agreements to sign a few clients right before Covid shut the city down. Unfortunately that meant we were unable to sign them officially. So we had to regroup and pivot in our business. We started by focusing on how creatively serving our retainer clients plus launching a consumer offering.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I am looking for people who are flexible and creative in their thinking because this industry is still nascent and we are doing many things for the first time. This requires coming up with new ideas and being able to convince others to join us in the waste reduction journey.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We do a lot of work in the commercial building space. With the shut down of offices we have not been able to work with our clients in the ways we normally do – waste audits, in person tenant engagement/training etc.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We just launched our home business and we believe that there is a huge need to help individuals and families rethink why and how they consume in their home – everything from clothes to furniture to food and single use packaging. We are working with clients to help them figure out what works for their lifestyle.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Invest the time to raise awareness through a variety of channels – panels, posts, industry organizations, etc.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I do believe in work life balance but that might not happen every day. Some days I’m all about work stuff and other days I don’t even have time to open my laptop. My business partner and I are in sync on the fact that life does happen and we communicate with each other and help out as needed.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to play competitive board games like Settlers of Catan.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Make a list and review it each morning. Identify the 2-3 things you need to get done and focus on that. Don’t forget to also review what needs to be done for the month/quarter and year and review your daily tasks in the context of that overall goal.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
It means being flexible and being ok with things not working out the first time around! Just keep working and use the data you get from the market to plan and pivot.