Stephanie McLarty, CEO
REfficient is an online reuse marketplace for businesses. We connect companies looking to buy equipment with those that have it as surplus – and therefore save money and keep product in use. Companies can also send equipment to RE+ centres where it is resold or recycled, and receive a sustainability report. We now have customers around the world and have helped divert over 430 metric tonnes from landfill.
What was the inspiration for your company?
I took a contract job at a major telecom company to help put myself through school. My role was collecting old and surplus equipment, and then figuring out what to do with it. After doing a consulting gig thereafter, I realized companies needed a technology-based solution to reach global markets and drive environmental results – and ultimately be efficient with resources, hence REfficient!
Did you have an ‘ah-ha’ moment when you got the idea to start your business?
There was not a single one; I have had many ‘ah-ha’ moments and still have them periodically. Usually they happen when I get a powerful insight or experience that produces clarity – things fall into place, make sense and become crystal clear. I know when I have had one because I usually then ask myself: “why didn’t I think of this sooner?”
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Overall the best part is working together as a team towards a higher purpose goal, knowing that the power to make a difference is in our own hands. That is just cool. I particularly enjoy the interaction part of my job – whether working with my team, meeting with other stakeholders, or speaking about the importance of reuse. I love that we can set our own precedence, and be creative at how we execute.
The most challenging part is dealing with many different variables and uncertainty. Some days it feels like we just have to make magic happen. But then, that is also the fun of it.
How do you measure success? What is the best recognition you have received?
REfficient is about sustainability, so we measure success based on financial, environmental and social indicators. We are especially proud of outcomes like job creation, waste diversion rates, and when we hear we have inspired others to make sustainable changes.
One of the most profound moments for me was in conversation with one of our staff, when he told me about all of the people that his pay cheque actually supported. In that moment, I realized the greater difference that the company was making and also the responsibility we have.
What are your plans for the next year?
We are focusing on continued refining of our processes, attracting new customers and ultimately positioning for growth and acceleration.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals or students studying to pursue a career in your field?
Every entrepreneur goes through challenging times and failure, and realizes later that there were extremely powerful lessons to be learned. So embrace the hard times! Don’t be afraid to pivot your business and try to enjoy the process, whatever stage you’re in. It all makes sense later on.
Above all, one of the key reasons why I have been able to start a business is because I have continued to work on being the best I can be and face my fears. So deal with what is holding you back – your limits are only those which you have created.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
First a vet, then a doctor, then most seriously for the UN or some other international organization. My Master’s is in this field.
What’s your current tech setup?
Toshiba Laptop, Galaxy Tablet, Blackberry – all which can fit into my infamous repurposed purse, of course.
What websites do you check daily?
If you were locked in Chapters overnight – what section would we find you in?
The first place I would go is the business section – I love contemporary business books and have applied a lot of lessons learned to REfficient. From there, I would head to the biography section. I love to read about people’s journeys in life, the choices they make and the lessons they learn that shape them.
If you could go to dinner with 5 people in the professional community – dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Steve Jobs – I’d like to ask him about success and failure, and how he personally dealt with it. He was also famously hard on people, and I’d like to know how he distinguished between incompetence and a lack of guidance. And what’s up with the turtleneck.
Meg Whitman – I’d like to hear how she grew eBay from 30 employees to 15,000, and from $4 million to $8 billion in revenue. I’d also like to have a conversation on her experience being a female CEO.
Ben Silberman – He is Co-founder of Pinterest. Their story is somewhat different from other Silicon Valley start-ups, as they grew slowly for the first few years. I’d like to hear how they stayed positive and persevered, especially since they were told no many times. I’d also like to know how they are managing their phenomenal growth curve and seemingly staying grounded at the same time.
Richard Branson – His philosophy (“screw business as usual”) and spirit resonate with me. I’d like to ask him how he came up with his zany marketing ideas and how he dealt with naysayers.
Albert Einstein – He was so insightful and his wisdom transferred across many disciplines. We often quote him. I would like to know what he would say to us today, given the state of the world.
Favourite thing to do in Hamilton?
There are so many great things happening in Hamilton, but my two favourite are the monthly Art Crawl and the trails along the escarpment.