Connect with us

Business

SME innovation | Reusable containers tracked

Published

on


The customer borrows them like a book from the library. Bo’s plastic takeout containers come with a QR code that makes them traceable.

innovation

Thanks to a web application, they are registered in the consumer’s account, then deducted when the latter brings them to one of the recovery points. The loan is free for the client. The containers are returned to the circuit after being washed – up to 1000 times – in Bo’s sister company, LavaBo. Result: 1000 times less waste.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Consumers must return their Bo containers to one of the collection points. These will be put back into circulation after being washed – up to 1,000 times – in Bo’s sister company, LavaBo.

Who

Holder of a bachelor’s degree in marketing, Mishel Wong worked for a company distributing detergents and industrial dishwashers for restaurants when the pandemic put the entire market in the freezer. The proliferation of take-out services prompted it to add single-use containers to its offering.

The initiative quickly fed her a questioning tinged with concern: how many plastic containers were heading for the trash?

Every week, I was the one doing the orders, and I saw the containers piling up to the ceiling in the warehouse. They would hold food for a few minutes before being discarded. I thought to myself: our company sells washing products, why not wash and reuse them several times? Tadam! Bo’s idea was born like that. I started my own company.

Mishel Wong, President and Founder of Bo


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

A washing line has been installed in Bo’s warehouse in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

The system

But the recipe still needed to be perfected.

“After ten years in this food industry, I have connections,” she says.

A web application was developed by three consultants and two full-time developers hired by Bo.

The principle consists in offering restaurants and their customers a service of loan and return of containers free of charge in the manner of libraries, “to avoid the deposit”, explains Mishel Wong. “A five or six dollar deposit, especially these days with rising prices, could be intimidating to consumers. »

The container’s QR code is scanned at the restaurant to be associated with the consumer’s user code registered on the platform.

The loan is free for this one, provided that he brings the container back to one of the 20 recovery points within 14 days.

The entrepreneur has found polypropylene containers in the United States that are resistant to microwaves, freezing, industrial dishwashers and can withstand up to 1,000 cycles of use before being sent for recycling.

I knew it would take time to get enough volume to make it profitable. I created another division, called LavaBo, which does laundry for companies that want to offer the reusable product, but don’t want to invest in building their own sink.

Mishel Wong, President and Founder of Bo

A washing line has been installed in Bo’s warehouse in Dollard-des-Ormeaux.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

The QR code printed on the plastic containers is scanned to be associated with the consumer’s user code registered on the platform.

Leave a lasting impression

It was still necessary that the QR code affixed to the container resist 1000 washes. The glued labels that the company tested did not last long enough. However, if the label is lost, so is the traceability.

With its partners, the company has developed a sustainable printing technique on its plastic containers, “almost like 3D printing,” she describes.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Mishel Wong, President and Founder of Bo (in the middle) chats with Nathalie Robitaille (PME MTL West-Island Director) and Benoit Guillemette (Industrial Commissioner for PME MTL West-Island).

A net balance sheet

“What’s difficult for a start-up is that you can’t really get funding without numbers, but it’s hard to get numbers without upfront investment,” says Mishel Wong.

To put numbers on her balance sheet, she partnered with Lufa Farms to replace her cardboard boxes with reusable bins. “It’s more than 1000 units a day that we clean at LavaBo for them and which do not go to waste. It’s this type of contract that has given us enough revenue for the key people on the committees that analyze the files to take an interest in us. »

In late December, Bo secured $650,000 in financing from PME MTL Ouest-de-l’Île and BDC, “against all odds for a start-up company, especially in today’s tech market.” today! », rejoices the entrepreneur.

The company now employs 16 people, divided between its marketing department, the technological development team and the warehouse where printing and washing are carried out.

Since its launch in November 2021, Bo has brought together some thirty Montreal businesses, around which some 350 consumers have made more than 3,000 loans. The company has approximately 30,000 containers in circulation, in five sizes.


PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

The company identified other sectors that had similar needs for washable and reusable containers.

The future

The company identified other sectors that had similar needs. Some caterers who sell reheatable meals in the oven at home wanted to have reusable and traceable stainless steel containers. “It’s going to be another line of Bo products,” announces Mishel Wong.

The ban on several single-use plastic items in Montreal restaurants and food stores, which will come into effect on March 28, opens a potential market for reusable and washable coffee cups. “We started designing a transparent plastic cup that will be made on the South Shore,” she says.

Bo has established links with school cafeterias and some seniors’ residences that use styrofoam containers. “We are testing with all these players to develop a targeted solution for each market. »



Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *