Cultivating Raw Talent
Stephanie Benedetto is co-founder and CEO of Queen of Raw, an online marketplace that makes buying and selling unused fabrics efficient and transparent.
Responsibilities: Developing and enhancing Queen of Raw's blockchain-enabled marketplace for unused materials, hiring and managing staff, attracting both customers and suppliers.
Experience: Associate, Baker Botts; associate, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; legal assistant, Davis Polk & Wardwell
Education: J.D., Emory University School of Law, 2006; B.A., philosophy, political science, economics, University of Pennsylvania, 2002
In 1896, my great-grandfather left Austria and landed at Ellis Island. To make a living, he repurposed old fabrics and furs by hand into beautiful garments, with minimal waste and toxins because his bottom dollar depended on it. I still wear many of those garments today.
While my great-grandfather didn't describe his job as sustainable, that's very much what it was. Today's supply chains are more complex, but Queen of Raw's vision is to use technology and advanced logistics to return to the way my great-grandfather did business, which made sense for people, the planet, and profit.
I had an earlier startup—a company that invented a leather alternative. Building that business was an incredible experience, but we were still manufacturing something new. I would go to factories and warehouses and see fabric in mint condition that was going to be burned or sent to a landfill. More than $120 billion worth of excess fabric sits in warehouses around the world.
On the flip side, companies were dying to get their hands on fabric. It was a supply-demand mismatch and a logistics challenge we could solve.
The Name Game
Queen of Raw was the first name I thought of for my business. I was raised in a household that was predominately female and went to an all-women's school. Both experiences helped me feel empowered to take on challenges. Feeling like a queen and wanting other people to feel like the kings and queens of their domain rang true to me.
When deciding on a name for my company, I didn't like the word "sustainable" because it means so many things to so many people. But "raw materials" can apply not just to textiles, but to other materials. And when the name "Queen of Raw" was available in both dot-com and social media, I took that as a sign. It has served us well.
The company's technical co-founder and I knew our solution had to be quick, easy, and cost-effective for all parties. Rather than warehouse the fabrics in one location, our machine learning and artificial intelligence tools enable buyers to locate inventory near their manufacturing operations, cutting transportation costs and emissions. We also use blockchain to verify product data.
The solution also allows companies to track their progress toward sustainability goals with established standards, similar to the United Nations sustainable development goals.
We collect the funds prior to shipping. The buyer's price includes the cost of the goods and shipping, plus any estimated customs duties and taxes.
Easy Does It
Then our system breaks apart the order. If it includes multiple suppliers, each seller gets its portion of the order, including the invoice, packing slip, and tracking label. All the sellers need to do is slap the label on the roll, receive payment minus our commission, and send it out the door.
Early on, the economics of our business model worked, but sustainability wasn't top of mind at many enterprises. To educate the market, we turned to podcasting and developing a YouTube series. Over time, we built a community of 100,000-plus users. Today, some of the world's biggest brands buy and sell on our platform.
We face challenges every day, but I'm running this company so my children will have clean water, clean air, and a planet to live on. In 2019, our solution saved well more than one billion gallons of water.n
Stephanie Benedetto Answers the Big Questions
1. If you had unlimited time and money to travel anywhere, where would you go?
Africa. We have a not-for-profit arm and it does incredible work in Africa. My plans are to travel there, both to see the wonderful women we work with and to truly experience the continent.
2. What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Don't be afraid to get your ideas out there, test solutions, and learn how to solve world problems.
3. How would you describe your job or company to a child?
My company won a competition in which we had 60 seconds to pitch Ashton Kutcher.
I practiced this pitch on my four-year-old son: 'Are you naked right now? You're not, because you're using fabric. It's where it's supposed to be, covering things like us, and where it's not supposed to be, sitting in warehouses, being burned, or sent to landfills. We're solving that problem.'