Saasha Celestial-One: Founder of OLIO – Ep. 81

Video Highlights:

About Saasha Celestial-One & OLIO:

Saasha Celestial-One is the COO and co-founder of Olio, an eco-conscious start-up that’s raised over 50 million dollars in funding.

Her concept is simple: we throw away so much good food. In fact, up to 40% globally. Her app makes it easy to give away leftover food, for both individuals and companies like supermarkets. Going on a trip? Just take a picture of the food in your fridge and don’t let it go to waste. Saasha has received numerous awards including a UN Momentum for Change Award. More than that, she has a really unique path to success that I just know you’ll find deeply inspiring.

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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2:15 – “I’m trying to create an alternate economy where the currency is goodwill within the community and not cold, hard cash…We’re on a mission to reduce waste of all kinds in the home and local communities, at scale.”

8:50 – “Our goal is to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis as fast and as broadly as we can. We know that 40% of all food globally goes to waste and that wasted food accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. If it were a country, food waste would be the third largest polluter, or contributor to the climate crisis, after only China and the U.S. So it’s really a big problem. And almost all of that food could be eaten. It’s just about leveraging modern technology to get food, where there is surplus, to where someone’s hungry.”

11:46 – “I love traveling…getting exposure to other cultures and seeing how happy people are in places where they have so little…people who are clearly what we would consider destitute with almost no possessions, but just greeting it with joy. When I think about travel and how it’s impacted me, it’s those memories that have really made me do two things. I’ve become quite anti-consumerist…I don’t like buying things, I feel guilty when I buy things, I don’t enjoy owning possessions. I feel like they’re a burden. So I’ve just been much more minimalist. And also, what I do with my disposable income is very experienced-based – going to the theater and investing in VIP tickets for a concert and splurging on something like that, rather than buying stuff.”

13:28 – (Ross) “If you’ve made an international move, you’re forced to pare down your stuff. When I moved to Europe, I moved with nothing. When I moved back, got rid of an entire apartment worth of stuff, me and my wife slimmed down to two suitcases, and that was it. We started all over again here in L.A. And when you’ve done that, it’s really hard to look at stuff as a positive thing. It’s just a burden. It’s something that’s a problem waiting to happen.”

17:00 – “My mom, especially because my parents separated and I was the oldest of six kids, was a real hustler. She’s the one who taught me how to have a million side-gigs on the go. We had year-round yard sales of all different varieties at home. As a kid, I used to braid people’s hair at recess in exchange for money. I used to collect all the tin cans at the lake…hundreds of pounds of pop cans and take them to the supermarket and cash them in…all these little things that I did to earn money.”

22:21 – [On leaving the corporate world] “I was going to have to take overnight trips and…I couldn’t figure out a way to do my job and still be the kind of mother that I wanted to be. So, it forced my hands and it made me re-evaluate my priorities. I realized I was very happy with earning just enough to live on – which is why I stopped buying new clothes and cut back on a lot of my expenses – if it meant I had full autonomy over my time and got to choose when and how I spent that time with my son.”

25:32 – (Ross) “We had gotten so used to living in the Netherlands. You don’t need to earn any money to survive, just none. My first job was teaching English, it was part-time, I was making a grand total of €1,000 per month…I was barely working at all. And our rent, even though it was just right across the street from a train station, the most desirable part, fifth story, beautiful view, was €700 a month flat….No matter how much gas or water or electricity we used, there was nothing you could do to raise that a euro…So despite earning absolutely nothing, we never ran out of money…We could do all of the things that we wanted to do. And then we came to America…and our world was just completely rocked as we learned that to live here, you need to earn, I would say conservatively, ten times the amount of money to live the same style of life.”

27:10 – [On living in the UK] “We’ve got the NHS here, it’s got free access to health care, education, basic needs are met for everyone – once you’ve experienced that you never want to go back. But also the cultural infrastructure is, for the most part, 100% free. Museums are free, there’s free concerts…there’s also just public places, to grab a six pack and hang out and talk to other people on a blanket…you can have so much fun on a budget in Europe.”

28:01 – (Ross) “So many people are limited in what they can do and what kind of good that they can bring to the world by these financial constraints…If you’re worried so much about ‘how am I going to pay the bills this week or this month?’ and you don’t know how you can keep the gas turned on, you don’t have the luxury of thinking, ‘how can I solve the 40% food waste problem?’ It’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You just don’t have the energy. So I’m very aware of that, and I guess my message isn’t so much targeted at those people, as targeting the people who can and the people who should and the people who don’t.”

29:44 – “We’re all so busy and, if you want to remain open to opportunities, you have to have the time and space to be opportunistic, which is really hard when you’re working a full-time job and all your time is allocated. So if you do an audit of your time and your money, your finances, and you just figure out what you can cut back that still makes you feel like, okay, life’s good, I feel safe, but you cut back. Then that will free up time and finances that can then just give you the space to be open minded and opportunistic to explore something different.”

31:54 – “Tessa is my friend from business school and we’ve always been kindred spirits. She grew up on a farm in North Yorkshire…she knows how much effort goes into growing the food that we eat or that we waste…we teamed up together and started looking for a problem to solve, that way we could leverage our corporate and commercial skills and experience – something for good to make the world a better place…She had an experience where she was moving house and on moving day she had some food she wasn’t going to eat that she’d assumed she would be able to pack because it was non-perishable…and the removal men said no…That was the light bulb moment for her…Why isn’t there an app for sharing food? And that was February 2015 and it was five months to the day later that we launched in the app store.”

36:40 – “Your start-up is your baby in the beginning and the highs and lows are the same, but they’re just much more frequent in the beginning. It’s just constantly feeling like at any minute the whole thing can fall apart like a house of cards…It’s quite hard to switch off in the early stages…It’s quite easy to be obsessive, overworked or burnout.”

38:09 – “I feel very competent. I think for a long time I might have had imposter syndrome…and now after 10 years of having run my own businesses, or been a co-founder, actually I do know what I’m talking about and I can figure it out. And even if I don’t know how to do it, I know who to ask or how to learn from other people’s experience. And it’s quite a nice place to arrive at.”

39:18 – “My major concern is the lack of urgency from the general public, and many businesses, around the pace of the climate disruption and just complete blinders on about what’s going on and how in our lifetime, not just in our lifetime – in the next ten years, the world is going to change a lot. And I don’t know if we’re ready for it, but I am insanely optimistic in general as a person. So I’d like to think that we’ll find a way to keep our species alive.”

39:58 – (Ross) [About climate change] “We’re not sure whether we can win this battle or not at this point. But one thing I am sure about is that if we don’t try to solve these problems, we absolutely will not solve these problems. So if you don’t do what you’re doing, and if people like you don’t do similar things…that’s why I’m making this show my support…We have to at least try because we’re smart when we put our minds to it. We can achieve amazing things when we put our minds to it. But if we don’t even put our minds to it, that is the greatest tragedy.”

41:02 – “What I do know is that money, how people choose to spend their money, is what is the biggest influence in terms of how businesses operate in order to sell you something to get that money. And I guess what I’m trying to say is, everything you buy is a vote for the world you want to live in, just like everything you throw away is a vote for the world you want to live in.”

44:15 – (Ross) “People feel so let down by the system around them. I think so many people feel really let down and not taken care of, especially in America, people who did everything right and were punished for it or are still in debt or working three jobs. There’s no safety net, no health care, or the first time something happens, they get a crippling health care bill that bankrupts them and their family. So there’s not a lot of love of giving back to that system. There’s almost a hatred of that system. Why should I care about what happens to you all when you all have abandoned me when I needed help? So, fine, give me the Styrofoam plates, give me the straws.”

45:10 – “In America specifically, it’s a very individualistic society which in some way fits well. In terms of entrepreneurship and innovation and things like that. But the individual trumps collective and therefore when you’re asking people to make what are perceived sacrifices for the collective good, the math just doesn’t add up. It’s just cultural, it’s just ingrained in a certain way…We might need to stop focusing on the collective good of the planet and our future generations and figure out how to make the messaging more about immediate individual benefit. Which ultimately probably comes down to financial taxing and financial reward of behaviors that we want to see.”

48:34 – “We’re a social, tribal species, and we’ve moved into these nuclear individual pods, and it’s a very recent phenomena. It’s very counter to all of our evolutionary instincts. Sharing of resources in a community is as old as the human species. So I think we’re trying to bring back something that’s a lost way of behaving, but in a modern, trusted, convenient, mobile-first way.”

50:00 –“My dad always said, you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. And I know that’s ridiculous, but actually I think that’s quite good advice…it really just comes down to: you’ve got your own values and you can decide how you behave, and you can choose who to surround yourself with, but what you can’t do is try and impose your own values on other people.”

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