Humphreys’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence share perspectives on sustainability and waste reduction

Ahmad Ijaz   
Arts & Entertainment Editor

This year, the Babson Center for Global Commerce welcomed Humphreys’ Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Lindsey McCoy (C ‘96) to campus for two days of lecture and conversation. McCoy is the co-founder and CEO of Plaine Products, a zero-waste body care brand that adopted a circular, earth-friendly business model working to eliminate single-use plastics. McCoy’s visit was co-sponsored by the University Art Gallery and was a feature in the exhibition and workshop, Action by Design, in support of Sewanee’s Climate Accountability Plan.

McCoy graduated from Sewanee with a B.A. in Political Science. At Sewanee, she was a writer and layout editor for The Sewanee Purple, as well as a member of the PKE sorority. She was also a member of the white water club and worked as a lifeguard at the swimming pool and Lake Cheston. Before starting Plaine Products, she was the CEO of an environmental education non-profit in the Bahamas, Save the Bays, and was a management and development consultant for multiple non-profits. It was her work on ocean plastic elimination in the Bahamas that inspired her to start Plaine Products. 

On the evening of Thursday, April 7, McCoy gave a lecture to a rapt audience of Sewanee community members, who filled all the seats available in Convocation Hall. She discussed the journey of Plaine Products, from an idea to an exponentially growing startup, creating environmental and social impact around the United States. She explained that Plaine’s products use refillable aluminum bottles and the primary mission of the company is for consumers to continually reuse their daily personal care products, such as shampoos, soaps, and oils.

In describing her journey, McCoy told the attendees that she was inspired to start the company when she kept running into plastic waste while working and living in the Bahamas. Her aim is to provide consumers with reusable and cruelty-free products that not only helps the United States control its environmental pollution, but also tries to help the country avoid dumping its waste in other countries.

Discussing the startup’s growth, McCoy explained that these are exciting times for Plaine Products. The startup is planning to collaborate with other companies to expand its project around the United States, and is in the process of developing a new warehouse facility. In developing its facility, the startup used the most sustainable methods to demolish the previous facility and is using green materials to construct the new warehouse.

After her lecture, she opened the floor to questions and answers. While answering one of the questions from attendees, she explained that in the upcoming years, she plans to start macro-level projects and hope to raise sufficient funds for them. Her mother and sister were also present at the lecture to support her.

On Thursday afternoon, I had the chance to interview McCoy. She was excited to return to Sewanee after twenty years and said, “It’s such an iconic place and to be back on campus with a purpose is important.” She said that she is inspired by the motivation to reduce plastic consumption and make it more environmentally sustainable, and hopes to inspire Sewanee to do the same.

In starting Plaine Products, McCoy learned a lot about the multi-faceted field of entrepreneurship. “I had to learn about the products and invent the reuse system by researching the market, talking to people, prototyping products, trying to figure out what the language was, and how to describe it. I learned a lot in the process,” she said.

Discussing the startup’s values, she said, “What drives us is educating people, creating awareness, empowering them by giving them another option [to reduce the waste they create], and creating a more sustainable lifestyle for everyone.” 

Advising Sewanee’s aspiring social entrepreneurs, she said, “Do it. Change can only happen when there are opportunities for people to make better choices. We need more people to offer those better, smarter choices. The world needs as many as we can get.”

After the lecture, she joined Carey Business Fellows and other invited guests from the Sewanee community for a formal dinner at the McGriff Alumni House. She was also joined by the Sewanee community for lunch in McClurg Dining Hall and coffee at Stirling’s Coffee House.