Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in sustainability but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Helen Yang, Founder and CEO of Clean Filter Packaging, located in San Francisco, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We make compostable packaging to eliminate plastic pollution. Our products include plant-based containers for consumer goods such as jars, bottles, and lip balm sticks. These can be disposed of in your curbside green or brown composting bin instead of sitting in a landfill. We partner with sustainably-minded brands in the personal care & wellness space who are looking for packaging that's better for the planet.

Tell us about yourself

I'm a chemist who grew up in the consumer goods industry, and I experienced the need for sustainable packaging firsthand. For several years, I developed beauty and personal care products. No matter how great we made the formulas, we always ran into a wall when it came time to buy sustainable packaging. Every major material on the market has drawbacks glass heavy and fragile, aluminum dents easily and strips bauxite mines, and plastic sticks around for centuries. Even recyclable plastics come from unrenewable fossil fuels and only get recycled successfully 8.7% of the time (US EPA).

I am a chemist, so I decided to invent a better packaging material. We submitted our patent for this compostable material in 2022 and launched Clean Filter Packaging last June. We're now leading a revolution in the consumer goods packaging industry by creating a material that's both sustainably sourced and sustainably disposed of.

Every day I'm motivated by the fact that each new order takes a little more plastic out of our ecosystem. In the long term, I can't wait to tackle plastic pollution even beyond the packaging space. Our material can replace rigid plastic in any number of applications (think credit cards, temporary tools in medicine or construction, event/conference giveaways)--any product that needs to hold up to multiple uses but gets discarded after a few years.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

With just our first five orders, we're avoiding 16962.72 lbs (7694.16kg) of plastic! Many of these packaging components are too small or too pigmented to recycle. If they had been made of traditional plastic, they would've ended up sitting in a landfill for centuries and degrading into harmful microplastics.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

Turning off my mind at the end of the day is probably my hardest challenge. I'm grateful to be working on a passion project that taps both my technical skills and creative thinking, but as a solo founder, I know that I am the only engine powering this vehicle. If there's a task I don't love to do, there's no one else but myself to tackle it. If there's a problem to be solved, it's hard to step away from work until I find a solution. Being a solo founder is just as challenging and rewarding as everyone says it is!

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

I only have one tip, and it is to do something that you love. I would not have had the guts to quit my job and start this business if it wasn't a cause that I really cared about. This company is now something that I will touch every single day for the foreseeable future, and it is not the same as a job that I can easily give two weeks' notice to resign from.

If you're going to start a business that you pour your time into every single day, life will be much better if you love doing it and are energized by it.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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