Meet Stephanie Benedetto, Founder & CEO, Queen of Raw

#PEIntensive16, entrepreneur, inspiration, startup

Get insights and advice from some of the most innovative entrepreneurs out there. Leading up to Project Entrepreneur’s Intensive in NYC from April 9-10, 2016, we’ll be profiling the PE Class of 2016 finalists. Follow along for the latest on the Intensive with #PEIntensive16.

Meet Stephanie Benedetto, founder and CEO of Queen of Raw – a startup that is empowering designers to design smarter. We sat down with Stephanie to get her insights, advice, and inspiration.

4.2.16_QueenofRaw Photo_Blog

What inspired you to start your company?

Little known fact — the textile industry is second only to agriculture as the biggest polluter of clean water globally. The dyeing, rinsing, and treatment of textiles release toxic chemicals into our water supply that cannot be filtered or removed.

Think of your favorite cotton T-shirt. It requires 700 gallons of water and ⅓ of a pound of chemicals to produce. That’s enough water for one person to drink for three years. And that’s just one shirt — more than 2 billion shirts are sold worldwide each year. If we continue at the current pace, two-thirds of the entire world’s population will face shortages of freshwater and be exposed to these hazardous chemicals by 2025.

Our vision is to build the number one platform for sustainable sourcing across industries. If we can inform decision-making in real time, we can empower designers to design smarter. Replacing the conventional cotton in a single T-shirt with organic cotton cuts the chemical-use down to zero and requires only 10 gallons of water to produce. Organic cotton is also softer, thicker, lasts longer, and is on-trend in a growing market. We estimate that by 2025, Queen of Raw can save more than 4 billion gallons of water and 2 million pounds of chemicals.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? What’s been the greatest reward?

It’s thrilling to be a part of the vibrant start up community in New York, now known as “Silicon Alley.” The entrepreneurs, executives, investors, and other people I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with have made this experience incredibly valuable. By forming partnerships and collaborations with these individuals, I’ve been able to propel my business forward while also learning key leadership skills.

At the same time, this aspect has also been the most challenging. As much as I enjoy participating in networking events every night of the week, sometimes the focus needs to be on the business itself. I recommend taking time to perfect the product as well as the time to perfect the community around it. Both are equally important.

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough.

I went to law school thinking that I would eventually represent minorities, women, and children in court and give them a voice. Then I ended up in corporate law, where I learned the legal and business skills I would need as an entrepreneur. Co-founding my first company gave me real-world experience in a start up; I saw what worked and what didn’t, and was exposed firsthand to the problems I’m trying to solve with Queen of Raw.

Now I’ve come full circle — I can promote sustainability and help make the world a better place.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to another entrepreneur just starting out?

Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to take risks, put your ideas out there, and test your solution in the market — these are important steps to being able to improve your offering and iterate your product effectively.

Another thing no one tells you: Don’t be afraid to move into a crowded market space with many competitors. You can learn from the mistakes of those who came before you, do it better than them, command their market share, and be the last player in the market who really dominates!