Elle Liu of Eucalypso: “Create something you feel passionate about ”

Create something you feel passionate about — being an entrepreneur is hard work, and if you don’t find something that you feel passionate about, you’re going to burn out really quickly. So ask yourself what it is that can be your guiding star even when the times get tough, so you can keep pushing through because you’re […]

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Create something you feel passionate about — being an entrepreneur is hard work, and if you don’t find something that you feel passionate about, you’re going to burn out really quickly. So ask yourself what it is that can be your guiding star even when the times get tough, so you can keep pushing through because you’re so passionate about it.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elle Liu.

Elle Liu is the founder & CEO of Eucalypso, a company disrupting the sleep space with soft and cooling sheets made sustainably from eucalyptus fibers. Designed for hot sleepers and people with sensitive skin, Eucalypso sheets are the perfect balance of ecofriendly, comfortable, and breathable.

Eucalypso make some of the world’s most ecofriendly sheets by using a closed loop process where they reuse and recycle 99% of water and solvents. Their mission is to get people to make more eco-conscious purchasing decisions while also providing high quality products that will improve their sleep.

Prior to Eucalypso, Elle graduated from Princeton University and worked many years as a Product Manager in NYC and. She currently lives in Portland, where she enjoys hiking, gardening, and educating people about ecofriendly living.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I grew up on the East Coast in an immigrant household that really valued education and hard work. My parents were both professors with PhDs in their home country, so education was something they really emphasized and imprinted upon me. The community I grew up in was low-to-middle income, so I saw how people lived when they don’t have a lot, and it really meant a lot of me to be able to give back and uplift those who need it in life. Later in life, when I would go to Princeton University and saw more opportunities open up, it really made me realize the importance of the experiences I had growing up and how important it was to give back. I wanted to take everything I learned growing up as someone who didn’t have a lot and apply it towards doing something impactful.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur until I read Originals by Adam Grant, which is what sparked the entrepreneurial side in me. I always believed that entrepreneurs were risk takers, someone who was very bold, outspoken, and willing it to give it all up to pursue to big idea. I didn’t have any big ideas, I don’t like being the loudest person in the room, and I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a risk taker. Rather, I’m steady, hardworking, and persistent.

In Originals, Grant shared the idea that leaders and people we see at entrepreneurs are not always risk takers or people very different from you or me. Instead, they’re often people who are thoughtful, steady, and pursue their ideas by working hard at it. It made me realize that I could be an entrepreneur. I didn’t have to quit my job and make a big bet that might bankrupt me; I can have an idea and work hard at it and build it into an empire. It really changed my mindset and gave me the confidence to think about how I can make an impact on the world.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

My company Eucalypso makes ecofriendly sheets from natural eucalyptus fibers, and our core values are focused around sustainability and giving back. I believe that sleeping well and restfulness is so important to living a healthy life, and I want to help people do that in a way that is also ecofriendly.

All our products are created with the highest eco-standards, from the way we harvest our natural eucalyptus fibers in small batches to the organic solvents we use — we really care a lot about doing things the right way. For instance, we utilize a closed loop process in our creation process, which means that we reuse and recycle 99% of water and solvents in our production process. Our products are not only earth friendly, but they’re also great to sleep in. So even if you’re not a particularly eco-conscious consumer, we still want you to sleep well and enjoy our products.

Of course, giving back is a huge part of our company values. Each month, we donate a portion of our sales to a charity of choice. Additionally, we give back to our community of workers by partnering with our manufacturers in Pakistan and China. We’ve set up corporate social responsibility initiatives based on four pillows: a health clinic, equal opportunity hiring, female empowerment and adult literacy.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

I was struggling with night sweats and breakouts, so I had a really difficult time getting restful sleep every night. So I looked into cotton sheets and discovered that cotton is one of the dirtiest and thirstiest crops in the world — it takes a significant about of water and pesticides to grow. The runoff from cotton production can create damaging effects on the earth and surrounding wildlife.

As someone who lives very ecofriendly, which was something my parents really valued, I wanted to find a more ecofriendly alternative to cotton. I knew that whatever it was, it had to be sustainably made and really align with the values I have — high quality and eco-consciously made. I wanted something that was carbon neutral and earth friendly. After over a year of talking to different mills and manufacturers, I discovered our eucalyptus fabric which is just a miracle fabric, and that’s how Eucalypso was born.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I want to create products that changing the way people live their life and think about what they’re purchasing.

For our consumers, that means purchasing with intention and being thoughtful about how they’re spending their money. It’s about knowing that their money is going to a good place that is helping make the planet a better place.

For our workers, we want to make a difference by providing opportunities they may not have been able to access previously. We have women empowerment programs as part of our social responsibility initiatives, which means giving leadership roles to women who may not have been brought up to seek leadership. We also have adult literacy programs that teaches adults how to read and write if they didn’t learn those skills previously. We really want to make a difference in the lives of people who work with us, and make the world a better place.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Create something you feel passionate about — being an entrepreneur is hard work, and if you don’t find something that you feel passionate about, you’re going to burn out really quickly. So ask yourself what it is that can be your guiding star even when the times get tough, so you can keep pushing through because you’re so passionate about it.

Perfection is the enemy of progress — everyone has great ideas, but the act of creating something perfect to execute that idea often holds people back. It can be an iterative process (it always is), so just get started and you’ll be the better for it.

Transparency is key — In a world where there’s so much marketing and false narratives, people really appreciate transparency. I think consumers really want to know more about the things they’re buying or the stories of people they’re purchasing from, which is empowering for both parties.

Have values that also empower your customers — If you can find something that also aligns with your customers’ values and get them to feel good about spending time or money on you, it’ll be a win-win for both parties.

Take it one step at a time — being an entrepreneur is hard, and if you think about all the things you have to do, you’ll never do it. So just get started and you can take it one step at a time — it’ll always be a learning process.

What are the values that drive your work?

Sustainability and transparency

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

Getting positive feedback that helps me stay focused on my vision and know that I’m making a difference. Being an entrepreneur can be really difficult, and you have tough days sometimes. However, getting the positive affirmation from our customers and hearing them rave about how Eucalypso has improved their sleep and changed their lives really brings it all back to me. It makes me know that what I’m doing is impacting people’s lives and making a difference.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

A world where we live cleanly and respect the planet. I would love to see more people being thoughtful about their carbon footprint and thinking about how the decision they make can impact the environment. We are all capable of making better choices and actively thinking about helping mitigate environmental damages, and I think we should all more towards that better world.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

I would keep iterating on my product to make sure that they’re even more ecofriendly and scale my business so I can reach a larger audience with Eucalypso’s message. We are currently experimenting with zero carbon fabrics and figuring ways on how we can reduce the footprint of our shipping process. We are constantly striving to improve our processes and products; however, it takes a lot of time and money to make sure things are getting done the right way. We don’t want to take any shortcuts or make any promises we can’t keep. So we would leverage our resources to make our products even better and keep giving back!

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Be thoughtful about where you’re putting your buying power. I think young people these days are especially aware of sustainable practices and the things they might do to protect the planet. They want to know the story about what they’re buying and why it matters, so I would just ask them to stay curious and thoughtful.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I have the biggest girl-crush on Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx. I really respect her hustle and how she was able to bootstrap her business and create it into the empire it is now. I have listened to her story so many times and it really resonated with me — someone who is willing to work hard and stay persistent. She had a dream and she pursued it, without letting anyone get in her way. That’s super admirable.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can follow our brand @eucalypsohome on Instagram and Facebook, and they can follow me @helloelleliu

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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