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sHeroes: How Maria Casey of BUHO is bringing sustainable and ethical goods into homes across the country

Hire great people and learn to delegate. I’m fortunate to have two amazingly talented lieutenants that bring two different working styles and backgrounds to BUHO. As senior management, they lead all the processes and sketch out the most efficient ways for the business to run day to day. Without exceptional senior management, we would never […]

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Hire great people and learn to delegate. I’m fortunate to have two amazingly talented lieutenants that bring two different working styles and backgrounds to BUHO. As senior management, they lead all the processes and sketch out the most efficient ways for the business to run day to day. Without exceptional senior management, we would never be able to scale. Now that I’ve been able to pull myself out of the day to day, our business is humming.


For my series on strong women, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria Casey, CEO and founder of BUHO. Maria is the CEO and founder of BUHO, an online retailer offering ethical, sustainable, and vintage goods for women, men, kids, and home. She saw a need in the market to bring sustainable and ethical goods into homes across the country, leading to her decision to start BUHO.

Prior to this, she spent 15 years working for a variety of startups, holding executive-level business development and marketing roles for companies in New York and Los Angeles. She’s connected hundreds of the top global brands to their core audiences through content, marketing, and distribution deals, while also building organizations through pivotal growth phases.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career trajectory has gone a few different ways. I was a Peace Corps volunteer after college in Bangladesh. Then jumped straight into digital media in New York where I worked in advertising and then into the startup world where I spent 15 years working in Business Development and Marketing for companies in gaming, e-commerce and tech in New York and Los Angeles. I always wanted to find a way back to the philanthropic side of myself, so I served on non-profit boards throughout Los Angeles, but it wasn’t until February at Vegas Market where I saw an opportunity to bring my business and philanthropic passions together. I was shocked to see how little the fashion world had evolved over the past 5 years since I had left it. I spent the next two weeks researching everything I could, creating business plans and modeling out what I needed to get this off the ground. The more I learned, the more I knew I had to do this. And I took a look at my own shopping habits and realized I was shopping at 7 different sites if I wanted sustainable and good for the planet products for my family. I had to build one that made it easy for consumers to make sustainable shopping choices, and that’s how BUHO came to be.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Plastic! As a fully sustainable business, we wanted to start our fulfillment center without plastic. Do you know how hard that is? We found beautiful compostable packaging, but then there were the labels… thankfully, we found another vendor that made compostable labels. Then we found plantable seed tags for our products. But the real challenge was the actual warehouse — what kind of bin could we use that was big enough (but small enough for our small warehouse / office), and wasn’t made of plastic? How could we keep all of our smaller items, like jewelry organized? There aren’t a lot of (or really any) efficient options. We actually started looking for milk crates — yes, plastic, but second-hand. But couldn’t figure out where to even buy those. We ended up with a mix of cloth bins and the shipping boxes from our inventory deliveries. We’re still looking for better options. It’s crazy to think that today businesses of all sizes are still so dependent on plastic.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Being a mom and overbuying kids in the beginning. Out of the three of us on the team in the beginning, two of us have kids (not our buyer). Mine is 6, so I was on a hunt for sustainable or ethically made kids leggings because my daughter has holes in all of hers. And our head of Operations has a baby, so we have onesies in every size and color under the sun. Essentially we started as a kids store with men’s and women’s capsule collections. At least now, we have tons of kid basics that will last for years.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

From the beginning, I wanted to build a fully circular e-commerce business. To me, that means ensuring we try to make our environmental footprint smaller. There are a lot of brands incorporating sustainable business practices into their daily operations, and we wanted to bring them into one place to make that discoverability process easier for the customer. But it’s more than that. Shop Good comes from making good (for our people and planet) shopping choices, but also disposing of your unwanted goods responsibly. Most people think they’re doing a good deed by donating their clothing to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but the hard truth is that almost 90% of that ends up in a landfill. No one knows that! So at BUHO, we include return labels, and incentives to send us any of their unwanted clothing. They fill one of the compostable bags we included as part of their order with old clothes, and stick it in their mailbox to be picked up, and we send them a store credit in return.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are partnering with Dress for Success and Catholic Charities and will be rolling out monthly sales / promotions where a percent of profits go to their organizations. In addition to that, if the donated products from our customers meet the standards of what they need, we will distribute those clothing items directly to their organizations.

This fall we have a Backpack Drive planned to collect backpacks that we can send to the asylum seekers to carry their belongings as they leave the shelters to their new homes, and will be volunteering in Dress for Success’ career training program.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Be authentic. There’s no mold anymore that we have to fit into in order to be a good leader or mentor. So I put it all out there, and in return, I want my team to feel confident that they can be themselves and speak up when they want to change a process, or take a risk. As a result, I think it creates a safe space for women in the workplace to feel vulnerable, get creative and really see what they can do. Feel like crying, cry. Want a glass of wine at 10am, pour two.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Hire great people and learn to delegate. I’m fortunate to have two amazingly talented lieutenants that bring two different working styles and backgrounds to BUHO. As senior management, they lead all the processes and sketch out the most efficient ways for the business to run day to day. Without exceptional senior management, we would never be able to scale. Now that I’ve been able to pull myself out of the day to day, our business is humming.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Where do I start? There are so many! My first boss, my last boss, my friend’s boss, my meh boss, my dad, my husband, my sister, my mom. My friends. I’ve had so many different working environments, types of bosses, and company cultures, that I led me to create a company where I would want to work. I learned what I wanted to emulate, what I never wanted to see again and all of it in between. I am so grateful for my entire support network — they are my lifeline and know exactly who they are because they’ve been on the frontline of my ups and downs with starting this business, talking me off cliffs, working pro-bono in our warehouse, or as photographers, as designers, as investors, as cheerleaders, you name it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I’m really trying to do just that. With BUHO, I felt I had a responsibility to use my access to create a business that connected consumerism to ethics, sustainable living and philanthropy. Our team has quarterly off-site days where we actually go down to the border to volunteer in the shelters — serving food, playing with the kids, sorting donated products. We’re living what we’re putting out there because we believe in it.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Michelle Obama. She is synonymous with idol and is everything I would aspire to be as a leader, a mother and a human.

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