“Something I firmly believe in is that when you’re really inspired and really believe in something, it’s contagious. When the ideas and the mission are really good, they can spread in an exponential way. This belief and my full commitment to our mission is what keeps me going. If I don’t keep working on the business, then that’s 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 people who won’t think about their plastic use differently.” -William
This Christmas, my brother handed me a printout for a kickstarter campaign that contained one microfiber travel towel. At first, I was like, “Well, this is sweet, but I already have one.” Then, my brother went on to explain that this particular towel was made out of Bamboo and had been spearheaded by one of his former fellow boy scouts.
It wouldn’t be until the campaign for hope that I’d really look into the Pangea Movement, what they’re up to in the world, and how amazing it is. Not only are they using the material of my bike’s soul, but they are another shining example of travelers stepping up to do something constructive for the earth that is their home. I asked my brother to connect me, and William was dope enough to grant me an interview.
William and Marcos’ (the co-founders of Pangea), story gives me hope that with hard work, perseverance, and the ability to see failure as learning, we all have what it takes to start a contagious spiral of exponential positive action.
Here is William’s bamboo-microfiber-towel-making, cleanup-organizing, movement-for-a-better-future story. -BB
Marcos and William’s story is our twentieth story of hope in the Limitless 2020 Earth Day Hope Raiser (like a fundraiser, but for hope)! Join us every day until Earth Day (April 22), as we share 22 hope-inspiring stories of the adventures everyday people across our planet are taking to build a better future on a thriving earth.
William is the co-founder of Pangea, a movement to solve global problems.
With Pangea, we’ve created a movement that invites like-minded people from countries of the world to unite and solve global problems. The global problem we’re taking on right now is plastic pollution. We launch plastic-free alternatives to products that contribute to significant plastic waste, and we organize volunteer cleanups all around the world.
William’s adventure to Pangea began with a musician on Ecuadorian beach.
When I think back to the seed that planted Pangea, I was in Ecuador in a beach town called Montanita. While out the night before, I met this musician, and we made plans to meet up at the beach the next day. When I found him, he was far away from all the sunbathing tourists, cleaning up trash on the beach. I helped him, and for the next few hours, we spent our time together removing trash that had washed up from the ocean. This experience inspired me to pick up trash whenever I saw it in nature.
A full laundry basket full of trash on a long Hawaiian hike would spark the idea of turning his shared business into an engine for a clean planet.
A couple months later I was living in Hawaii, a friend who grew up there was taking me to a new beautiful location in nature everyday. Even in the most secluded locations we would find trash, and I kept thinking to myself “cleaning five pieces of garbage a day is good, but there is no scalable impact. There’s no way that this is actually going to contribute to a significant difference in the problem.” This thought was with me when I found myself on a long hike to a remote beach where I found a huge pile of sunbleached trash that had been there so long it was overgrown with weeds. I ended up hiking a full laundry basket full of trash back out, and this is when I started to want to do more.
At the time, I was already involved in a travel company with four other travelers selling microfiber towels called Evolution Commerce. Wanting to make a significant difference in plastic pollution, and knowing I could only clean so much on my own, I realized that I could use the business as a vehicle to leverage rapid change in the way we clean up plastic. While two of the four original travelers would drop out the project, Marcos and I stuck together and started a new company called Pangea.
With Pangea, William and Marcos took action to live the mission of business to clean up the world.
Our first step for Pangea was to stop selling microfiber towels when we found out they were made from plastic. When we first made the decision to sell microfiber towels for Evolution Commerce, we did so because we saw that a bunch of travelers were using them. We didn’t know anything about what they were really made of.
After we stopped selling plastic microfiber towels, we started researching ways to make a travel towel from different materials. We looked at cotton, then hemp, and then we eventually ended on Bamboo. Bamboo is self-replenishing, sequesters more carbon and releases more oxygen than trees, and requires less water for more yield than cotton.
Our next step was our first volunteer cleanup in Bali. After the cleanup, everyone was so excited. Marcos and I had this epiphany moment where we were like, “We’re on to something here.” We, of course, were already excited about Pangea, but to have so many other travelers get excited about what we were doing was an ‘aha’ moment. We felt we had helped people to tap into a feeling that they could contribute to making a difference.
It’s when we committed to launching our Kickstarter campaign.
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When they launched, Marcos and William struggled with self-doubt and the real possibility of failure.
As we’ve gone through this whole process, we’ve doubted ourselves a lot. Like … a lot. For example, before this, I had never sewn anything before in my life, but I hand-sewed the prototype which was a lot of effort for me. We put a ton of time into making the promo video, and just to break even on what we’d invested, we knew we’d have to raise $50,000. We were putting everything we had into this project and had no idea if it was all going to work out in the end. We definitely had some insecurity knowing that we could launch this and no one would care, and we would lose all the time and effort and money.
Despite being really deep into the hole, we were also okay with the uncertainty. We wanted to solve a problem, we wanted to contribute to the world in a positive way, and while we were ready for possible failure, we also put in a lot of work to help the project succeed.
Launching Pangea was an adventure that taught William important lessons about failure, perseverance, and continuous improvement
My path to overcoming the fears and insecurities was to improve our towel and improve our mission by asking people what we could do better. I talked to hundreds of people before we launched, and when testing the towel would tell people, “Don’t say a single nice thing about this. I need to hear the most critical feedback you can possibly give.” This process taught me that failure is completely okay. Failure isn’t the goal, but it is the process to reach the goal.
I also learned that imagining something seems awesome in your head, doesn’t lead to producing something awesome right away. To make all this work, I had to be committed to a process of continual improvement. I had to share my mistakes, ask people what I could do better, and open myself to criticism and critiques. The path to making something better than before or high quality requires constant effort.
William’s joy in Pangea is seeing that his mission is a positive contagion and his business makes a difference.
Now that we’ve launched and our kickstarter campaign was a success, I’m really proud that Marcos and I kept pushing even when we had doubts and fears, or when we weren’t sure it was going to work. I’m really proud of us for continuing with our mission, even when our friends gave up, people around us gave up, and we weren’t sure if people were going to like what we were doing.
Now that we’ve started, I think that our cleanups and our business and our mission is having a significant impact more and more each day. We have conducted 9 cleanups in 3 countries, with 352 volunteers, and collected 5,222kgs (11,512 lbs) of trash to make for a cleaner planet! I don’t think that we’re going to single handedly change the world or anything, but I do believe that we’re going to help people who may end up changing the landscape of the current situation we have regarding plastic.
Something I firmly believe in is that when you’re really inspired and really believe in something, it’s contagious. When the ideas and the mission are really good, they can spread in an exponential way. This belief and my full commitment to our mission is what keeps me going. If I don’t keep working on the business, then that’s 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 people who won’t think about their plastic use differently.
William’s Advice for You
Just start! Really, the sooner you start whatever it is that you’re going to do, the better. You’re going to make mistakes, and not everything is going to be perfect. You’re not going to be able to get enough funding. There are going to be a lot of challenges that present themselves. The sooner you start, the sooner you make your mistakes, and learn the lessons that you need to learn. Start as soon as you can. Open yourself up to criticism, everytime you talk to someone about your project it’s an opportunity to learn something.
You can start in the smallest of ways. A lot of my friends and people I know live in the U.S., and as U.S. citizens, we’re some of the biggest polluters in the world. Don’t think that because you’re making a small difference, it’s not good enough. Anything you do is an incremental step toward a better society and a better world. Don’t be afraid to do something because you’re worried it’s too small. The smallest things you can do are significant, because the little stuff adds up to make a huge difference.
Start by doing a beach cleanup near you, and meet other people who like to clean ocean trash.
Join a few plastic elimination facebook pages. Start a group chats that meets once a week to strategize about eliminating plastic waste.
Just take that step as soon as you can.
Thank You William!
Thank you for taking the time to share this story of the perseverance that it takes to build a movement and a business for the greater good. Thank you for changing the microfiber towel game by using one of our personal favorite renewable resources! Thank you for not giving up, for learning from failure, and for helping to clean up our Earth!