How one brand’s mission to reduce consumer waste turned into the first closed-loop system to produce recyclable sneakers

Background

After spending the early years of their careers in retail and manufacturing, Thousand Fell co-founders Chloe Songer (CEO) and Stuart Ahlum (COO) noticed a rapidly growing need for supply chain transparency and new material innovation. With big hopes of reducing consumer waste, Songer and Ahlum combined their experience and knowledge to introduce circular production through their two brands: Thousand Fell and SuperCircle. In Ahlum’s words, closed-loop or circular production can be thought of as an endless cycle of products designed to be recycled and later used to create something new. 

Thousand Fell boasts the first recyclable sneaker, while Ahlum describes SuperCircle as the tech stack that powers its closed-loop production. Both brands invite their customers to participate in this growing system by returning their worn out shoes for recycling in exchange for a discount on their next pair. 

The challenge

With venture financing already secured, Ahlum and team turned to optimizing Thousand Fell’s run rate and cash flow. The company’s  fractional CFO at the time recommended Settle as a strategic tool to help better allocate capital and extend the runway. With a small but mighty team, it was crucial for Thousand Fell to find a central platform that provided visibility to all of the bills being cleared and for it to be able to grow with their headcount. 

The Thousand Fell team was immediately impressed by how intuitive the product was and quickly began to understand the value of Settle. The accounting team was especially impressed by the ease of integrating their QuickBooks accounting software with Settle’s bill pay and financing tools. 

The solution

While other financial partners tried to offer more capital to finance different nice-to-haves, Ahlum chose Settle because it was the strategic partner that brought the most value to the entire business. As some of Settle’s earliest customers, Ahlum says Thousand Fell is now able to raise capital from a greater position of strength with more cash in the bank and operate with added confidence.

The outcome

Settle is now such an important part of Thousand Fell’s financial stack that Ahlum says he’s earmarked it as a non-negotiable partner when speaking to new investors.  Since adopting Settle, the Thousand Fell and SuperCircle teams have undergone considerable changes: 

  • Expanded from 4 full time employees to 20
  • Increased Settle lines and extended payment terms 
  • Raised follow-on rounds of venture capital from a place of stable growth and not dire need

Advice to other founders 

As a first time founder with a venture-backed business, Ahlum urges others in his position to take the time to properly evaluate financial partners before raising capital. “You’re in the best position the moment you raise a round of capital, so make sure that you have the tools already in place the moment that that capital closes to extend the run rate,” he says. “Without any tools in place, you’re not going to be able to leverage the capital that you just raised.”

"You’re in the best position the moment you raise a round of capital, so make sure that you have the tools already in place the moment that that capital closes to extend the run rate" - Stuart Ahlum, Founder & COO of Thousand Fell