Kay Baker + Matt Keasey are #MadeForKnoxville.
This duo is creating sustainable solutions to the plastic problem in their garage.
Although their professional backgrounds are entirely different, Kay and Matt are a match made in heaven. As partners in business and life, they work as a team to develop eco-friendly cleaning solutions with little to no plastic use. Kay’s unique skill set as a creative-minded occupational therapist and Matt’s neuroscience background have given them the edge they need to present a compelling brand with a sustainable product line. On top of their expertise, Kay and Matt carry a burning passion for protecting the environment, which fuels their work in the Llama Lab (an apropos name for their workspace).
As participants in UT’s Spark CleanTech Accelerator, Kay and Matt were able to meet and forge alliances with like-minded business owners. They are always inspired to try new things, and are currently working to expand their product line and locations from which to get their home crafted solutions.
“300 million tons of plastic [are] produced each year and <9% of this is getting recycled… it’s not working and is definitely not sustainable. So let’s implement practices that eliminate this problem.”
In Their Own Words…
Kay and I (Matt) have somewhat unconventional backgrounds given that Kay is a fully trained and very talented Occupational Therapist while I am a neuroscientist. I believe that we are both good at what we do, but we both are passionate about the environment. We wanted to do something together about the monstrous volume of single use plastic littering the environment and stacked on supermarket shelves.
Surface cleaners are up to 95% water. Why is water being shipped around the country? Water is heavy and costs energy to move around, so why not just get concentrated reagents and use your own water? With this in mind, we took aim at the plastic spray bottles sitting under our sink. We spent around a year, beginning July 2020, researching and developing Green Llama.
A question we get asked often: “How did you know how to do this?”. Well, my science background came in here. My training gave me the insight needed to figure out anything I didn’t know. Testing different formulas, writing down results and reading plenty of literature was really second nature. Kay’s intuition for the business and creative side gave the project the life and character I simply couldn’t conjure. As an example, the quirky and unique name came from a trip to an Alpaca farm, close to where we live. On seeing an Alpaca that had a green hue under the light conditions, Kay burst forth with Green Llama. And I Loved it.
We had a modest launch, attending local farmer’s markets, an online store and social media. A month after launching, we looked to spread the name and concept. We will continue on our path growing Green Llama because maybe, just maybe we can do something about wasteful plastic and energy consumption.
What Led to Entrepreneurship:
Our “big pivot” was on a normal day doing a normal daily activity cleaning our house. Matt threw out a business idea: pre-made buffers for scientists. This would reduce time needed to make them in a lab. Kay then held up the plastic cleaning bottle in her hand and said, “How about a tablet for this. I want a plastic-free all-purpose cleaner.” Matt loved the idea, and they began sourcing ingredients and testing formulas. Green Llama was born.
The biggest lesson we learned was to keep it simple. Delegate tasks to those who are more knowledgeable about specific topics. It may cost more money, but it allows you to spend time on building your business. Early on, we tried to do everything ourselves from creating the product, designing the website, accounting, to social media. I believe very few people have all the necessary skills needed for a successful business. And while we may be able to learn many of them, it takes a lot more time than someone who already knows exactly what they are doing.
Interested in sharing your “Made for Knoxville” story? Submit here