Local entrepreneur speaks at Women in Leadership Lecture

Abigail Forsyth, co-founder and CEO of KeepCup, a company making reusable plastic cups that in a few years has grown from a small local family business in Melbourne to an international operation that last year generated annual turnover of more than $6 million, shared her story of environmentally sustainable business success with Mannix College.

Speaking to Monash students at the annual Women in Leadership Lecture, Abigail recounted how she and her brother established a café chain only to realize how just many disposable paper cups were going into landfill.

Abigail said that in 2009 the idea of a reusable cup was thought crazy by many people, but is now mainstream to the point where major corporations such as McDonald’s are trialing her company’s cups in response to shifting customer sentiment. She pointed out that being a ‘greenie’ was no longer a fringe lifestyle choice since environmental consciousness had become widespread in society.

Abigail advised young entrepreneurs to be open in discussing their innovative new ideas with potential customers in order to get useful feedback rather than be secretive. She said that while many people knew a good idea when they saw one, very few people will ever act on that appreciation.

Another business decision that has paid off, she said, was to keep the company in private hands rather than seek outside investment. She said that pressure from an investor might have imposed conditions such as moving production offshore, which would be contrary to the identity and aim of the enterprise, which is to maintain manufacturing of the product in Australia.

She said that the reputation of Melbourne as a world centre for high quality specialty coffee has helped enhance her company’s brand in export markets.