Kyle Newman, CEO and Founder of Numis Global Solutions

Q: Describe what your company does?

A: I’m the founder of Numis Global Solutions. We created a PLA straw that looked and felt like plastic, but was industrial and home compostable. So we took a need that we found in the market for a biodegradable straw option. Everybody unfortunately was using paper. And as good as paper is for the environment, it wasn’t great for the customer. So we bridged that gap between sustainability and customer satisfaction.

Q: Why does the world need your company?

A: We bridged the gap between sustainability and customer satisfaction by providing a biodegradable straw option that was better than paper for both the environment and the customer.

Q: What were you doing before, and what inspired you to start your company?

A: Before I started working on my company, I was in food and beverage. I was the manager of a Marriott downtown and my closing bartender called in sick. So I had to close the bar. And while I was doing that, I noticed that there was a catch basin in the sink that was full of black plastic straws. And I took them and I dumped them into a black plastic trash bag. And it hit me that we’re going through this many straws every single night.

We’re not a busy restaurant in comparison to downtown San Diego. How many straws are actually being used once and thrown away? And so I immediately went home and went on the internet and started building this company. I thought there’s got to be a better solution.

I think that’s how a lot of companies are started. You’re in a specific industry and then you see a need in that industry. And it’s usually something that you know pretty well, and it’s there, it’s in what you do.

Q: What has been the biggest win for your company?

A: After about a year of grinding as a solo founder, I managed to secure distribution in 25 states and build a business with recurring revenue that was independently operating.

Q: What has been the biggest mistake you’ve made along the way?

A: I always try and give people the benefit of the doubt. I always try and see the best in people. And unfortunately in business that doesn’t always translate. I learned firsthand that business in the corporate world can be very cutthroat. People will tell you one thing and do another thing. More consistently than they actually do the thing that they tell you in fact. It’s hard to say, but I would say in business, don’t trust anybody. Get everything in writing. Don’t ever trust that anyone has your best intentions at the forefront of their mind because it will always be their company over you.

Q: What do you like most about being a founder?

A: Building something from scratch and seeing it grow and succeed in the real world.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a founder?

A: Dealing with unexpected challenges like the shutdown of bars and restaurants during COVID-19, which impacted all my customers at once.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a founder?

A: Navigating through the 2020 crisis and maintaining the business during the shutdowns. All of my customers shut down and then they all owed money. Everybody was during COVID was hounding them, asking them for money, making them give payments.

And I was very understanding. And I told them that I understood that it was a hard time right then. I said, pay me when you can and if you can pay me little bits here and there, we’ll make it happen. And we’re in this together. That actually got them to prioritize paying me over the people that were sending them demands every month to pay invoices.

A good lesson and piece of advice that I can give from experience is that being nice works a lot better than threatening. In life in general of course, and especially from a business perspective.

Q: What advice do you have for founders who are two stages behind you?

A: If you have an idea, go for it. Don’t let your planning and your strategy keep you from trying things. And really, if you have an idea, you have to risk it. You have to risk everything and you have to be willing to risk everything to make that idea reality. So don’t get caught up in planning and strategizing because it could discourage you from actually going forward and trying something that you can make successful.

Q: How has Startup Haven helped you on your journey?

A: Startup Haven has provided a network and environment for connecting with like-minded individuals and potential collaborators.

Q: What superhero power would help founders most?

A: The ability to foresee the future would be immensely beneficial for making strategic decisions and avoiding pitfalls.

Q: If you were to found another company and you could choose any real person, living or dead, to be your cofounder, who would it be?

A: If I were to found another company and I could choose any real person to be my co-founder, I would choose Bob Crimmins. The man is a wealth of knowledge and just an all around great dude. And I would love to start a company with him.

Q: What’s a surprising lesson you learned?

A: During 2020, I had always had my eye on this material called PHA. It’s a fully marine and soil biodegradable polymer that’s rigid like plastic. There was only one company that had commercialized it and they required something like half a million pounds of resin. I didn’t have manufacturing assets. And I was presented with the situation of, do I raise money and scale, or do I find a manufacturer who already has this product? That company ended up introducing me to Danimer Scientific, who introduced me to Columbia Packaging Group.

I sat down with the CEO during COVID. It was November of 2020. And we came to a decision. We agreed that he wanted to acquire me and my company in order for me to build the straw program for them. We came up with some numbers, we shook hands, and I agreed to get started because we were building a brand and building a new business. And I know that the paperwork can take a very long time when going through this stuff. So I offered to go ahead and get started. And over the first year we established a straw program, and we grew to 1.5 in ARR. By the end of year two, we were at 2.8 in ARR.

Everything was booming. After the two years were up, that was my term. I decided to part ways and go on vacation for a couple of months. Going from the startup world straight to the acquisition, straight to the golden handcuffs. It didn’t leave me any gap to celebrate.

My advice is if you are going to get acquired, give yourself a little bit of time between to get to celebrate and have a good time.

Q: What are you currently working on?

A: While I was on that vacation, I tried E-foiling. It’s like electric hydrofoiling. Essentially a motorized surfboard that flies above the water.  I was in Turks and Caicos and it was crystal clear blue water. I realized what a fun and expensive sport it is. And that it didn’t exist in San Diego. We have so many bodies of water in San Diego. I ended up going to Thailand for a month. When I came back, I built Sendit. We teach E-foiling in San Diego as well as selling and servicing E-foils.

Q: What help can you offer to other Startup Haven member founders… what’s your offer?

A: I can offer insights and advice on navigating the acquisition process and managing growth post-acquisition effectively.

Q: What other initiatives are you involved with?

A: During my time at Columbia Packaging Group, I found a need for certification for green products. There is a lot of greenwashing in the environmental space. And I wanted to find a solution to that, a way for people to differentiate between those who are truly being sustainable and eco-friendly from those that are greenwashing. So I created and we certify products as microplastic-free. If someone makes the claim that their product’s compostable or eco-friendly, we put it through a testing process and then offer the licensing of our certification on that product.

What happened is that people are labeling things as compostable and a lot of these products are industrial compostable, and less than 3% of the population actually has access to industrial composting. So it’s essentially a smoke and mirrors campaign. And there’s a lot of companies that are doing that. Not my proudest moment, but I did do that originally before there was anything better available. I used a compostable material and sold the story that it’s better than plastic, which it was, but it’s not the ultimate solution. And I think that nowadays people are developing products and polymers that are a much better solution.