Opportunities in Recycling with Kabira Stokes

August 6, 2020

From 2011 – 2020, Kabira Stokes served as the Founder and CEO of Isidore Electronics Recycling and then Homeboy Recycling. Both companies are full service e-waste recycling and IT Asset Disposition social enterprises and both focus on offering employment opportunities to people who face systemic barriers to employment. Kabira holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the University of Southern California, and has worked for the City of Los Angeles as Senior Field Deputy for (then) Council President Eric Garcetti. Honors and awards include “Sustainable Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by the L.A. Sustainable Business Council and the inaugural “Smart on Crime” award by (then) California Attorney General Kamala Harris. In 2019, Kabira was featured as the first-ever woman to grace the cover of Recycling Today magazine. Today, she consults with Retrievr, which offers doorstep recycling of electronics and clothing.

John Shegerian: This edition of The Impact podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking engine revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With hundreds of athletes, entrepreneurs, speakers and business leaders Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent for your next event. For more information, please visit letsengage.com.

John: Welcome to another edition of The Impact podcast. I am John Shegerian and I am so excited today to have my friend, Kabira Stokes, on with us. Hi, Kabira!

Kabira Stokes: Hi, John!

John: Welcome from the beautiful, friendly city of Philadelphia.

Kabira: That is right, where I am quarantining.

John: Where you are quarantined and you are doing a good job of it, I hear. You told me.

Kabira: We are.

John: All right, good. And everybody is healthy.

Kabira: Thank God everyone is healthy.

John: Thank God. Kabira has been a longtime friend of mine, but for our listeners out there, Kabira, I would love you to share a little bit of your journey before we go into all the cool things you have done in your life. Share a little bit about your journey, where you grew up, got educated, and then how you evolved eventually into the impact and recycling industry.

Kabira: Yes, sure. First, thanks for having me on. It is great to chat with you, I always enjoy our conversations as you know. Here I am quarantining in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which is where I grew up. I was born outside Philadelphia, went to high school here, met a guy named Peter, we will talk about him later.

Kabira: Then I went off to Vassar College, I studied Sociology and Spanish at Vassar, and then moved out to Los Angeles. Went through many life and career there, and eventually really became an activist, and that is what shifted my life. I thought I want to be a fashion designer when I grew up and then after 9/11, that was something that was really activated in me around wanting to better my community, and started activism, focused one on gangs and gang life and mass incarceration around Los Angeles. And also really about voting local in L.A. After the ’04 election, I really had this epiphany that as much as I wanted to vote for who was president, I actually did not know who was running my city. I did not know who the mayor was, really. I did not really know what the city councilperson did.

Kabira: In my twenties, me and a bunch of other young folks got together and decided to get educated about who is really running our city and how that affected our lives. Through that work, I ended up meeting a guy named Eric Garcetti, who is currently the mayor of L.A. doing an amazing job with COVID out there. It is awesome to watch him. But at the time he was a young city council president, and funny, he is younger than I am now, for sure. He was cool, and he was progressive, and he played the piano. He hired me and I became a field deputy in his office and it was really… I loved it. I thought it was such a cool job because it really was where the government met the road. This is unsexy stuff like, “Is the streetlight working? Do you need a speed ramp on your street?”

John: Politics.

Kabira: Yes, exactly.

John: I love it.

Kabira: But then it was also this super real stuff of, “Oh, there are kids getting killed in gang violence who start[?] streets over. What is going on there?” That really… It opened my eye. A girl from the suburbs of Philadelphia, I lived a very comfortable young life.

John: Right.

Kabira: And then suddenly my eyes are opened to a very different reality for young people and people who grew up in poverty and have many less opportunities than I was afforded[?]. Just the differences of how that shapes your life. So many folks ending up incarcerated and then coming out of incarceration, and having very few opportunities to make a living after that or ever be forgiven for whatever it was that they did. That is a little bit of a mishmash of everything. And that guy Peter that I mentioned, who I met in high school, we reconnected in our thirties. I was in L.A. and he was in New York, and we got married and had a baby.

John: Is that not crazy? You guys were childhood friends and you became husband and wife.

Kabira: We did indeed, so weird. Hilariously, him and I are here quarantined together in this neighborhood we grew up in.

John: That is just so awesome. That is just a great story. That is a great love story besides a fun journey, I will tell you that. Is not that interesting?

Kabira: Someday over a glass of something stronger, I will tell you that whole story.

John: Yes, I want to do that. It will not be on the air though, but we will do that in person. It is so funny you said growing up comfortably in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I grew up comfortable in the suburbs of Queens, New York and it is interesting when you are a kid. Even if you think you are worldly and well-read, that until you move somewhere else physically, geographically, you will really think as a kid that the perspective is everywhere else is going to be like this.

Kabira: Yes.

John: And you end up in the city of L.A. that has some really stark reminders that the world can be a very dangerous and sad place, all wrapped up in one, such as like you said. The issues that go on with gang violence and otherwise. That was sort of my stark awakening also some years before yours. But again, it is just incredible how people can get comforted and lulled into a feeling of safety and think everywhere else is like wherever they are at.

Kabira: A really big eye-opener for me was in my first. I moved to L.A. in the year 2000, and I think sometime that year I was still planning doing some fashion design and so I would go down to the Fashion District in Downtown LA, and I took a wrong turn one day and ended up on Skid Row, which was just lines and lines of tents on the street. In my little twenty-three-year-old brain, I literally thought, “Oh, my God! Does the city know about this?” I thought that they have not been informed, that maybe they did not know. Literally, that is what I thought. Yes, they knew. They knew.

John: They knew, but it is just not interesting. Like you said, the mayor that you met, before he was the mayor, and what a job he is doing, Eric is doing in the city of L.A. now. Before we get into– Well, talk a little bit about you are in the mayor’s office, and then you evolved into an activist-entrepreneur. How did that evolution go from, “I am here in the mayor’s office and I am making a difference. I am making an impact?” and how did you evolve out into something more entrepreneurial?

Kabira: Yes. Well, he was not the mayor yet, still over at the city council office.

John: Okay, got it.

Kabira: The issues around gang violence and the solutions around them, really offering opportunities to people, sort of took me over. It was all I became interested in. I had enough people, including Eric, say to me, “Now, if this is something you are really interested in…” He has [inaudible] my name is Arabic, but I am a white woman, and I think for someone “like me” to be interested in this subject, everyone, “Well, you should go become an expert. If this is something that you actually want to make a difference in, go become an expert.” So I ended up applying to USC and I went to graduate school there. I got a master’s in public policy. The cool thing I was going back to grad school as an adult because I was thirty, was I knew exactly what I wanted to study. I wanted to study the criminal justice system. I wanted to study solutions.

Kabira: To me, really, what became interesting was how do we get people back to work once they have been incarcerated, or once they have overcome real barriers to employment addiction or mental health issues. So for me, I was able to almost laser focus on how do you employ folks once they have been in the criminal justice system. It cannot be impossible. There has got to be ways to do this. For me, [inaudible], but I was raised by conservationists, environmentalism was always something that mirrored my heart. It is what made sense.

Kabira: And so for me, if I was going to look at employing folks who was going to be in some sort of sustainable way. So I did my practicum, which is a grad school thesis, around public policy. I looked specifically at who is training folks coming out of the criminal justice system to work in sustainable enterprises, and what are those even. When this was in 2009, 2010, I was cool, I got with that lacking of the infrastructure of USC in their library and their reach. I was able to really look at what people were doing around the country that was real, that was really training and employing people, and what feels were right for them. There a lot of barriers that people still face when they have criminal records to what was right for them.

Kabira: Around that time, I had a friend introduced me, pretty randomly over email to a guy named Van Jones. I do not know if you know Van. Van is a CNN commentator and author, and he, for a while, worked with the Obama administration. I believe he was in the room when the term “green jobs” was basically coined. In grad school, I was also working with his organization, Green for All, a non-profit up in Oakland.

Kabira: Everything I was doing was focused on this idea of how do we create a new green economy that does not leave out people who were left out of the gray economy, out of the dirty economy. Between all of that work, I ended up meeting an electronics recycler.

Kabira: You probably know Gregg Keesling at RecycleForce in Indiana, this awesome, kooky guy. I had never in my life thought about recycling electronics, never had that crossed my mind. This was, I guess, in 2009, 2010. And he was hiring folks coming out of the criminal justice system. He was doing it like, “Three days out. We will take you. Make sure you have wrap-around services so that you can stay employed.” I met him and did some work writing about him. When I graduated, I did not quite know what I wanted to do. Maybe I want to go back and work for Eric or go back to work for the government, but I could not get what he was doing out of my mind. And I called him one day and I said, “Hey, Gregg. I do not know if you remember me, but I think I might want to do what you do.” And he was like, “Sure. You want to come to Indiana?” And I was like, “Sure.” It was like in August [inaudible] not the time to go to Indiana. [inaudible] I got on a plane and I went to Indiana, and I spent a week in his warehouse seeing what he did. As you know, when you are an entrepreneur, that screw goes loose in your head that makes you think, “I could do this, obviously. I should do this.” And so, I went home and I said, “I am going to do this. I am going to do this in L.A.” We raised a bit of money, a bit of friends and family around, and went into it knowing literally nothing about starting a business, but with that awesome blind optimism of like… I do not know, I feel like if I ask people for their electronics, maybe they will give them to me, and they started to.

John: All that blind optimism is so great. It is so great for all of us entrepreneurs. The original name of the company you were starting was…?

Kabira: Was Isidore Recycling. Gregg had told me that the patron saint, the literal patron saint as per the Catholic Church for computers and the internet was St. Isidore of Spain, and I like that name. I do not know, I was thinking about names, and I was like it can be like California E-Waste or whatever. I liked that it was different and I had a great uncle, Isidore, and so I thought, “Isidore Recycling. Let us do it.”

John: I love it.

Kabira: So that was Isidore.

John: That was great. So talk a little bit about now evolving from being on the public side of the world, working for a city councilperson, and then going to get your degree at SC or your higher education degree. Talk a little bit about now. Now, you are in business and you are a CEO. No matter how big or small, it is all on you. The bucket starts and stops on your desk. How was that experience for you both as a person but also as someone that has a passion for making a difference, making an impact, and making the world a better place?

Kabira: It was all the things, right? It was super hard and super scary, and your identity is all wrapped up in the business. It was like, “Oh, God. If this fails, am I a failure?” and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I was very well suited for it. I worked a lot, but the main thing is I found a team and an advisory team that was there for me and helped me build it. I had no business getting into business. Looking back on it, I really did not know what I was doing at all. But the passion that I had is that I want to provide work for people who have been really left out of the economy. That is what kept me going. That is the power of social enterprises. I might have given up many, many times if it was not for… but this is actually is not about me. This is about something bigger.

Kabira: We had warehouse fire in a year and a half after we started. It was bad. No one was hurt, thank God, but my business burned down, basically. There was this moment of like, “You know, girl. If you want to quit right now, no one is going to judge you. You are allowed to walk away.” And I was like, “No! I do not want to. I still think this is a good idea.” And my team, all except for one, and that was the right thing for him to leave, the rest of the team was like, “No, we are in too.” We doubled down. That kind of passion and dedication to a business, you cannot buy that and you cannot manufacture that. The heart of that sort of social enterprise is just what kept us all going. I am an Aquarian, I am an ideas person, and I found the people who could ground me and figure out, know the operations and the execution while I run around town and try to get E-Waste from folks. You know that game.

John: I know the game and I am still doing it. Let me ask you this then. From the ashes of the fire, as you said, you had the perfect out. “My business burned down and I did my best. Act of God and I am now going to go work for whatever.” Either go on to your next part of your journey. That was a real out without any shame. So how did you, literally like a phoenix rise from the ashes to eventually be named the sustainable social entrepreneur of the year by the L.A.’s Sustainable Business Council? What kicked in? What part of your DNA or never-give-up part of your soul had to kick in that made the difference from ashes to big award?

Kabira: I think it is just that sense of purpose. I wanted to see that business exists. It did not exist, and I was like, “I think I am the person to make this business exist. If we give up, it is not going to exist.” We did not want that. I did not want that, and the team did not want that. It was a different landscape back then. [inaudible] I started the company in 2011. People talk about criminal justice reform now. I think in many ways, with bipartisan support, it is an accepted sort of business social justice issue around like this is a race issue, this is a class issue, this is something that is the next part of the civil rights movement in America. That was not true in 2011. That was not how it was thought off, and things changed. Suddenly, you have a sitting president who [inaudible], and things have just very quickly moved. But it was not like that in 2013 when the fire happened. I have so many emotions about the way the system was and so badly wanted to have some sort of a fact and help with the change that that what it was. It was just that rose up in me. I also drank a lot of whiskey and I went dancing a lot. So that also happened.

John: What you are saying is really, it was much bigger than you. It was more than you just wanting to succeed as an entrepreneur. You really had a bigger mission at stake here that you were not going to let fail.

Kabira: Right.

John: Talk about the people that you interacted with, that were your colleagues, that were your employees, that you were exposed to over the years running Homeboy, eventually what became Homeboy Recycling. I want you to share a little bit about how that evolution happened. From Isidore to Homeboy, you are working with people, that as you said, were typically marginalized by society. Let us just say that.

Kabira: Yes.

John: Second chance people. What did you learn, or things that shocked you, or other takeaways about those folks as both employees in the workforce, and for those out there that are on the fence of hiring those people? What can you share with our listeners?

Kabira: Well, the first thing we learn and I did have to learn about it in a few ways was that in the world of re-entry and hiring folks that do face barriers of employment, there is transitional jobs that those people who– there is nonprofit who will hire people and give them a transition job. It is a six months job and you are really learning how to have a job again. You are learning how to put your paycheck in your bank account and that if you get angry at your boss, you cannot yell at them, and sort of the soft skills that go long. I think a lot of us take for granted, but that you really need to keep a job. Also, making sure your sobriety is supported and your housing is stable. I learned that lesson that we can only hire from those organizations and that we really were the next step in an ecosystem of re-entry that once folks had completed and really were “job-ready,” then they could come work for us because we were a permanent job, and none of us were social workers or were in a social service agency. We realized that we needed those relationships with those nonprofits, really to be successful in hiring people. The people needed that priming, that really job-readiness, and some of them needed that support even when they were still with us.

Kabira: All that being said, not everyone who is with us was successful, but a lot were and a lot are still. I think something that hit me really quickly was that… So when you interview someone for a job who has been in the system, there is a gap in their resume, right? It might be a six months gap, maybe it is a twenty-seven-year gap, but there is a gap.

John: Right.

Kabira: It is amazing when you bring them in, it is always such an amazing feeling as they come into a job interview just ready for that question of like, “What is this gap about? Where were you?” and we do not ask that question because we know where they were.

John: Right.

Kabira: When you skip that question, it is such a cool experience, again and again, to watch someone just relax into being a person at a job interview. They are not an ex-con who have to suddenly explain away what happened and apologize. They are just a person and to see people melt into that is such a cool thing. And when you let somebody do that, and you trust them and you give them a room, not always but often, the loyalty that they will show you as an employee because they know the chance that you gave them and they want to step up to that, is a beautiful, powerful thing. We saw that again and again.

John: That is awesome.

Kabira: It really is awesome.

John: The net net for those who are considering hiring those folks at their company, wherever they sit in this great country, is that when it works, it is magical.

Kabira: Yes.

John: And when it does not work, what I was always asked and I want to know if you were asked this, people always worry that if it does not work out, is there some bad experience that comes of it? I never saw that side of it, did you? When people just decided to self-terminate or not work out and take advantage of that opportunity, I had never saw a downside. Did you see ever downsides to that in terms of people worried about hiring those kind of people to work for you?

Kabira: Are you asking is it worse when it does not work out with someone with record than when it does not work out with just a regular person? Because I think that is what we found. It was like lots of people do not work out in jobs.

John: Correct.

[crosstalk]

Kabira: Right? Regular person just also does not work out sometimes.

John: Of course. What I really meant to say–

Kabira: That is what we found. Sure, there is a couple of things that it was not pleasant.

John: Right. When regular people do not work out, it is not ever pleasant.

Kabira: Exactly.

John: So to me, is the net takeaway is the magic greatly outweighs any worries that people have about bringing those folks into their facilities?

Kabira: Well, the company would not still be around after eight years. If that was–

John: Correct. Yes, okay. I just wanted to understand. We have had that experience as well, and I agree with you. People come in and when they take advantage of this opportunity, it is just such a great experience. It is just so great to see them just make their life really matter as opposed to being incarcerated. Tell us a little bit about the switch over from Isidore Recycling to Homeboy. How did that evolution happen and why did it happen?

Kabira: We have always known Homeboy, and we had hired folks from their program that generate as a nonprofit in L.A. Around, I guess, four or five years into the company, we needed to growth capital and we hit the streets and relocated, impact investors and angel investors, and just trying to find what the right fit was. And somebody suggested talking to Homeboy and I said, “Why would I do that?” They said, “Well, they have a new CEO. He is thinking about things differently and he might… there might be a conversation there.” I was like, “Oh, okay. I do not know what that would be, but sure. Why not.”

Kabira: So, I sat down with Tom, by now who you know. Tom had been at Aramark for 20 years as the CEO there for many years. He was thinking about things differently and he saw what I saw, which was that you have people graduating from their program, but then where do they go? Yes, some people will hire folks with record, but there is only so many companies still that are going to hire someone with a tattoo on their face and that gap in their employment history. He wanted to have more companies in their ecosystem that would be that next step for folks. So, that was [inaudible] and so he did a strange thing. The lawyers had to figure out how does a nonprofit acquire a California social purpose corporation, but we did it. It was a better partnership than we could have dreamed of, actually, because of the alignment of the mission. Again, you cannot make that magic up. For us, we got more financial resources which we can get to grow.

Kabira: The other real [inaudible] beauty is that our employees had access to so many more resources for them in terms of social service support or parenting classes and things like that that they really have taken advantage of. That was awesome because that was always something that has felt like we were not totally complete on that. Like we were not– A few more things we want to offer people and suddenly they have it and just to be part of the community that Father Boyle began.

John: Years ago.

Kabira: Such an amazing man. Like, come on, Saint Boyle next.

John: Probably. What year did that transition happen?

Kabira: That was 2016.

John: 2016. So talk a little bit about 2016 to 2019 where you became the first-ever woman to grace the cover of Recycling Today Magazine. Let me tell you something. Let us be really frank here, waste and recycling is a dude’s industry, and for you to get on the cover, that is no small feat. Hear it from me. For our listeners out there, that is no small feat. Not only are you a sustainability leader, an impact leader, but you are considered a leader in this next generation of a woman activist, woman entrepreneurs. How did that happen and how did you feel? What kind of feeling did that give you?

Kabira: I guess, somebody had to break that feeling. Sure, I will do it. It felt great. that means It was good. It was obviously high time for that to happen. The hilarious for the very personal part of that is that I had a baby, three and a half months before being shot for that cover, which by the way is not every woman’s dream to be shot for the cover of a magazine, three and a half months of having a baby. So that was a very funny thing of like, “Hi, this is also part of being a woman CEO.” On the inside, I am holding my little boy, Nico, just so everybody knows what was going on, but it was cool. I was like, “This is where we are at. This is what is happening. I am a breastfeeding mother on the cover of your magazine.” It was cool. It was awesome. It was a great honor, and probably the only magazine I will ever be on the cover of, so I will take it.

John: Well, I would not say that. You are very young still, so let us not go that far. When did you then decide your Isidore to Homeboy, to the cover of Recycling Today Magazine, which again is really one of the preeminent recycling periodicals in the world, not in just the United States, in the world? Your coverage and your personality and your success is world known. When did you sort of now as a new mom and a successful entrepreneur making the world a better place, decide that “It is time for a new chapter.” When did that all come together and how did you come to that conclusion?

Kabira: Well, part of it– I mean, eight years of the company in a long time. I am very happy with the success of the company and where it had gotten to and the leadership team in place. Peter comes back into the story when we settled back in Brooklyn. He was in New York as we moved to Brooklyn. So I was going back and forth all the time, many, many miles on Delta, back and forth to L.A. But then when I got pregnant, everything had to slow down, and it really was this realization that the company did not actually need me anymore, that their leadership was in a place that I could step back. I have been waiting for that day, and the day came. So, I did. I stepped back and I am more into motherhood and took a break for a little while, which is very needed.

Kabira: Then our mutual friend, Ron Gonen, who I had known for a little while. When I started to have that feeling as you do after you have a baby, “I think I would like to get back into work.” I called Ron because he has told me about seeing this company and what they are up to up close with partner which is so awesome, and everything that needs to happen in the economy and the world. I called him just to pick his brain and say, “What is going on out there? Do you have any thoughts for me?” And he was like, “Yeah, my company Retrievr, we need you. Could you start Monday?” I was like, “Oh, okay, yes.”

John: Glad you asked that question, right? He was so happy that you called him. But wait a second, Kabira. For someone like you who is so uber-talented, you could have done anything. Sometimes, what I have found is having too many options is almost worse than having too few options. Was that really the response you were excited about and looking forward to? What other things were on your vista before Ron basically opened and closed the deal in one conversation?

Kabira: I really wanted to take some time and write a book. So I started working on a book, and it is a memoir. It is about the journey of, I guess, yes, a lot of what we just discussed —

John: Great.

Kabira: – in terms of being an activist and finding my way into social enterprise, working with the folks who I have worked with over the years, and those amazing experiences. To a certain extent, being a woman in a man’s industry. That is interesting. I think, in general, I got married and had a baby when I was 40 years old, and that is not a tale you hear very often. I started a company and that was my baby for many years, but then I tried to start a family and have that life. I never had those models that you do not hear stories like that really ever. It is like either you figure it out or you fail, or all that nonsense that the people about the way your life is supposed to be. I really have desired to write a book that is just a different story for folks of like, “You are the different model.” It is really weird, but it is what I did. Hopefully, that could help other folks.

Kabira: And I think, too, in a lot of ways, my activism was really spurred by what was going on politically in the [inaudible] and the war on terror and how I felt about that, and I am very strongly against it. That, in many ways, I do not think I ever would have started a company if that activism bug had not been turned on in me. The world is very strange right now, and there is a lot of people who feel very strongly[?] about what is going on. And I also want to offer the story of that fury and that sadness, and that rage that you have that can be channeled into something and to create because, at this point, it is all hands on deck. The building is on fire, and whatever that is that really gets you and keeping you up at night, go for it and try to do something about it because that is what is up right now. We need everybody off the bench.

John: No more spectators. Everybody should be a participant.

Kabira: [inaudible]

John: For our listeners who have just joined us, I have got my friend on today, Kabira Stokes. Kabira is, as we shared earlier, a much-celebrated success story in the recycling industry. You could look at her original brand at www.homeboyrecycling.com. We are going now get into a little bit of it. When is that book coming up, by the way? When is your book coming out?

Kabira: Next year, that is 2021.

John: Okay. Well, you are coming back on and we are going to do a whole podcast about the book, but let us step back now. Let us go back to Ron Gonen says, “Hey, I need you. Monday is your day.” and that is where the company called for our listeners out there to find Kabira. Now, you can go to www.retrievr, R-E-T-R-I-E-V-R dot com, retrievr.com. Talk a little bit about what the game plan was when Ron hired you at Retrievr and where you intend to go with it for the remainder of, just like say this year.

Kabira: The reason Retrievr wooed me is, electronics is not going in that industry. Most of it is be to be. This is an enterprise. You are helping companies figure out how to responsibly dispose of their IT assets. We would get dropping maybe ten percent of our streams, which from people dropping it off at our warehouse residence.

But I always said, there is an untapped market there in terms of how do you get electronics out of people’s homes. There is like collection events, you could drop it off, but for the most part, and this is I think in part why recycling rates of electronics are so stagnant, is that, there is no convenient, really convenient way to recycle those stuff. So what Retrievr and Ron have done, this is unsexy stuff but I love it, is doorstep collection of electronics and actually Retrievr also collects clothing.

And to me, in this moment in time, I am like, “This is a simple solution that can actually move the need on recycling rate that we can scale. We can do this around the country.” So, I do not know when this part has it coming out but later in May, there will be a major announcement of a major municipality in America is launching with Retrievr to do this citywide. We already served a million households on the east coast and this will double it to two million.

John: And how does it work? For our listeners who go to your website, explain how it works, actually. For someone goes to retrievr.com, how does it work?

Kabira: You take out your phone and you text the Retrievr, “I would like a pickup.” And Retrievr says, “Great. What do you want to recycle? We will be there on whatever day you choose.” That is really what it is. You text in and the truck comes by, and we are making sure that all of your data is wiped, and we are figuring out the most responsible way to recycle those clothes and those electronics. And again, this is the stuff, it is the least sexy stuff in the world. It is the stuff that gets me so excited because these are real solutions to real problems, and this is the way you increase recycling rates.

John: And you are going to be able to touch, potentially, as you see, you already have a million clients. This is something that can scale quickly, and you could be impacting millions of clients in the very near future.

Kabira: Yes. It is so needed. Especially now, everybody is at home, spring cleaning, got the piling up, maybe you do not want to bring it somewhere and you do not know where to bring it. So we have our protocols in place to make a contact list, and we will come grab it from your house.

John: How does the financial model work? Do people pay or how does that work? Who pays? How does it work?

Kabira: Great question. It is primarily free, but there is fees for things like televisions or your old air conditioner. So there are some fees, but for the most part, it is free.

John: It is free, wow, and it is convenient. It is right on your cell phone, just like an Uber.

Kabira: Beep-boop, exactly.

John: I love it. Now, you are the CEO of Retrievr?

Kabira: No, no. I am actually consulting with them for the moment.

John: Okay.

Kabira: I am stepping down from this view for a moment, taking a breath.

John: Okay. So near term goals, it is hard for anybody, for the smartest of business people, people are not giving guidance for a long periods of time now given the crisis and tragedy that we are living through. What do you foresee, just gently speaking, for the rest of this year with Retrievr? What would be just some of your goals that you and Ron are planning on for the rest of this year?

Kabira: We want to expand into six cities.

John: Wonderful.

Kabira: That is the goal and just be able to increase the amount of people that have access to this service. We are looking at certain cities around the country and potential partnerships.

John: People can go to retrievr.com and email you directly —

Kabira: Sure.

John: – if a listener works for a city or a municipality that wants to talk to you about…

Kabira: Absolutely.

John: Okay, got it. So they could just go find you right on retrievr.com. Kabira, we are nearing the end of the show, do you have any other thoughts or last thoughts for– There is a lot of young people that listen to this podcast, not only in the United States, around the world, and they just do not want to get out of high school or college or grad school and just make money, now we are just go make another widget. They want to make an impact. They want to be an activist like you. You were early. You are a part of a very, very early wave of activist entrepreneurs and public servants, but this a lot more of you behind you. Any advice you want to give them as they now look for their next step of their own journeys.

Kabira: I think something that is giving me a lot of hope right now is looking around. Today is May 7th, and we are still deep in COVID-19. Just this week, we have had this up-tech internationally of business leaders, the government stepping up and saying the economic recovery from COVID-19 is going to go hand-in-hand with climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation, and what we need to do to transform our economy in this world to deal with climate change. To me, that is the most helpful thing I have seen in a minute.

Kabira: I think all around the world, here in America, I do not know if you know the Sunrise Movement, like those kids, the Sunrise kids who are trying to impact policy around climate change. The first thing they did when COVID happened and all the city shutdowns happened, is that they got together and they started an online school specifically looking, “How did the original New Deal path? Let us study that history. How did that policy go? What had to happen? Who had to come together?” They are not kidding around. They are going to pass the New Green Deal. And that is the way the world is going right now. That to me is the most helpful thing, and however people can get involved with that, I think do not despair, that is the first thing. These are weird, weird times, but I do think that is the way the world is moving. If there is any positivity, and there is a lot of little positive moments for this, but overall, the positivity around us all having to pause, is that I think that we have been able to hopefully steer the ship in the direction it needed to go in, and we actually had to have a reset to make that happen.

Kabira: A few things are going to be happening super locally, too, I think so, we do not have to look to the federal government to lead us on everything. We can look to what is happening in our cities and in our communities to keep that tide going forward. The other piece of advice that I always give people is that when you are starting a business, buy all the insurance. You do not think you are going to need it, but I am going to tell you right now, you probably will.

John: That is great advice. That is great advice. That is really, really great advice that most people never even hear. That is the last thing–

Kabira: Buy the insurance.

John: Yes that is great. Well, Kabira, thank you for your time today. Thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for sharing your journey with our listeners. Obviously, we are going to have you back on more to talk about the success and ongoing growth of Retrievr. For our listeners out there that want to reach Kabira or bring Retrievr to their city or city near you, you could go to www.retrievr, R-E-T-R-I-E-V-R.com.

John: Kabira Stokes, you are making a difference. You are making the world a better place. You are making a great impact. Thank you for being my friend, and thank you for being who you are.

Kabira: Thank you for having me. It is always great to talk to you.