Humble Shapes: CSU student starts plastic-alternative brand

Dorina Vida

Balancing academics, work and a social life is tough for any college student. Add starting a business to the list, and it seems impossible to still succeed while being sustainable the whole time.

Waylon Jepsen is a senior at Colorado State University majoring in mathematics. He is also the founder of Humble Shapes, a brand that aims to promote sustainability by making plastic-alternative products accessible.

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“Businesses should be held a little bit more accountable for sustainability,” Jepsen said. “I’m really trying to be involved in other businesses and their sustainability practices because no one person or business can reduce plastic waste on their own. We all have to work together to do that.”

Jepsen said his brand is all self-funded. Being a full-time student, he is limited in what he is currently able to do for his brand. That being said, he was able to design a beeswax food wrap that is aimed at eliminating the need for plastic wrap and plastic reusable containers.

“It’s made of beeswax, tree resin and plant oils,” Jepsen said. “It’s totally biodegradable, washable, sustainable and will stick to surfaces like bowls and can hold fruit and things.”

Jepsen said his decision to create a brand was a result of both his passion for sustainability and the market research he conducted. Specifically, Jepsen looked into the quality of Amazon’s marketplace as it related to a list of criteria he had for demand and competition. 

“(For) demand, I looked at the top 10 sellers and looked at their monthly revenue,” Jepsen said. “For competition, I looked at the top 10 sellers and how many reviews they had. I was able to evaluate different marketplaces based on these criteria.”

Jepsen said he found sustainable marketplaces and decided that this was something he wanted to be a part of.

“Sustainability is really important, especially for business, because they have a way larger impact than any individual,” Jepsen said. “From there, it was a big journey of prototyping and working with a contract manufacturer (and) a brilliant designer and going from there.”

Jepsen said he was always drawn to business since he was young. Proof of this can be seen in his past business ventures, all of which have failed. Even so, Jespen said that without these failures, he would not be successful today.

“If I could start and run businesses for the rest of my life, I totally would,” Jepsen said. 

Jepsen said a large part of his drive to contribute to the world sustainably comes from his fear for the Earth. Due to the weight of the problem, Jepsen said he has realized that while we cannot solve the problem alone, we can actually make an impact together.

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“The ability to create something in the world and watch it solve problems and impact people’s lives is the most fulfilling thing ever,” Jepsen said. “It feels really good to have a positive impact in the world.”

Jepsen truly began building his brand in May 2018, with his beeswax product being made available in October. His plans for the future involve the inclusion of hemp in his products, as the hemp’s fibers make a quality replacement for plastic.

If I could start and run businesses for the rest of my life, I totally would.” -Waylon Jepsen, senior at CSU with a major in mathematics and founder of Humble Shapes

Jepsen said the road to creating his business and establishing his brand has been stressful and financially taxing, as well as a test to his character and determination. 

“It takes a lot of time,” Jepsen said. “That’s the biggest lesson for me: patience. Building a brand, you can’t do in a day. It has taught me to relax and take some deep breaths (and) enjoy the process.”

Rachel Roberts is the assistant director for the Institute for Entrepreneurship at CSU. The Institute for Entrepreneurship, while housed in the College of Business, is a free service provided by the University to aid all students with the process of creating and sustaining businesses. 

Roberts worked personally with Jepsen on planning and developing his brand, as well as teaching him the ins and outs of creating a business and making his brand mean more than just making a profit.

“When we got connected with Waylon (Jepsen), he already had a great foundation and had hit the ground running,” Roberts said. “What he needed was direction on where to go from there.” 

Jepsen worked with Roberts and her department on further developing his brand, establishing what it was he was trying to do with his business and his mission of sustainability, which helped him identify what was working and what wasn’t. 

“Most people think of entrepreneurship, like Mark Zuckerberg and Apple or Google, blowing up with big exits and having money,” Roberts said. “But in reality, 70% of our workforce is made up of small-business owners. Those small-business owners are the life-blood of our economy, so we need to make sure that we’re supporting on both ends.”

Roberts said Jepsen is currently in the stage where he is receiving mentorship through the Venture Rams program, where he is working with outside community members. Jepsen is working with a team of mentors that are helping him grow and expand his business model.

“Our program is designed so that, as you go through the process, if it’s not for you, you find that out pretty quickly so as to save your time, money and energy,” Roberts said. “What makes Waylon (Jepsen) unique is his persona and attitude: everything he has brought to the table. He is really excelling, which we don’t find as often as we would like to.”

Roberts said starting a business is a very intense process. While there is joy in it, there is stress as well. Balancing a professional work life, studies, a business and a social life that leaves you fulfilled is a lot to juggle all at once. 

“It’s exciting to see individuals like Waylon (Jepsen) who don’t necessarily have a business background go through it the right way with a business model that is trying to make the world a better place,” Roberts said.

Dorina Vida can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @simply_she_.