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Hidden Gems: Meet Leila Shamtobi of SLURP! Straws or (theslurpstraw)

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leila Shamtobi.

Leila, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
As a kid, I love drinking with a straw and always wanted to have my straw company (as random as it sounds). However, I didn’t get the push I needed until my sophomore year of college when I took an environmental studies class and learned about the threat of plastic pollution. When I realized that plastic poses imminent harm to our environment, I decided that something needed to be done. I have a two-year-old nephew Cyrus who I constantly think about and realized the world I’m going to leave for him might be polluted, which did not sit well with me. I decided to look at consumables that are used every day such as a straw and wanted to find a way to make it better. The alternatives that were given such as paper straws suck literally. However, plastic straws while they’re efficient are extremely harmful for our environment and aquatic life. That’s where I decided to come in and make the ultimate drinking experience while respecting the environment.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It was really hard, in the beginning, trying to find a substitute to make a straw. My dad and I spent over a year testing different ideas and finding ways to make the manufacturing process as sustainable as possible. It was also really difficult making the design and figuring out how this could appeal to everyone. I originally made the straw with the idea that I want to sell to restaurants but once I saw that restaurants weren’t buying, I had to pivot. I redid my customer discovery and found that restaurants were not willing to pay an extra $.10 or less Because people were still going to go to the restaurant even if the straw sucked. That’s what I realized that the consumers are the ones having the issue. I think it’s also really difficult trying to sell people on sustainable alternatives because from experience they haven’t believed me about how good SLURP straws are until they try it. It has also been difficult to manage time between school, SLURP, and my personal life but eventually, I found balance.

We’ve been impressed with SLURP! Straws or (theslurpstraw), but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
SLURP! Straws are 100% biodegradable straw and serve as an alternative for harmful plastic straws and soggy paper straws. We have a bendable neck and sell straws in packs of 50. Each straw is individually wrapped in a sleeve for hygiene purposes and it also allows people to carry the straw around with them, essentially they can take sustainability wherever they want. We are different from other brands in that we are more than a straw; we are a mission to save the earth one slurp at a time. When people choose to buy from our brand, they’re not just choosing a straw, they’re choosing their home, the earth. Our goal is to start with straws and eventually go to other consumables such as plates or cups.

Eventually, we wanna team up with a foundation that is geared towards saving our earth and cleaning up our oceans and donate a portion of our profits to them. Our process is sustainable as possible in that my dad, Shahrokh Shamtobi, is the manufacture of each straw and this allows us to watch the process of how it is made and allows us to make sure our emissions and carbon footprint as low as possible (his company is Labeltex Mills). We’re really proud of our mascot, Wally the whale who serves as an example of the aquatic life that we’re saving. Every time someone buys a slurp straw, they are one step closer to helping save the Wally‘s of the world. We are also a judgment-free zone, we acknowledge everyone is not zero waste, but taking the first step in the realm of sustainability with our straws is a good start.

How do you define success?
I define success as making a difference and creating a legacy. I define success as having others believe in you to the point that they’re willing to trust you and invest time in you. I define success as fulfilling goals I have created for myself.


  • A box of 50 straws is $7.50

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