Return to Transcripts main page


CEO Interviewed On Catering To Consumers Of Color; Changes In Dating Due To COVID And Effect On Virtual Relationships Examined; Podcast Audience Levels Recovering From Early COVID-19 Outbreak Drop- Off; Chef Delivers Food During Coronavirus Pandemic; Company Helps Consumers Recycle Packaging. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 14:30   ET



RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the CNN Business "Risk Takers" special. I'm Rachel Crane.

Following the death of George Floyd in police custody, people across the country are demanding an end to systemic racism. Businesses have to be a part of that solution, from diversity on corporate boards and leadership teams, to more inclusive hiring, advertising, and products.

Joining me now is Tristan Walker, the founder and CEO of Walker and Company Brands, a company focused on selling personal care products for people of color.

Tristan, thank you so much for joining us today.


CRANE: Does this moment feel any different to you, Tristan?

WALKER: I think so. It's a very powerful thing to see, folks standing firm in what they truly believe in. Not only companies themselves, but remember, the employees of those companies, the consumers of those companies who are humans themselves, who believe in justice, who believe in equity, who believe in fairness. And it's a really powerful thing for us to see and kind of stand firm and get behind it. And I'm very excited about what the future looks like as a result.

CRANE: What can businesses do to make sure that these promises, they're not just empty words?

WALKER: When I think about Walker and Company, there's a three-step process that at least we like to take, and at least inspire other companies to do. First and foremost is really to acknowledge the trauma that many of us face, right? Folks, especially in my company who are a majority of folks are color, the trauma that we face every single day of dealing with these issues related to justice and fairness and equity.

The second step is really modeling the way. A lot of companies really talk about the values that they have at their companies. And I challenge those companies to see, do those employees even know what that's values are? Are they standing firm in those values? Are they making decisions in line with those values? And the only way you can really model the way is to really stand firm in those convictions of your values.

And the last thing that we do is just act. And it's not action for action's sake. This isn't only about just donating to a few organizations. It's actually following up. Are you hiring folks who represent the audience that you're serving?

Are you putting folks on your boards who represent the audience there you're serving? When I think about folks of color more broadly, we're ale ready the majority of the world, right. It is our duty to serve these folks in ways that they deserve to be treated.

CRANE: Sephora says it will dedicate 15 percent of shelf space to black-owned companies. Do you think that other retailers should follow that lead?

WALKER: I think a lot of brands should think about why only 15 percent? In a world where when I think about folks of color being the majority of this country in 20, 30 years, why not kind of push for that future, right? Who's to say that our cap is only 15 percent? I think it is a wonderful start, but should we be asking, can half of our store represent the needs for this growing audience?

Can more than half of this store represent the need for this growing audience? And it's important that we have some of that bold thinking, right, so that we can really push the envelope orders of magnitude with what we all expect. But it's a great start, and I hope to see more of it.

CRANE: That bold thinking is one of the reasons that you're a very successful entrepreneur. But tell us about the challenges that you faced as a black founder when you first started your business.

WALKER: Yes. No, thank you, Rachel. The one thing that I say all the time is I would go to pitch my business to folks on the other side of the table, the monied interests, who did not represent the diversity of the consumers that I served, right, to have an authentic understanding about the problems we were trying to solve they just did not have. And it made it somewhat difficult for us to, at least in the early days, raise the capital that we needed to thrive.

But I think a really key insight there is you need to have a group of folks representing the diversity of the world, right. We are duty bound for it. We all know that more diverse thinking, more diverse boards, more diverse companies will lead to more profitable outcomes.

CRANE: Your company is majority people of color, majority women. You make products for people of color. What can other companies learn from your success?

WALKER: I think first of all, respecting the fact that this consumer has a significant amount of purchase power and influence. Walker and Company has really started on one view of the world that I still believe to be true, that all global culture is led by American culture which is led by black culture in the U.S. It's a very big deal.

This is $2 trillion of purchasing power. In our category we have audience that has not been served in over 100 years as well as they deserve to be. And for us, it was a blue ocean opportunity to do something really special. And it's not only a Walker and Company specific opportunity. It's for everybody.


If the majority of the world represents this audience, why aren't you serving them? And the companies of the future are going to be the ones that really understand the importance of that service much in the same way that Walker and Company has done.

CRANE: You said before that you were a black man before you were a CEO. What is it like to lead through these incredibly tough times?

WALKER: Yes, I'm a black man, I'm a black father, I'm a black husband, I'm a black son. And it's really important for me to keep that perspective. So when I think about my five-year-old son Avery and my one-year-old son August, I care about they're living in a world of fairness, that bends towards justice and equity.

It's interesting, I am the founder of my own company, and the one thing that I try to teach them is that they can produce too, right. They can be owners and find hope in their ownership of what they create in service of a consumer group that looks like them, right, speaks like them, appreciates the same values that they have.

And I think about a future where folks are really standing firm and convicted in the values that I try to teach them -- courage, inspiration, respect, judgment, wellness, loyalty. And I feel like if they can live in a world where those things are respected, they'll be happy, I'll be happy, and this country will have maid a hell of a lot of progress.

CRANE: Fingers crossed for that future, Tristan. Thank you so much for joining us.

WALKER: Thank you, Rachel.


CRANE: COVID-19 has changed everything about our lives -- how we work, communicate, and connect. So business has to change with it. And big changes don't happen without big risks. I'm Rachel Crane and this is the CNN Business "Risk Takers" special.


CRANE: How we live and work is being rewritten as we speak.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was yet another volatile week for global stocks as cases of coronavirus continue to rise around the world.

CRANE: And businesses have to keep up. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Small business owners, they are beasts of

adaptation. We have to adapt.

CRANE: The way we watch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are making a big bet on a mobile-only platform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just know it's going to work.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to give you something different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's very nice.

CRANE: Listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why move into podcasts?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The younger generation has really taken to it.

CRANE: And date.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people were telling us that this was a waste of time.

CRANE: The only thing riskier than not adapting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a very high-stakes, high-reward place.

CRANE: Is making the wrong bet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you don't change and grow as a company, you're not going to thrive.

CRANE: Meet the leaders making the boldest bets in business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really will open a whole new era of space travel.

CRANE: Tackling the world's biggest problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know there's a garbage crisis and they really don't want to contribute to it.

CRANE: And charting a new course forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You clearly have to develop a strong stomach for risks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not taking risks. Somebody else is going to take risk for us.


CRANE: Even though people are staying home, they're still looking for love. Since the pandemic began, dating apps have seen an uptick in use. Bumble has seen a 26 percent increase in messages. Joining me now is the founder and CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd. Whitney, thank you so much for joining us.

WHITNEY WOLFE HERD, FOUNDER AND CEO, BUMBLE: Thank you for having me, Rachel. It's great to be with you.

CRANE: So, Whitney, coronavirus, it's really changed everything about our lives, including dating. So how are people adapting to dating during a pandemic?

HERD: What we're seeing is that people are really willing to get to know each other a bit better versus jumping in these real-life experiences with people. And so I think this has been a really interesting moment to recalibrate what it means to get to know each other online.

CRANE: Have you guys noticed any other surprising trends emerge?

HERD: It's so fascinating to see people build true relationships via video chat. We fundamentally believe that this is just the beginning of getting to know each other through video and through audio. That's been another really interesting finding is that people are really open to doing audio chat and sending audio notes. So it's less about the connection, and they're really starting to learn about each other emotionally and personality-wise through voice. It's been really fascinating.

CRANE: But, Whitney, can virtual dating really replace in-person connections?

HERD: No, it will never be a replacement, but it can be a catalyst to filling voids of loneliness and isolation during such a confusing moment. And so the desire for something more casual has absolutely dissipated, and we've seen an uptick in people desiring something more substantial.

CRANE: Are the dating habits and the changes that you're describing that have been adapted during COVID-19, do you think they're actually here to stay?

HERD: We do. We do. We fundamentally believe that they are here to stay. We're seeing a lot of people say that had they not had the video calling feature, had they not be essentially, for better or worse, forced into having a more substantial digital connection with someone, they would have never given that person a chance.

I think this is going to have long-term impact in a positive way, meaning people will spend more time getting to know each other before they just go jump into real life with essentially what is a stranger.

CRANE: Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

HERD: Thank you so much for having me. Stay well.

CRANE: Now let's turn to podcasts. As soon as states started issuing stay-at-home orders, podcast listening plummeted, hitting a low point in April, according to one research company. But since then it's mostly recovered to pre-quarantine levels. Joining me now is Dawn Ostroff, Spotify's chief content officer.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Dawn. We so appreciate it. I've got to ask you, because people are stuck at home, they're consuming lots of media, Netflix, Hulu, and the like. So has the pandemic been a good opportunity at all for Spotify's podcasts, and have you shifted your strategy?

DAWN OSTROFF, CHIEF CONTENT AND ADVERTISING BUSINESS OFFICER, SPOTIFY: What we've seen is that the users just consumption habits have changed and shifted.


So where many users would listen to podcasts in their cars when they were commuting, now what we're seeing is that users are actually listening on their home devices, listening to it on their television sets, or listening to it even on their gaming consoles. But we still see people listening to their podcasts as they're working out.

We're seeing them listening during the day. So it's been a shift in pattern, and yet I think once things return to normal and people wind up commuting again, the habits that they're forming now will stay with them, and it just allows for even more time for them to consume podcasts in different times and different ways in which they'll do that.

CRANE: You guys took recently took a pretty bold step and signed an exclusive licensing deal with Joe Rogan. Now, his podcast is, of course, one of the most popular out there, and "The Wall Street Journal" reported that the deal's worth is about $100 million. So why make that bet right now?

OSTROFF: We felt like we needed to have the number one podcaster on our platform in order to really be a winner in this medium and this space. And so starting in September, his podcast is going to be on the platform. And then in December it's going to be exclusively on the platform.

CRANE: Now, when Spotify got into the podcast game, I have to say, it was the serious underdog to Apple at the time. So how is that competition going now, Dawn?

OSTROFF: So when you look at the progress that we've already made, in over 60 markets we're already ahead of Apple. So that's pretty meaningful because we've only been in the game now for about two years.

CRANE: Dawn, thank you so much for joining us.

OSTROFF: Thank you, Rachel.

CRANE: Coming up, we talk to Chef Jose Andres about how he's feeding those most in need during this crisis.



CRANE: Welcome back to the CNN Business "Risk Takers" specific. Jose Andres is known for feeding people when disaster strikes. Now the celebrity chef is feeding those affected by the coronavirus. I spoke to Andres about what makes this crisis uniquely devastating and how he's trying to help.


JOSE ANDRES, CHEF AND RESTAURATEUR: Right now, we are more than 96, 98 cities in the United States alone, and we are taking roughly around care of 40,000, 50,000 meals a day. We are in elderly homes. We are distributing food through Uber and Lyft, home by home when elderly people cannot leave home and they are too ill or too scared to go out.

At the end of the day, what we are the proudest is that our organization is so quick to respond because always we rely on the food community and the chef community and the restaurant community. We've been able to put more than 500 restaurants up and running where they're our partners, but because we get donations, we're able to pay for a meal. And every one of those restaurants that they are part of the community, they take care of whatever the need are. It can be public housing, it can be hospital, an elderly home, homeless shelter, low income family district, you name it.

CRANE: Now, you have had to dramatically pivot your business. You've had to shut many of your restaurants and furlough the vast majority of your employees. So what has that experience been like for you?

ANDRES: For me, that's the first five, six weeks we were able to pay everybody's salary and benefits. Took away anxiety at the beginning, and for me that was the most important gift I could giving to everybody that works with us, with me. But all of that takes a toll.

You only have so much money in the bank, and when the money is gone, it's gone. There's nothing else you can do. So we are there holding, waiting, and waiting to reopen. But we don't know if we are weeks away or months away.

CRANE: Do you think your business can ever recover from this?

ANDRES: I'm preparing for the worst, but I'm hoping for the best. It's going to be super hard. But eventually things will be better. I think we all learn to adapt. I think as small business owners, they are beasts of adaptation. We have to adapt.

We had no other thing to do. I'm only one guy that tries not only to keep my family fed, but my communities and country fed. I want the American people to know that I will be there and we will be there to make sure that we cover as many communities that are lacking food right now as we can.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CRANE: Coming up, recycling in the age of COVID-19 -- we're creating more waste than ever. Has the pandemic threatened the idea of reuse and repackage?



CRANE: Welcome back to the CNN Business "Risk Takers" specific. COVID- 19 has changed everything about our lives, including how we get rid of trash at home. With more Americans staying in, garbage collection volume has climbed by as much as 30 percent. At the same time, some communities have paused curbside recycling. Tom Szaky is the COE of TerraCycle. Tom, thank you so much for joining us.

TOM SZAKY, FOUNDER AND CEO, TERRACYCLE: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

CRANE: Your company Loop, it allows you to buy things like laundry detergent, deodorant, ice cream, all in reusable packaging. And when they're done, they send it back to be cleaned and reused by somebody else. How has your customer base and their habits changed during the pandemic?

SZAKY: That's a good question, and we were quite worried that people would be concerned around the safety of reuses, as they should be in a time like this. And what I'm really happy to see is that for Loop, sales have actually surged during the pandemic.

March, April, May have all set records. I think a huge part of that is people know that we have incredibly professional cleaning and clean rooms, frankly, worrying about diseases that were even more challenging that COVID. So folks are comfortable with that, and it's great to see that they're comfortable with reuse.

CRANE: You guys are expanding nationwide this summer. People will be able to find your products as stores like Kroger and Walgreens. Will there be new products available?

SZAKY: Absolutely. So Loop is a platform for reuse. So we work with amazing companies, from Tropicana to Haagen Dazs and so many others who create reusable versions of their famous products. So every day we're adding new products.

Formally, almost one product a day joins the platform. But it's a growing ecosystem, and you should, as you see it, keep enjoying more and more of your favorite goods really in reusable packaging that when your done you can just throw away, and we will clean it for you and get it refilled and back on shelves.

CRANE: Could you think that the whole concept of recycling could potential be a victim of coronavirus?

SZAKY: I will say, it not just could, recycling is already a victim of this pandemic. I don't think it will be a deathblow, but it's going to be incredibly damaging. In the end, recyclers have to spend money to collect and process material, and then they sell that material really competitively to the price of oil. And with oil staying low, it's going to make it very hard for recyclers to compete.

So it's not that recycling will disappear, but a lot of the stuff that was recycled before COVID may not be recycled after. And this is already, in the past 10 years recycling has had a lot of headwind economically and has been declining.

I think COVID is just making that matter worse. As so as individuals, what we can do is really think about purchasing goods that are either reusable, or something that recyclers can still recycle to help feed them what they want to see.

CRANE: Tom, thank you so much for joining us, really, really appreciate it.

SZAKY: Thanks for having me.

CRANE: And thank you guys for watching. For more "Risk Takers" content, check out "CNN NEWSROOM" continues next.