Single-use plastic containers, including prescription bottles, are responsible for massive amounts of pollution. Only 8.7% of the world’s plastic is recycled — the rest is burned, dumped in landfills, or ends up in the ocean. At a time when microplastics are being found in human blood, consumers are increasingly aware of the urgent need to reduce plastic consumption.
Mediloq aims to do its part by selling reusable cannabis containers called Canniloq. Canniloq containers are child-safe and waterproof. The company envisions itself becoming an alternative to single-use prescription bottles. We reached out to founder and CEO Dan Estoque to learn more about how the team got together and the relationship between capitalism and environmental problems.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
I had spent more than 20 years helping to launch and run other people’s businesses, from startups to large corporations, and was looking for a small business opportunity that no one else was addressing. I have always been fascinated by businesses that scale a simple idea into something huge and impactful. Here in Boulder, Colorado, that entrepreneurial spirit is embodied in iconic startups like WhiteWave Foods, Celestial Seasonings, and Crocs. Having been immersed in the process of running small manufacturing businesses and gauging my abilities against their founders, I knew I had the vision, skills, perseverance, resourcefulness, knowledge, and experience to successfully start and run my own company.
Then in 2016, the means, opportunity, and concept for this company presented themselves, and it was an easy decision for me to move forward. For the first couple years, we were building our Canniloq retail brand of ruggedized, child-safe storage containers. Then in 2019, while on a visit to Hawaii, I saw the extent of the plastic pollution problem in the oceans and decided to leverage our niche in durable, child-safe containers in order to enter the sustainable packaging market.
What is your current business model?
Although we will continue to market and expand our revenue-generating Canniloq/Coffeeloq retail brands, with the objective of positioning for an eventual mergers and acquisition exit, the current crowdfunding raise is meant to develop Mediloq’s business-to-business reusable, child-safe container business, the model of which is described below.
Our reuse business model is basically the Coke bottle return system using reverse vending technology:
- We manufacture and sell our durable, reusable, child-safe containers to companies that are currently using disposable plastic containers. These customers are manufacturers and packaging suppliers of dietary supplements, pharmaceutical over-the-counter (OTC) medications, cannabis products, and household cleaners.
- These manufacturers fill the reusable containers with their products and stock them in their retail outlets.
- Consumers purchase these products and are charged a refundable deposit at checkout in an account that they set up.
- When the containers are empty, consumers return them to retailer kiosks, a universal product code is scanned, and the deposit is refunded.
- Mediloq route drivers pick up and return the empties to wash depots for cleaning and testing.
- The cleaned containers are shipped back to manufacturers for refill.
Mediloq will generate income from container sales and a wash fee charged to the manufacturer per container. We estimate that these packaging costs will be about the same as or less than the costs of using single-use plastic containers.
As with other introductions of recycling practices, acclimating consumers will be a process, so marketing and communication will be key to raising social awareness about this new reuse model. Mediloq will also be proactive in bringing about the policy changes needed to legislate bans and levies on plastic packaging, including child-safe containers. Incentivizing consumers in this way to recycle and reuse has proven to be effective and will tilt the free market in our direction.
Public awareness of the plastic problem is really accelerating with the recent discovery of microplastics being found in human organs, and we feel that the timing for our reuse model is ideal, from both business and environmental perspectives. We understand that solving the plastics problem is a huge undertaking, but Mediloq is positioned to make an impact in the $19.3 billion child-safe packaging niche.
Wall Street has Morningstar, S&P, and Bloomberg
The equity crowdfunding market has KingsCrowd.
How do you plan to bring mediloq’s service to the market?
Once the elements are in place to launch Mediloq’s reusable child-safe container model, our plan is to first target small natural supplement brands and their retail outlets, like natural grocery and natural pharmacy retail chains. Cannabis product manufacturers and retail dispensaries will also be the first to pilot the reuse model.
Our reusable container kiosks will be positioned in high-visibility retail locations, which will serve (along with a strong public relations effort) to accelerate public awareness about our unique approach for addressing the plastic problem. We have customers and potential customers eager to support our reuse model, and they will benefit from the novel approach that will differentiate their brands as eco-friendly. We are confident that once the model is launched, traction will accelerate with bigger brands and retail outlets.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
I was the sole founder of Mediloq in 2016, when I designed the Canniloq brand of high-end, ruggedized, child-safe containers and marketed them to cannabis and outdoor customers.
In 2018, I met Henry Burgess-Marshall, who was a business partner of my nephew. He saw the potential of the company and wanted to become involved. Henry has great brand-building instincts and used his digital skills to market the Canniloq retail brand using social media, news articles, videos, and web development. All the Canniloq and Mediloq materials seen on the web are Henry’s work.
In 2020, the company wanted to expand to the reusable child-safe market, and we saw local cannabis dispensaries as a low barrier to entry. The original vision was to place low-cost, durable, child-safe containers for sale in dispensaries as a refillable option to disposable plastic. Similar to the fabric grocery bag model, customers would own the containers and bring them back to be refilled.
We needed a local, experienced and driven salesperson to visit local dispensaries and probe the market for this new child-safe reuse model. I placed an ad on Zip Recruiter and chose Nick Legare over a couple dozen other candidates. Nick was previously the top sales rep for a national consumer brand and was instrumental in getting our first reusable child-safe containers placed in dispensaries and confirming that there is a high demand for sustainable child-safe packaging.
Ted Agne joined the team in 2021. Ted became aware of Mediloq through our Ignite Social Impact crowdfund listing. Ted is active in the ocean racing community and has seen firsthand the tragedy of ocean plastic. He reached out, wanting to become involved with Mediloq because he supports our efforts to reduce plastic pollution and sees the business potential and the ideal timing. Ted has 30 years of corporate communications experience, with deep experience in biotechnology, healthcare, and life sciences, and he serves Mediloq as a senior advisor.
What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?
We are not aware of any other companies marketing reusable, refillable, child-safe packaging to the OTC pharma or supplement markets. In the cannabis market, we are aware of one company that is washing used single-use plastic containers and reselling them back to dispensaries for refill, but these containers are for a single use and not designed to be reused over multiple refills.
Procter & Gamble has partnered with Loop to offer a laundry detergent packaged in a refillable child-safe bottle. Loop is using a similar reuse model for consumer packaged groceries, but we are not aware of them including child-safe packaging.
Wall Street has Morningstar, S&P, and Bloomberg
The equity crowdfunding market has KingsCrowd.
How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
The money raised this round will be used to position the company to be the very first supplier of reusable child-safe containers. Our customers will be manufacturers of dietary supplements, OTC pharmaceuticals, cannabis products, and household cleaners who have an interest in piloting some of their brands in our reusable container program.
The funds will be used to: 1) complete development of our next-generation reusable glass containers, 2) develop robotic container wash equipment, and 3) develop container return kiosks. These projects will be modified versions of existing designs, so the development should be rapid and low risk. In addition, the funds will be used to build the organization and infrastructure in order to support customer acquisition and company operations.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
Mediloq investors are supporting our business with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. We endorse the conscious-capitalism approach to business and are committed to the triple bottom line concept — people, planet, and profit.
I believe that capitalism-driven consumer behavior got us into the social and environmental dilemmas we are struggling with, but I also believe that, if refocused, the same capitalism-driven forces will lead us out.
Some interesting personal notes:
- My business exemplar is the conscious capitalist Steve Demos. Steve is also from Boulder, Colorado, where he founded WhiteWave Foods in a small kitchen, making handmade tofu and promoting soy as an alternative protein source. He conceived the Silk brand of soymilk, and his company eventually sold for $12.5 billion.
- I went to the same Miami high school that both Jeff Bezos and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson attended.
- My father was also a pioneer and a climate scientist, and in 1997, the World Meteorological Organization named him the winner of its top scientific prize for outstanding work in meteorology, climatology, and scientific research.
- I held the Florida high school state weightlifting record in clean and jerk. Tenacity and perseverance really do pay off.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We are aware that big OTC pharma and household cleaner consumer brands are already exploring reusable child-safe container options, so we believe that if we can bolster our patent positions and get some traction with our reusable container program, a buyout from a packaging company or pill manufacturer is a good possibility.
We look forward to seeing where Dan and his team take the company. Mediloq is currently raising on Ignite Social Impact.
About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau
Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.