Bureo is not only a Northeastern startup based out of Chile that is making waves, it is also the Chilean word that means waves. A wave starts with a small disturbance in the ocean and grows into an always changing great force in the waters. Ben Kneppers, David Stover, and Kevin Ahern are three guys who became that great force of change when they met in Sydney, Australia and discovered the growing issue of ocean pollution, specifically pollution through disposing fishnets.
Ben Kneppers is a Northeastern alum, who worked as an environmental consultant in Chile. His co-founders met in Sydney because they had a mutual love of surfing. What they didn’t love was the fact that 8 million tons of plastic are polluting the ocean, so they came up with an idea. What if they could upcycle the the discarded fishing nets and turn them into skateboards?
They knew that this problem was solvable. They figured they could remove the pollution and use it to make a sellable product and could educate people about the issue of ocean pollution at the same time. With the support from Northeastern University, IDEA, and Kickstarter, Bureo was able to create Net+Positiva to create the Minnow, their first skateboard, by using 30 square feet of fishing net for each skateboard.
Because of all the great effort and support backing them, Bureo is now able to provide jobs for local Chilean workers, and now Ben, David, and Kevin get to live out their dream. The idea didn’t just start from three guys just wanting to make skateboards. If this idea was all there was to it, the skateboards wouldn’t be special. The reason these skateboards are so special is because of the compelling story behind the production of each skateboard and because of the community that they come from.
Kneppers attributes the success of Bureo due to the “fact that [they]had a genuine compelling story made all the difference.”
Bureo quickly started expanding their idea for other uses. They realized that not everyone skateboards, so they started making sunglasses in addition to the skateboards. It seems like everyone wants to be a part of the positivity Bureo is creating. They collaborated with Carver to make the Ahi skateboard. Patagonia partnered with Bureo for the 20 Million and Change Program. Jack Johnson, John Kerry, and Prince Charles all found an interest in Bureo and supported their cause. One of Bureo’s most influential supporters was Ramon Navarro— a Chilean Big Wave surfing legend who’s father is a fisherman. When Ramon Navarro backed Bureo, they knew they were going to be able to really help the Chilean community.
Bureo hit a point where they had more material than needed to make the products they were selling as a company. They decided at that point that it was time to work with other companies that produce plastic to take part in positive change. They started partnering with like minded companies to sell their plastic to them. At this point Bureo was really able to scale up the business.
After expressing how some days he questions why he is pursuing this career path Kneppers said, “When you connect work with your passion, it doesn’t feel like work.”
The success of a startup never happens overnight. If you can find even just one way to make a small positive disturbance, one day you could change someone else’s life overnight and ride out your big dream.