Our mentors are circular economy, business development, manufacturing, impact assessment, and other industry experts to help our Finalists refine their product ideas, financials, and presentations for the final pitch and chance to win a grand prize of $10,000 cash, continued mentorship, and access to investors.

The Circular Innovation Challenge is a business pitch competition for the best manufactured product idea produced from ‘waste’ or recycled materials. Up to eight finalists will be selected to hone their business plan and pitch. Winner(s) will be announced at a (virtual) LIVE event on June 23rd.

Mentors will provide subject-matter expertise, business and pitch coaching, and 1:1 mentoring to help our pitch finalists refine their product idea and create their best pitch.

Meet our mentors and their workshops

(workshops are only open to pitch finalists)

Adrian Tan

King County, Policy & Market Development Manager

Adrian works for King County in the Solid Waste Division on recycling and waste prevention issues. He holds a PhD in sustainable design methodologies from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). Originally trained as a mechanical engineer, he has worked for several different companies such as LEGO, Novo Nordisk and Nokia designing and developing products. In the past decade he has performed numerous studies and advised the European Commission on topics related to ecodesign, eco-innovation and the circular economy. He has also helped companies such as Adidas, Michelin and Steelcase integrate sustainability and circular business models in their organization.       

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

At the County, I work on recycling and waste prevention issues. King County has a clear goal to achieve Zero Waste of Resources – to eliminate the disposal of materials with economic value – by 2030. I hope that initiatives such as the Circular Innovation Challenge can help achieve this goal. I started my career in product development and I remain passionate about good product design. I hope to be able to support participants of the Circular Innovation Challenge with circular design methods and development of innovative circular business models.

Workshop 1: How ready is your product for circular business?

Workshop 2: Circular Business Models

This workshop will help your product idea be ready for the circular economy. Research conducted at the Technical University of Denmark has identified eight dimensions of business that are critical to consider to be successful in the circular economy. This workshop will guide you through the eight critical dimensions to identify gaps and opportunities to kickstart your product idea on its path to become more circular.

Rachelle Ames

Clean Tech Alliance, Sr. Director, Commercialization & Outreach

Rachelle Ames is the CleanTech Alliance’s Senior Director for Commercialization and Outreach. She leads the Alliance’s commercialization programs including, co-directing the Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator, with VertueLab. In addition to commercialization activities, she leads member and sponsorship development, and partnership outreach for the Alliance. Rachelle joined the CleanTech Alliance in 2018, after five years at Washington State University working within the Office of Research.
She has a Professional Science Masters (PSM) in Molecular Biosciences from WSU and is passionate about helping scientists, engineers, and technical founders communicate their technologies and innovations to others to increase collaboration opportunities through shared understanding.
Outside of work, Rachelle enjoys learning tennis from her partner – Collin, cooking new things and cheering for her favorite sports teams.

CleanTech Alliance
The CleanTech Alliance drives clean technology innovation and job growth to advance our economy. We were started in Seattle in 2007. Today, we are focused on issues that impact our members globally.
Our 1100+ member organizations are from 10 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. They represent many different industries, business models, technologies and services all working to create products and services that are better, faster, cheaper, cleaner, and safer. This diversity creates valuable connections that make a difference for our members, our economy and our planet through policy advocacy, commercialization programs, business services and signature events that educate, promote the sector and enhance business development.

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

I love working with entrepreneurs on telling their stories and getting others engaged and interested in their products, companies and missions. And we are not going to stop continuing to consume items, so it is incredibly important that entrepreneurs are building in circularity into their businesses from the very beginning.

Workshop: Pitch Prep 1/2 - Honing your presentation and pitch deck

Overview of presentation tips and what to include in a pitch, including audience considerations, format and mode. Each company/team will run through their current iteration of the pitch/presentation and receive feedback from the rest of the cohort and presenter(s).

Erin Gagnon

Recology, Government Affairs & Community Relations Manager

Erin Gagnon is a Government Affairs & Community Relations Manager at Recology, a resource recovery company that sees ‘A World Without Waste’. In her role she handles contract compliance, donation and sponsorship requests, community outreach and education, and is a strategic partner for future development and the ongoing presence of Recology in King County. In addition, she handles the management of the four Recology Retail Stores – eco-focused stores that sell products that reduce waste. Erin loves sushi, volunteering at the Mt. Si Food Bank each week, houseplants and spending time with her family in their North Bend home.

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

I am passionate about products that support a world without waste. Working with partners that are excited about creating sustainable products is one of my favorite parts of my job. I'm thrilled to meet and work with local creators to discover new solutions!

Workshop: Holistic Circular Product Design

By the end of the workshop, finalists will learn how to approach selection and sourcing of materials; How to avoid greenwashing; How to use partnerships to complete the circular economy loop; What an eco-friendly store looks for in new products.

Jay Lyman

Seattle Public Library, Librarian

Jay Lyman is a librarian at the Seattle Public Library where he routinely helps entrepreneurs navigate the information they need to succeed in business. He and a team of colleagues offer free 1:1 business information assistance through a program called Library to Business. They also help people who are pivoting their services with market research about their competitors, customers, and industry trends. The Seattle Public Library purchases access to information tools that would normally be very costly – however, that individuals may utilize for free with a library card.

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

I've been involved in other Seattle Good Business events and love to refer folks to Seattle Made and the Seattle Good Business Network. I'm also super excited about the vertical of this challenge and how my research skills can support the participants. I know what we learn together will help others develop better sustainable business practices too.

Workshop: Beyond Google: DIY market research using library resources

Whatever stage your business is at, having good data is important. Information is key to success, but can be expensive or time-consuming if you don’t know where to look. Find out how to easily navigate various databases available through your local library to help you make informed decisions in your business planning, marketing, and market trend analysis. Also, gain valuable information and insights to better understand local economic conditions, customers, and more.

Behnosh Najafi

Circular By Design, Principal and Founder

In her role as Founder and Principal of Circular by Design, Behnosh Najafi supports organizational and business efforts to drive positive growth, resiliency, innovation, and sustainability through the adaptation of circular and regenerative economy principles. As a certified Circulab consultant, she is part of an interdisciplinary global network of consultants that are helping to drive circular economy into the mainstream. Behnosh also brings her decade of experience as a design researcher and strategist in the Seattle area to her client engagements to balance business, environmental,  and consumer goals. Having had a range of clients and complex problems to solve, Behnosh enjoys working through unchartered territory, and believes that design thinking and methodologies offer a robust toolkit for anyone seeking to make a positive impact in our increasingly complex world.

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

I want to support Seattle Good's efforts to build a local Circular Economy, and I would love to help finalists with launching their business ideas into the world!

Workshop: Designing your Circular Business Model

By the end of the workshop, finalists will have a completed high-level, visual business model that they can use to articulate their business idea and functions in the context of their pitch, and jumpstart their business activities.

Peter Bailey

Adroit Collective LLC

Peter Bailey is an entrepreneur, environmental scientist and leadership coach. He began his career in sustainability at the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan, before
matriculating into the first Sustainable Systems (M.S.) cohort at The University of Michigan. Over the following decades, Peter’s career has taken him all over the country and ultimately back to the Midwest after having worked as a sustainability
professional in both the public and private sectors. Peter is also an ICF Accredited Leadership Coach and Circulab Certified Consultant. Beyond sustainability, Peter has founded a number of small businesses from motorcycle shops to craft distilleries, and is currently developing a business model for organics upcycling. Peter is consulting with various organizations on strategy, management, process
improvement and sustainability issues through his consultancy Adroit Collective. He lives in Detroit and is working on multiple small businesses and real estate
ventures, specializing in affordable housing community development. When Peter is not working, he spends his time hiking, playing soccer, cycling and taking the road less traveled.

Co-Facilitator with Behnosh Najafi: Designing your Circular business model

Yolanda Saito

Impacti, Director of Innovation & Partnerships

Yolanda is a co-CEO of Impacti, a tech company that creates digital tools for sustainability.  Impacti’s mission is to support every business to tell their own unique impact story in data-driven, credible and beautiful ways. Yolanda is an entrepreneur, international lawyer, engineer, writer and event facilitator that has advised governments, companies and organizations around the world to improve their impact on climate change and sustainability  Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, B.C.), she has since lived and worked in six countries and is currently based in France. She supports companies and governments in Africa, Europe and the US to advance circular business models and build sustainable supply chains.
What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

Circular business models are the most exciting area of business innovation. I'm excited to connect participating finalists to circular innovations and innovators around the world. And show them how to speak about the positive impact they made in credible and compelling ways.

Workshop: Learn how your circular design makes global impact

At the Impacti workshop, Pitch finalists will learn: - Why the circular economy is the next big thing in Seattle and around the world - How being a circular entrepreneur can open up new financing and market opportunities - How to communicate credibly on the "circularity" of your innovation to attract customers & investment. At the end of the session, participants will receive a template on how to build up an "Impact Profile" that communicates the positive impact their innovation makes on issues that matter in Seattle and the world.

Nick Mendoza

Founder & CEO, Neptune Fish Jerky

Nick Mendoza is Co-Founder & CEO of Neptune, a mission-driven snack food brand bringing convenience and sustainability to the seafood category while educating consumers that seek to add more high-quality, responsible fish in their diets. From an upbringing on a New Mexico cattle ranch, Nick developed food system, fisheries, and seafood supply chain expertise working in eight countries and sailing trans-Pacific research expeditions as a Stanford Marine Scientist. He broadcasts his passion for improving the seafood industry as a speaker, published author, and passionate entrepreneur.

What inspired you to mentor our Pitch Finalists?

It is SO tough being an entrepreneur, and succeeding with an idea to make the world a better place requires a lot of hard work, luck, and support networks. I have benefitted from the strong arms of advisors and mentors who helped me along my way, and it is. a joy to be in a place that I can offer insights of use to early innovators. I'm thrilled for the opportunity lend a hand of support to the Makers behind some great projects building a circular economy.

Workshop: 2/2 Final Pitch Prep

This will be a high level conversation about crafting a great pitch. There is no silver bullet for nailing your pitch to win over the audience, but there are a handful of tools and ideas you can use to master your voice. This session will cover these tools and give you space to practice your approach with your fellow Finalists.

Thank you to our program sponsors and partners