Scrappy Detroit-based startup Pivot Materials is revolutionizing the plastics industry and promoting sustainability thanks to support from the MEDC and Michigan’s entrepreneurial landscape.
Plastics are used in almost every product, from toys for kids and vehicle parts to packaging materials and furniture. Based in Detroit, Pivot Materials is working to change, or pivot, the industry’s environmental footprint while preserving its many manufacturing benefits through a sustainable solution: replacing plastic with natural fibers, like bamboo that can be used in packaging, housewares and even mobility solutions.
After meeting in a grocery store parking lot in 2011, CEO Kylee Guenther and Engineering Manager Raju Patil formed Pivot Materials with a lofty goal of taking the plastics industry by storm. However, the team soon realized that without the right resources and support, it would be difficult to bring its ideas to life.
Guenther originally started the business in Ohio but moved it to Michigan. Not only did she want to move back to her home state, but she also realized there were far more opportunities in Michigan for support as Pivot grew.
Guenther turned to resources supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). She’s already received support from the PlanetM mobility initiative for using her technology to improve future mobility solutions — earning it the “Best in Michigan Mobility” prize at the 2018 Global Automotive Mobility Innovation Challenge — as well as TechTown Detroit, an MEDC SmartZone, where it received business development support from the TechTown Business Incubation Program.
Pivot Materials also worked closely with the Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Tech Team. The SBDC Tech Team provided business and marketing strategy, investor relations, and COVID impact advising, plus additional assistance from Lawrence Tech/Centrepolis and Automation Alley.
Most recently, the Tech Team helped Pivot Materials prepare its pitch for the 2019 Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, an annual event hosted by Invest Detroit and supported by the MEDC. With help from the SBDC Tech Team, Pivot Materials walked away from AMIC with three awards totaling $210,000 — making it the first company to win more than one award in the competition’s history, thanks to the preparation and support it received from Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Pivot Materials also received further support from PlanetM that allowed it to participate at Plug and Play in California last year. While there, the team had increased access to potential investors, pilot projects and networking events, plus an introduction to the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
Today, Pivot Materials is a team of 11 employees globally and 18 interns. Six products are in production, using their material with 36 pilot proof concepts underway. The company is focused on creating bamboo-based material for a car part for one for the top 5 global automotive OEMs, launching a line of home and houseware products made from its bamboo composite and working with the cosmetics industry to make sustainable packaging.
Pivot Materials is growing rapidly and is on course to open a North American manufacturing facility this fall. Using the money raised at AMIC and the connections it built at Plug and Play, Pivot Materials plans to continue growing its team and creating jobs in the state.
“Our team is having a lot of success and we appreciate all the support within the ecosystem that’s helped us get there, including TechTown, SBDC, PlanetM and others,” Guenther said. “At Pivot, we have a triple focus of people, planet and prosperity. Not only is profit important to us, but so is the impact we make on our planet and the community. We’re thrilled to be doing that right here in Michigan and the support from the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is helping us do just that.”
Every day, the MEDC is helping high-tech startups like Pivot Materials take their products from ideation to commercialization. To learn more about the programs and services offered by the MEDC, visit michiganbusiness.org/entrepreneurship.
Michigan’s ecosystem for small business support is unmatched. For small businesses looking to learn more about Michigan SBDC services, including consulting and marketing support, market research, strategic planning and more, visit michigansbdc.org.