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The Hustle

Name: Matthew Parks (Sunshine Straw Co.)

Posted By Andrea Perez

Matthew Parks is the co-founder and CEO of Sunshine Straw Co., a metal straw manufacturer based out of St. Pete. This 28-year-year old's company focuses on removing the dependency on single-use plastics by offering reusable straws to local and regional retailers. His life goal is to change the world, and Sunshine Straw Co. is pushing him in the direction of making a lasting environmental impact. Everyone who knows Parks defines him by his work ethic. "I'm working all the time. It's what I do," he says. The young entrepreneur owns four other companies specialized in marketing and IT services. These include Bovsi Studios, a web design and digital marketing firm that helped Sunshine Straw Co. come up with its unique brand.

Years in Tampa Bay


Hustle (job)

Co-founder and CEO of Sunshine Straw Co.

What do you do?  

I oversee the day to day operation of Sunshine Straw Co. I facilitate all the marketing and development strategies and brand relationships as well. I see this company as an extension of Bovsi as well, since it’s a marketing firm we decided that we wanted to use our marketing abilities for something good.

Why do you do it?

When we saw the plastic initiative getting started we felt like that was an opportunity for us to use our abilities to really make an impact.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

It really is an easy start because we already know how to tailor ads, we know how to tailor marketing strategies so we know how to reach out to people. I think that’s the number one thing that people really struggle with when it comes to trying to start an idea or start a non-profit or something that gives back. Even if you’re in a business, it’s hard enough to reach people, let alone somebody who’s asking for money just to do something good for the planet.

We knew we had an ability to do things a little bit faster or a little bit easier than the next person so we took it upon ourselves to do it.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

A lot of people think we’re just out here trying to sell metal straws as an alternative to starting a new industry. One of our biggest complaints on Facebook is “why don’t you just go to paper straws? Why don’t you just go to thinner plastic straw shops?”

I’ve never seen somebody use a paper straw and have it last longer than five minutes into their drink. We have people that have their straws from two months ago to three months ago. Unfortunately, we haven’t been around for that long, but people don’t lose their metal straws.

In fact, most people end up becoming a brand ambassador when they’re going out and telling their friends, “how are you still using a normal straw?” To do something that’s metal, I mean people are worried about chipping their teeth but … it’s practicality. It should motivate you to have more fish in the ocean – and sip something more slowly so you don’t chip your tooth.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

Finding nonprofits that really want to work with you. We’re very fast on getting things to market, we excel at that so we came out swinging. We came out messaging all the big players in the game saying, “Hey guys, we’re making some noise we’d really like to set something up where we can start giving you guys donations.”

Pretty much all of them came back with the “OK, how did you guys do this? Are you guys actually make something?” They tell you, “When you get something up call us back in two months, and have 9,000 packs of metal straws for a large wholesale distributor if you really want to start making sure that 10 percent of it goes back to us.” It’s almost like we have to beg them to give money. It’s frustrating.

That’s the whole reason we started this. It was to give back, but ever since we’ve been able to develop some of those relationships and we’re working on nurturing the bigger ones on top of the local impact. That’s where our brand support grew. The fact that our city is so far behind us and helping out is really good. They’ve been huge in helping us get in touch and be taken a little more seriously by some of the national and international nonprofits.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

Drive out the doubt. That would be the best thing. I’m 28 years old and I’m on my fifth company (Sunshine Straw Co.) Everyone is always going to tell you “no,” and that it’s easier to get a 9-to-5 job but you just have to take those doubts – what made you different than everyone else – and use them to push your hustles harder. A lot of people don’t have what it takes to make that leap. The doubt and the “can’t” is the main key difference that makes you who you are.

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