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Mission Sustainability Pt. 2: Building a More Sustainable Studio with Lindsey di Ruscio of Trove

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Summary

In part two of Daniel's conversation with Lindsey, we shift topics to sustainability in the studio. What is Trove doing day to day in the studio to support the overall company mission of sustainability and what can we look forward to in the future as new technologies allow us to make better decisions.

Key Takeaways

  • Lindsey and the studio team at Trove take sustainability into account when making decisions for the studio. Things that shorten working time, and ideally are purchased second hand, are big wins for sustainability in the studio.
  • The studio team tries to use every inch of a consumable before re-purposing to another use. Once foamcore is completely used up for styling, they become fill cards or V-flats, or are even used by the samples team to reinforce sample shelves.
  • Even with re-use at the front of mind, things have to get thrown out eventually. Trove is looking at sustainable production processes for consumables, like foamcore derived from mushrooms, etc.
  • Reducing the lifecycle of items in the studio is another key sustainability effort. Get things in and out quickly, so that it's not using resources of the studio.

Links & Resources

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester (00:00):
From creative force, I'm Daniel Jester, and this is the e-commerce content creation podcast.

This episode is the second part of a two-part conversation with Lindsay DiRuscio of Trove, where we talk about how the studio supports the broader company mission of sustainability, everything from reusing and recycling to locally sourcing equipment and supplies.

Lindsey DiRuscio (00:28):
What I did was I wanted to upgrade the photo studio to have professional level equipment, but knowing our Trove mission is resale, what I did was I partnered with our local camera shop, Sammy's Camera, and was able to purchase strobes, lights, high quality used gear.

Daniel Jester (00:51):
If you haven't listened to part one of this conversation, I don't think you necessarily need to listen to it first, but we do discuss Trove overall and how their business model presents unique challenges to the way the studio operates. You can find part one wherever you get your podcasts. Without further ado, let's get into part two.

Welcome back to part two of my conversation with Lindsay DiRuscio of Trove on sustainability. Lindsey, I would say welcome back, but in the process of recording this, this is still the same recording session, we just split it into two parts, but welcome back.

Lindsey DiRuscio (01:28):
Thank you for keeping me here. Just kidding.

Daniel Jester (01:31):
Thank you for keeping you captive in this meeting room. So previously Lindsay, we talked a lot about Trove and Trove's mission on sustainability and re-commerce and some of the amazing things that your team is doing and how that impacts creative production. We wanted to split this into a two part episode because I also think the things that you do day to day in the studio to address sustainability is really interesting. I think our listeners will get a lot out of it because studios require a lot of consumables, they require a lot of energy, we're using things and then throwing things out all of the time. And I think there's a lot that we can do to think about sustainability at the studio level. Last time that we met, you told me about joining the team at Trove and getting into the studio and right off the bat, you discovered some things that you could do that would improve studio life for your team, but also hit that important sustainability part of the mission. Can you tell me a little bit about your early days at Trove and some of the upgrades that you made?

Lindsey DiRuscio (02:29):
One of the biggest changes I made and it has the biggest impact is when I started at Trove, I was really impressed with the photo studio that they set up. It was stations built that were a bit permanent. And one thing I wanted to do was, working in photo studios, is have that flexibility. To flip a set to a lay down versus a pinup or three-quarter set. Also, the company was using led lights and they're really, really low wattage. And I think as they started, they were growing, doing a lot of testing and purchasing things on Amazon that weren't the highest quality.

So what I did was I wanted to upgrade the photo studio to have professional level equipment, but knowing our Trove mission is resale, what I did was I partnered with our local camera shop, Sammy's Camera, and was able to purchase strobes, lights, high quality used gear. So we now have a studio that has really, really amazing brown color strobes, power packs, but we purchased it, since they were used, it was a lot cheaper, it helped us with our retouching, cut down on color correction because color is so much more accurate with the strobes. So that was a really, really amazing thing that I'm really proud of that we were able to purchase used equipment, to align with our Trove values.

Daniel Jester (04:06):
To kind of punctuate that point on the color that you mentioned is admittedly, this is a smaller part of the impact on sustainability, but the less time you're spending on an image in Photoshop, the less energy your team is using. And so if you can shorten the workload for each individual image, you're getting more efficient and that impacts that as well. And I know that that's a very small part, but at this point with where we're at, we need to be doing all the things big and small.

Lindsey DiRuscio (04:33):
Yeah. And over time, and it's less purchases from Amazon. I'm buying local, which I prefer. We have a local dealer who's amazing. We can rent equipment if we need something before purchasing, rather than making a purchase, realizing this isn't the greatest option, making another purchase. So that's what I feel great about. And especially knowing that these items, because we've purchased them from our dealer, they have a warranty on them, they're sound pieces of equipment and worked in other photo studios where they've been using the same power packs for 20 years. So the longevity is amazing. So kind of goes along with the brands we work with, premium items that are built to last.

Daniel Jester (05:23):
Right. And having the infrastructure, I know we touched on this, but also having the infrastructure to get things fixed when they break down instead of tossing and replacing. Yeah. What are some other tools or processes that you've discovered in your studio to help minimize specifically the consumables like foam core and background paper and things like that. What are some of the things that you're looking at in that regard?

Lindsey DiRuscio (05:46):
Yeah. Right now we're using, we do a combination, mainly foam core. We were using a melamine plastic because we're sliding and folding garments on down. So they slide well, but you have to use tape to have the item hold. So we've switched over to foam core and we're pinning items, but rather than trashing the foam core, we are scooting it down a little or cutting off the bottom and realigning it and then we're flipping it over. And then when we have just used it and there's holes everywhere that won't hold the garment, then we use them as V flats or fill cards. My last place is Photo Studios, you're always trying to make everything look picture perfect. And I love things really clean and neat. And there are times when other photo studios I would buy new foam core to make our V flats just look nice and clean and pretty.

And so I've really, really shifted my mentality to reuse. And then if it's just we can't even use it or we have an excess, other departments in our team will use it. And one is our logistics fulfillment team has been reusing our old foam core to put up the ends of the stacks of our inventory to keep things in place. So just kind of nothing going in that dumpster. Another thing we're exploring is foam core has to go to the dumpster. So we are trying to figure out is there a foam core alternative? I know there's something that's plant-based made out of mushrooms that we're looking into. So we're doing a lot of research on that and we just ordered something that is a combination of cork and plant pulp. But I also want to make sure that it's sustainable and that we're not using up natural resources and core can be really hard to pin into. So I'm also thinking about teams ergonomics and avoiding any type of carpal tunnel. So that is our continuation of thinking what's the most sustainable recyclable materials used in the studio.

Daniel Jester (07:52):
As Trove grows and you develop more partnerships and the studio grows and start scaling up, what types of decisions are you making that have specifically sustainability in mind? Whether it's about the space or the equipment or the way that the team is structured? How are you thinking about your future growth?

Lindsey DiRuscio (08:07):
I'm thinking it on a production level. So how can we increase production? So that's my number one goal for the year, it's my objective key results is to get as many items in a shorter time out of the photo studio. So however we can work smarter, not harder. So automation tools, our photographers are also our stylists. They also export images, so they are digital techies. So they're kind of doing three roles. So we have a very lean organization on the photo studio. So people wear a lot of hats, but also trying to keep people, anything we can do to take out unnecessary steps. So I just did a timing test this double checking ergonomics.

Daniel Jester (08:58):
Yeah, I know. I want to hear about this timing test. Tell me about it.

Lindsey DiRuscio (09:02):
Yeah, it was making people sweat. Just kidding.

Daniel Jester (09:05):
No, I want to hear it, let's do it. Was it like, were we counting steps, were we gauging how long it takes something to physically walk through the studio? What were we doing? Are we talking about actually on set?

Lindsey DiRuscio (09:13):
Yeah, actually on set. So we do have analytics that captures from an associate level, from a team level, how many items we're photographing, retouching, et cetera. But what I did was my manager, he's a GM, he suggested doing a timing test, just getting the stopwatch out and saying, okay, if we want to shoot X amount of items in a day, what is the fastest output? Now we're going to explore what would that be on a pace for a full day, full week, et cetera. So I was looking at things I was timing, just set okay, grab the item on the rack, go and then putting it down, styling. And did that with the whole team to see if I could pick up on certain associates that style much faster. Well, how are they doing that? What are their techniques versus someone maybe that we're going for too much perfection.

Daniel Jester (10:10):
The really interesting thing about that exercise is that sometimes you will discover that one of your photographers or stylists has developed a trick that hasn't made its way through the rest of the team yet, right? I know we did a similar test at Amazon around styling backpacks. And one stylist had this trick that they did for the way that they strung up the backpack strap. That was like, that actually saved over the course of a day, something like 20 minutes of styling time if you were working on backpacks and that's one of the things that we have to sometimes encourage in our teams is they're inherently problem solvers, but they're not necessarily inherently sharing those solutions. It's really interesting.

Lindsey DiRuscio (10:49):
Yeah, someone created a method where it was styling an item and it's a back shot, there's more material in the rear because there's more back there. And if we could just pull this up, it would take the wrinkles out. So it was like okay, I'm going to put a hook on here, some monofilament, tie it to a yard stick. I mean, we look like we're fishing in here and doing pictures I've never seen before. And yeah, it's really, really saved even retouching time getting wrinkles out. So you're just kind of inventing new techniques all the time. And then yeah, the importance of sharing them out with everybody.

Daniel Jester (11:26):
Right. What are some of your longterm studio sustainability goals, like pie in the sky? What are the things about your studio today that bother you from a sustainability standpoint that you hope someday we can invent some amazing thing that could solve that for you?

Lindsey DiRuscio (11:40):
I'll be honest, Creative Force is in research and development mode right now, having analytics specifically geared to photo studio production, exploring that. I think having an item and also doing some machine learning like hey, this is exactly what the item is and these are the shots that needs and it gets shot and if we can post it faster. So I keep going back to production, getting something out of the studio much faster, and that all the information is traveling together. Even outside of the post studio. Right now, that's hard to do, keeping the communication like hey, here's this item, it's non-sellable, accidentally went to prep and a photographer grabbed it or maybe they didn't even notice it. So just getting all that communication into every garment before even gets them to photo. So it can just be absolutely seamless and yeah, looking into machine learning and making everything web-based and beautiful.

Daniel Jester (12:42):
The speed to market thing seems like usually that's a metric for any e-commerce business, but I don't know, it seems to me when I'm thinking about it from what Trove does, that there's even more of like an urgency around that because you may have that customer waiting for that thing. That you're not necessarily dealing with a lot of depth of inventory on a particular product. The faster you can get something online, it stands to reason that the faster you can get it sold. And obviously like we talked about, even from a sustainability standpoint, the shorter that life cycle is the better for everyone involved.

Lindsey DiRuscio (13:16):
Absolutely. And on a sustainability level too is getting our expendables all being able to recycle. Someone knows how to recycle a bent pins or styling pins, please let me know.

Daniel Jester (13:31):
Oh yeah, I know. Gosh, those styling pins.

Lindsey DiRuscio (13:38):
And not having any injuries.

Daniel Jester (13:45):
Think about the future State Studio Lindsay, where somebody invents a device that you can shred up your old foam core and it spits out a new piece for you on the spot. How unbelievable would that be?

Lindsey DiRuscio (13:57):
Yeah, that'd be amazing. I mean, tearing down sets and building up set is automatic and reuse of everything.

Daniel Jester (14:03):
Yeah. I'm envisioning that star Trek future where they have the replicator can just like oh, I need a new v-flat. And then bam, there it is.

Lindsey DiRuscio (14:11):
And yes, it was made out of mushrooms we grew. I could eat it later, circular.

Daniel Jester (14:16):
Exactly right. Well, Lindsay, it's been an absolute pleasure having this conversation with you. Thank you for taking the time. Especially committing the time to do a two-part episode with us. I have been really excited to have this conversation and I'm excited for what Trove is doing, I'm looking forward to seeing what new partnerships you guys develop. And I'm also excited for the day when our studios can be just that little bit more sustainable and I hope that we can really drive that forward.

Lindsey DiRuscio (14:40):
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me here, I really enjoyed talking about it. Also shifting my brain into sustainability in the photo studio I think will be great to spread the news and get our entire community thinking about it and sharing all the different knowledge and ways we can be greener.

Daniel Jester (15:00):
Yeah. I smell a LinkedIn group forming. Sustainable Photo Studio on LinkedIn. Look out for it guys. All right Lindsay, thank you so much for your time and for being our guest on the show.

Lindsey DiRuscio (15:11):
Thank you so much.

Daniel Jester (15:12):
See you next time.

Daniel Jester (15:20):
That's it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening and thanks to Lindsey and the team at Trove for sharing their time and experience with us. If you have any feedback for us or would like to pitch a guest or a topic, reach out on LinkedIn or you can email us at podcasttocreativeforce.io. The show is produced by Creative Force, edited by Calvin Lanz. Special thanks to Sean O’Meara and Lindsay DiRuscio. I'm your host Daniel Jester, until next time.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.