Pirani Life Co-Founder Talks Sustainability and Entrepreneurship

Pirani Life insulated cup

MP recently spoke with Danielle Del Sordo, co-founder of Pirani Life. We tackled Pirani’s uniqueness, sustainability, and entrepreneurship throughout our chat. Ocean lovers, designers, and travel enthusiasts, Del Sordo and Brandegee (Del Sordo’s husband and co-founder) met in 2013, fell in love, and decided to quit their corporate careers with Mr. Coffee and Royal Caribbean Productions to travel the world. During their travels, they dreamed of starting their own company. Their ideas ranged from sustainable swimwear to a healthy food truck, and the list goes on. Fast forward to 2018, and Pirani Life was born.

At the time, they were living one block from the ocean and would see endless amounts of litter on the beach and in the water. Specifically, the iconic red party cup would be a repeat offender. This fueled Brandegee to design the first vacuum insulated version of it. He created the prototype in their one-bedroom apartment, and they launched a campaign on Kickstarter, which was 450% funded. Since then, they’ve grown from a one-bedroom apartment business to a garage business and now their first small warehouse in Asheville, North Carolina, which is already up for expansion!

Pirani Life insulated cup
Black Pirani Life insulated cup / Photo courtesy of Pirani Life

Pirani

MP: What is Pirani, and why is it unique?

DDS: The Pirani Party Tumbler was designed to look like a red Solo cup but function just like YETI. Our mission is to encourage people to #PartySustainably. We feel accomplished when our customers tell us it has become the everyday cup they take everywhere, from coffee and smoothie in the morning to beer or wine at night! This ultimate cup is meant to last forever to help reduce the 500 billion cups used worldwide each year.

Each Pirani Party Tumbler has the standard pour measurements of the original Solo cup. It truly is the last party cup you will ever need.

Solo cup on ocean floor
A red Solo cup sits on the ocean floor / Photo courtesy of Pirani Life

What does Pirani stand for as a business, and why?

Pirani Life is an eco-engaging brand. Our goal is to create change in the way people take convenience for granted. As humans, it’s our responsibility to reverse some of these plastic habits we’ve learned since we were children to keep our oceans and world around. As designers, we feel it’s our responsibility to bring that difference into our products and tell that story through our mission.

Our hashtag/tagline is #partysustainably to prove that partying doesn’t have to produce mountains of trash. We hope more individuals will consider alternative solutions like the Pirani Party Tumbler to single-use in the future. Rather than just sell a product, we want to sell a sustainable lifestyle, and at the end of the day, if we can accomplish that, we’ve succeeded in making a difference.

Pirani Life insulated cup
Pirani Life cup measurements / Photo courtesy of Pirani Life

How is Pirani tackling sustainability?

We began our company volunteering with local ocean conservation organizations and even got a wavemaker award from Surfrider Foundation for it! 

In 2020 we joined 1% For the Planet Network, committing to donating 1% of all our sales to our non-profit partners.

We also commit to perpetually spreading awareness through educational material that encourages individuals to develop a sustainable future.  This can be found through our marketing efforts, from our emails, blogs, social channels, and packaging.

Where did the name Pirani come from, and why was it chosen?

Brandegee is a science geek. Around the time he invented the Pirani tumbler, he worked at a scientific equipment lab and learned a lot about vacuum insulation. So, he named our company after a German physicist who invented a vacuum gauge, one of the main tools used during the manufacturing of the Pirani Party Tumbler. His name was Marcello Pirani. And to add to that, our logo is inspired by a sperm whale that was a piece of driftwood artwork we had from our travels to Australia. 

It is broken into 13 shapes to equal 7 continents, 5 oceans, and 1 planet.

Pirani Life insulated cup
Black Pirani Life insulated cup / Photo courtesy of Pirani Life

Entrepreneurship

What three characteristics define an effective leader, and why?

Communication. The most important tool as a leader is to properly communicate with everyone ranging from customers to employees to partners.

Empowerment. We always want to empower those on our team and hope they grow towards living a more sustainable lifestyle if they don’t already.

Lifelong Learner. You do not know and will never know everything. Life is a constant cycle of learning, and if you are not open to change, you will never be able to grow!

What is your greatest fear as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage that fear?

We will never figure out that work/life balance. Being an entrepreneur is 24/7 and extremely challenging. Even when you are enjoying an activity outside of work, there is never really an off switch for your mind, and mental health starts to become compromised along with our relationship as a married couple. We are great at adventuring outdoors, but still, Pirani will make way into a conversation even while we’re frolicking over rocks under a waterfall. So, we haven’t been super successful managing this fear yet, but a goal in 2022 is to take a 1–2-day monthly getaway where we don’t have service, or maybe will just turn our phones and computers off, which will help us only focus on what’s right in front of us.

Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful leader?

Absolutely. I think this goes hand in hand with what makes you an effective leader. Suppose you work towards honesty, communication, caring, and educating those around you. At Pirani Life, we don’t only care about our planet, but we care about the people as well. The secret formula is to listen, show gratitude, and never stop learning.

What are three obstacles you’ve faced while growing Pirani, and how have you overcome them?

Financial Hardship. They don’t teach people about companies because as you grow, you need more capital for more products (which is the biggest expense), employees, software, etc. We bootstrapped the first 2.5 years of our business, but in 2021 we grew 1000%. With that growth, we needed to find a way to afford our product, so we took out our first SBA loan, which was a bit scary at first!

Learning to run a business. They don’t teach you these things in school, and there are no tutorials out there that show you how to properly run your business. When one challenge is overcome, the next will arise, or they just all come at once.  I think so many people are successful. After all, they keep going because they are resilient, even when they want to quit. 

You need to be beyond dedicated to continuing to push through the madness. You need to make friends with other businesses and ask questions. And it would be great to have a mentor. You need to be willing to hustle around the clock, take risks, and make sacrifices! 

How do you deal with doubt?

Doubt what?! Who is doubting anything at Pirani Life? LOL. Well, I would say Brandegee and I balance each other when it comes to doubt. Typically, when one of us is feeling pessimistic about something, the other feels the opposite. So, we get to talk each other off the ledge.