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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Yates


Sustainable essentials, refilled on autopilot.

Mlkmn is your psychic home manager, the first zero-packaging-waste refill service of curated, sustainable essential products for individuals living in city centers.

The Start of Mlkmn:

After living in high-rise apartments in city centers without a car for close to a decade, Mlkmn founder Alexander Torrey grew acutely aware of a suite of problems associated with city living. Managing basic, everyday necessities and consumer products, he found, was painstaking, time-consuming, and highly wasteful. Why was it that every time he needed a new hand soap, he needed to make another trip to the store, and purchase another refill contained within a single-use plastic bottle? Or scroll through endless options and track another embarrassingly large Amazon box he could only hope wasn’t stolen? Upset by the current model of shopping for necessities on an as-needed and unsustainable, single-use plastic basis, Alex set to change the model.

“People don’t shop for toilet paper; we just need toilet paper. The way essentials are purchased, shipped, and managed in our homes is a huge drag, an undue mental load, and extremely wasteful from an environmental perspective. I set out to solve that everyday problem for millions of consumers, and end box guilt.”

Prior to attending Wharton, while an entrepreneur-in-residence at Techstars, Alex called on high-rise building managers, surveyed potential customers, and launched an alpha version of what would later become Mlkmn. Once on-campus, he met his co-founder, Byungwoo Ko, through a referral from a roommate. Byungwoo brought a suite of strategic planning, operations, and logistics skills through his tenure helping launch and build UberEats. The two quickly hit it off, and Byungwoo joined as Co-Founder & COO.

Mlkmn’s Differentiated Offering:

Mlkmn’s core product is a membership-based model offering curated, quality, and sustainable household, personal care, and pantry essentials to customers in city centers. Through its proprietary algorithms, Mlkmn will curate the best suite of sustainable and non-perishable options for an individual’s home. Membership allows customers to access Mlkmn’s “autopilot” program, which automates a predictive cadence for refilling products on a weekly basis. The basket of necessities placed on “autopilot” is left up to the discretion of each member; and while Mlkmn will suggest refill frequencies based on aggregated customer data, the pace of refilling is customizable to each individual member’s household needs. By refilling all Mlkmn members in a given route on a weekly basis, Mlkmn is able to achieve unmatched operational efficiency and eliminate excess packaging waste, dramatically reducing single-use plastics consumption for its members. Additionally, through offering essentials under Mlkmn’s private label, Mlkmn can supply premium goods while passing along better value to members that would have otherwise gone towards paying markups associated with the supplied brand-name products, and intermediary distributors and resellers. As such, Mlkmn acts more as a closed-loop distributor, and will be working directly with manufacturers. It goes without saying that competition is fierce for suppliers of apartment essentials. Target, CVS, Walmart, Amazon, Instacart, corner bodegas, and more, all vie for customer spending in the trillion-dollar-plus industry. However, Alex is comfortable with Mlkmn’s position, as they are the first to offer a sustainable refill solution with scalable reverse logistics for their product segment. To date, most of the above incumbent players have primarily focused on grocery perishables delivery and distribution. In Alex’s view, Mlkmn's current options are very different.

“Others are fighting each other to fulfill last-minute wants, we’re focused on a better product and experience to avoid last-minute needs.”

Mlkmn’s successes to date have garnered significant attention, including winning Wharton’s Summer Venture Award in 2020, which is awarded to promising entrepreneurs in the Penn ecosystem. Additionally, Mlkmn has gained significant traction in its home market of Center City, Philadelphia, where it has just expanded its service to anyone in the neighborhood.

“I knew we were tapping into something really powerful here in Philadelphia, once I saw how high our customer retention rates were, and that customers tended to increase spending with Mlkmn over time. Once the playbook is right, we will take it quickly and efficiently to other markets.”

Mlkmn’s Growth & Future:

Mlkmn is growing fast. With the onset of the global pandemic, the consumer demand shift towards delivery was greatly accelerated, proving to be a tailwind for the company. The past year has prompted a flurry of activity for Mlkmn, as the team worked to onboard new buildings, expand the suite of products offered, and keep up with demand while refining its distribution model. Proving this high-growth trajectory, December 2020 marked a record month for customer refills and new memberships, while December historically tends to be a lull in new memberships for consumer subscription services. Mlkmn plans to continue to build on its successes enabled through its Pre-Seed funding early last year, backed by Dorm Room Fund, Rough Draft Ventures, Red & Blue and Pear VC. Mlkmn is considering raising Seed capital, which would be used to refine its playbook and begin to replicate the model in additional markets. They are open to inquiries from VCs. Contact:

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