“I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur because I am a builder. I find joy in that.”
Jhana porter launched frakktal labs LLC in July 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic. She aims to develop raw materials and products consisting of recycled biopolymers derived from waste tires, industrial plants and plastics.
Q: How did you hear about WCS and what prompted you to join?
A: I discovered WCS via LinkedIn and started to really appreciate the content and the networking opportunities. It connected us to a larger ecosystem and it was a no-brainer to join the network.
Q: Congratulations, you launched an environmental company during a global pandemic. What’s the backstory on frakktal?
A: frakktal labs LLC (dba frakktal) went live in July 2020 after seeing the need for a scalable alternative to landfilling of three major streams: plastics, tire rubber and industrial food/plant waste. We are developing thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), built from those leftovers. As a result, our product has durability from the plastic and flexibility from the rubber. Thermoplastic elastomers are used to make just about everything from auto parts to building materials to eyeglass frames and shoe soles. You have a product with durability from the plastic and flexibility from the rubber. They are everywhere.
Q: What does the name frakktal mean to you?
A: We named the company after the fractals, meaning that the part represents is self-similar to the whole. You often see the fractal pattern in nature – in waves, in fern fronds, in broccoli, in so many things. It symbolizes that we are part of this planet – of this bigger thing.
Q: Are you having to raise capital?
A: Not currently but by Q2 2022. Right now, we are self-funded and focused on R&D, product development and small-scale manufacturing. We are meeting all our goals as well as applying for grants. The point is to start the full time fundraising next year. We are also identifying and evaluating partnership opportunities.
Q: Have the changes in the Chinese plastics recycling market impacted frakktal?
A: Yes absolutely. The China National Sword Policy came out suddenly a few years ago and many handlers of plastic waste said “What are we going to do now?” Essentially China used to represent the majority of that market, so the recycling market for plastic waste collapsed. It changed everything across the globe. Honestly this was one of the reasons that I believed our business model could be viable. Industrial producers were newly thinking about what to do with these overages. It has prompted us to have conversations with our partners that landfilling is not a sustainable, long-term solution. We agree there has to be a better way… so let’s work together and find a better way. Land is a non-renewable resource! Landfilling should not be the primary/only option.
Q: Who or what experience in your childhood shaped your drive to be a founder?
A: It’s from a lot of different things. I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to be an entrepreneur because I am a builder. I got used to starting from scratch and tinkering, and going back and figuring out what worked and what didn’t work. I find joy in that. Earlier in my career as an analytical chemist, I took on the role as an intrapreneur – problem-solving and again starting from scratch. Identifying a solution, managing the project, getting the funding, building a team and getting the outcome. In terms specifically of sustainability, it’s always been important to me to be a good steward of what I use and what I give back. Also, I was a girl scout (chuckle) and an entrepreneur there – you know selling the cookies!
Q: You’re based in Houston. Is there any particular reason you chose Houston as the location?
A: Houston is the energy capital of the world and also my hometown. What an opportunity to be located in a place that has supported the traditional oil and gas industry and ancillary industries for so long but is now leading efforts to transition and scale into alternative products and services.
To get in touch with jhana porter send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Jeanne Trombly, writer in residence for WCS