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Washing Dishes? Why Not, A Founder’s Story with Caroline Vanderlip

Caroline Vanderlip is the Founder and CEO of Re:Dish, a Brooklyn-based, WBE-certified corporation that offers a reusable container program to support the ESG goals of institutions with large-scale food service operations. Caroline puts her passions and creativity into building businesses like Re:Dish, and is excited to be able to tell its story of huge environmental impact. A successful entrepreneur, Caroline has launched businesses within parent companies (CNBC, AT&T Personal Online Services), as well as independent entities like the publishing technology company, SharedBook. Armed with a BA from Vassar College and an MBA from NYU, Caroline is a life-long learner, now focused on sustainability and the huge impact that Re:Dish can have as it supports a shift from a linear to a circular economy.

Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up

I am a New York City girl, through and through. Raised and educated in Manhattan, I returned to the city after college and have lived here ever since. Being an only child and having attended a small, all-girls school from elementary to high school, I believed there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. Growing up in the counterculture 1970s, I learned to push on established systems. Little did I know how hard they would push back!

How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

My first job was as a reporter and editor for Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine. I ran a daily business textile page and wrote when I was happily selected for the assignment, for WWD’s sister publication, W. I’ve always enjoyed writing but never thought it would be my life’s work. An opportunity to start a print syndication service for WWD and the other trade publications at Fairchild excited me. Armed with just an idea, I built a business for Fairchild and realized that I loved the process of creation and puzzle-solving. I also realized that my personality was particularly suited to invention and building, where I could take my generalist skills, hire the best people I could find, and collectively we could build powerful new businesses. Wow, what hubris, but I believe every entrepreneur needs a hefty dose of hubris to push forward.

What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?

Be willing to pivot, perhaps often. The initial idea should be your guidepost but not your absolute. It is unlikely to become the final product or service and there’s no shame in making directional shifts if you think they are right for you and the business you’ve created.

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