Britta Teller is Chief Sustainability Officer and a Co-Founder at Steller Floors. Five years ago, she pivoted away from her PhD-academic career in ecology and statistics to co-found Steller Floors in Tyrone, PA. Today, her team uses their exciting and innovative hardwood floors to make a positive difference in both global climate change and in their rural Pennsylvania area.
Steller Floors manufactures sustainable, high quality, solid hardwood floors. With a unique ability to remove single planks from the center of the floor using a suction cup, demos of the product have gone viral on youtube, instagram and tiktok, organically earning over 10M views and engaging viewers worldwide.
The flexible design of Steller Hardwood Floors, which don’t use nails or glue, has also won critical acclaim in magazines like This Old House Magazine and Fine Homebuilding. Steller Floors have earned unique cross-over popularity between professional builders, architects and DIY homeowners, which is uncommon among building products and finishes.
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Table of Contents
In the past year, what is the greatest business achievement you’d like to celebrate with your team? Please share the details of that success.
Britta Teller: In January 2023, Steller Floors launched the ‘Make it Seen’ campaign to highlight that floors are an important, visible part of interior spaces, and they should reflect sustainable values.
“Flooring decisions matter” says Britta Teller, Chief Sustainability Officer and co-founder at Steller Floors. “In our campaign we are making flooring seen because flooring matters to the people who live with it, to craftspeople who make it, and to the health of the planet.”
“Circularity is not an idea that has made it to the mainstream yet,” says Teller, “and our floors are an excellent case study to show that flooring and other building materials can be wonderful, easy to install and maintain–and reusable–when they are designed and crafted with quality and intent.”
With 40% of CO2 emissions attributable to construction, the message couldn’t be more urgent. Circular products promise lower impact on resources, smaller carbon footprints, and more jobs aligned with sustainable reuse.
While the idea of reusable, and even re-sellable, wood products isn’t new (remember antiques?) hardwood floors have fallen out of fashion because nails and glue make them hard to repair. Steller hardwood floors crafted in central PA are sourced from renewable, secondary forests and use a patented design to float over concrete and plywood subfloors.
Steller Floors’ innovation has earned millions of views on social media across channels including YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. As a result, their floors have been installed in homes, commercial offices and event spaces nationwide. The floors excite people who have grown bored with typical flooring, because they can be installed by professionals and DIY homeowners alike.
With so much popularity, Steller Floors include sustainability as a pillar of their product, not because they have to, but because they want to raise the bar in construction and interior design and set an example for other products.
“A world where every part of a home or commercial building is easily reusable and maintains its value instead of going to a landfill is a better world for everyone, socially, economically and environmentally.” says Teller.
What advice do you wish you received when you started your business journey and what do you intend on improving in the next quarter?
Britta Teller: Asking questions is key to starting a business because the old adage is true: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I believe the biggest mistake I made was that I resisted asking questions when I was worried that people would think less of me if they found out I wasn’t completely “in the know.” In reality, I ended up holding myself back and I missed opportunities when I didn’t reach out to people and ask them my questions.
My recommendation for people just starting out is to reach out to your local small business support networks including small business development centers, SCORE, a county-level community development bank with connections to low-interest SBA or USDA loans, or local meetups for business–even if you think they won’t have anything new to tell you. They probably know someone who does know the answers to your questions, even if they don’t know. Having that personal connection with someone is essential support for those big steps that you take early in your journey.
Online business keeps on surging higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for the year to come and how are you capitalizing on the tidal wave?
Britta Teller: Direct to customer sales have been the core of our business growth for the last several years because it has never been easier to make a personal connection with someone thousands of miles away. Arguably, social media brought direct to customer sales into the digital era faster than B2B sales simply because B2B sales have always been about in-person interactions and long-standing relationships.
That said, when the Covid-era reduced our cultural reliance on workplaces, digital conferences and the explosive growth of LinkedIn have shown that digital B2B sales is an extremely important frontier in the coming decade. I believe this is for the better too, digital connections are time-efficient, low-cost and more sustainable because it reduces the need for travel.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Britta Teller: I have been speaking with a large number of sustainability-focused construction professionals recently, and it has become clear that reducing emissions is top of mind.
In construction, the stakes are high but construction is a field that only rarely experiences disruption (when was the last time you saw a building that really looked different? Probably not often.) and so as the field moves forward to tackle our carbon footprint between now and 2030, change will be swift and challenging. Organizations, like startups, are best positioned to succeed because they are nimble and innovative. Older organizations will almost certainly have trouble adapting.
In your experience, what tends to be the most underestimated part of running a company? Can you share an example?.
Britta Teller: When a company grows, its leadership must grow and adapt with it, and so you absolutely need to be grounded in your mission to avoid losing sight of what is important. At Steller Floors, our mission to provide high performance, sustainable floors has become the core of our mission and is why each of our leadership team comes to work every day.
Our work is rewarding for our employees, our customers and for ourselves and the organization is resilient to challenges. I firmly believe that if we had chosen a more meaningless goal, “to grow the company as fast as possible with whatever means we have available,” for example, we would not be here today.
What does “success” in the year to come mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Britta Teller: My business resolution for 2023 is to authentically advocate for the sustainable attributes of our products. In light of recent criticism regarding ESG investments and greenwashing, I have worried that “sustainability” was off-putting for our audience of homeowners, commercial building owners, architects and interior designers. Unfortunately, I also believe the climate challenges we face globally are too urgent to be polite.
Steller Floors, while being unique and exciting among other flooring varieties, are also designed to help reduce the effects of global warming. In 2023, I won’t be afraid to say so. To achieve this goal I will be working diligently to help our clients understand that high quality, American-made wood products that are sourced sustainably are a win-win because they are both high value and in alignment with their values. Steller Floors supports our rural community, drives careers in craftsmanship and innovation, and represents a generational investment in American products.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Britta Teller for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Britta Teller or her company, you can do it through her – Instagram
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