The Rounds is a startup with a forward-thinking game plan to make households more sustainable.
To accomplish this, they are taking inspiration from something a bit old school: The neighborhood milkman.
As a refill subscription and logistics service, The Rounds delivers common household items that members request each week – be it snacks, cleaning products, pet essentials, or daily personal care items – in reusable and sustainable packaging. Sustainability, both on the environmental and financial side, is at the center of what The Rounds offers.
While eliminating the use of single-use plastic containers, co-founder Alexander Torrey said the model is also about “bringing bulk-store prices” to more people while removing additional packaging waste along the way. The startup estimates members eliminate 50 pounds of single-use plastic and cardboard waste every year.
The Rounds works on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood model, as couriers deliver goods each week via e-bike in what is essentially a modern take on the “old-school” milkman model.
The Rounds is the brainchild of Torrey and Byungwoo Ko, co-founders who met at Wharton Business School and decided to launch the sustainable logistics company in 2020. Torrey brings experience in the consumer brand space and Ko previously worked on the operations and strategy side of Uber Eats.
The startup is solving a problem the two young professionals grew accurately aware of while living in urban settings across the US.
“I started the company to solve a problem for myself,” Torrey told Hypepotamus. “I’ve lived in city centers without a car, usually in apartment buildings…and I realized that getting the products I use every day – the boring ones but the very essential household staples – was a complete drag. The experience sucked and it was completely unsustainable.”
Central to making that neighborhood model work is The Rounds’ software, which is developing more efficient ways to manage inventory and predict needs based on the hyperlocal needs of members.
It is also about rethinking the core of e-commerce delivery services.
“Look, Amazon did a lot with e-commerce…and most people benefit from the convenience of the service,” said Torrey. “But it has gone too far. There has to be a better way to get people the products they need without packaging waste and without just filling up landfills. And that’s what we are looking to do.”
After rolling out in neighborhoods in Philadelphia, DC, and Miami, the team officially launched in Atlanta this spring.
For Torrey, Atlanta will certainly present a new set of logistic challenges. The Rounds’ model has to adjust to the urban geographies and realities of each city, be it Miami’s beachfront skyscrapers or Philadelphia’s narrow streets.
“The best way to improve our service is to go into different markets” and learn how to adapt to different urban landscapes, added Torrey. In Atlanta, a city known for its pockets of diverse neighborhoods, Torrey sees unique potential for The Rounds’ business model.
“People in Atlanta are looking for sustainable alternatives. And we couldn’t be more excited to be here…we think Atlanta could be our biggest market,” he added.
Moving into Atlanta is also a bit of a homecoming for Torrey, a graduate of the University of Georgia, as well. The initial idea was born while he was Entrepreneur-in-Resident at Techstars Atlanta after his time launching the consumer brand umano in the city.