Innovator of the Year 2023 – Sharina Perry - 405 Magazine

Innovator of the Year 2023 – Sharina Perry

Sharina Perry’s Utopia Plastix is now a global player in the sustainable plastic-alternative industry.

Sharina Perry’s Utopia Plastix is now a global player in the sustainable plastic-alternative industry. Her plant-based plastic resin, which she first created in her kitchen in 2018, now is used in 100 products with national and international companies.

The world is noticing Sharina Perry.

The International Association of Top Professionals named Perry its 2023 Inventor of the Year. Forbes listed her as one of the Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2023. Woman’s Day Magazine named her an eco-hero. She spoke at a 2022 TEDx event. And this Sept. 8, she will be featured on the Nasdaq billboard in New York City’s Times Square.

The accolades go on and on. In fact, follow her on socials and just about every post mentions another honor or recognition, if it isn’t highlighting a potential partner or meeting with an S&P 500 client.

A woman like Perry could stand to brag about it. Nobody would blame her. After all, it was just in 2018 when she first created in her kitchen a plant-based straw that would lead to the development of the resin that could replace traditional plastics in manufacturing. And now she’s considered an industry leader and expert, with Utopia Plastix working with clients across the globe.

But bragging’s not Perry’s style. Instead, she exudes humbleness and gratefulness with every breath.

“At the end of the day, it’s the value of the work that we do and the impact that has spearheaded important dialogue,” she said. “It’s placed me in rooms where people are seeing sustainability in the way that we sought to educate about our environment, our society, our economy. And then to have our materials vetted. Now what we have on the horizon is even bigger than what we thought it could be, with brands that see the value in our materials, and they’re willing to put their name on it. All of that is pretty powerful.”

“Bigger” is definitely the economic forecast for Utopia. Perry said the scalability of her resin allows manufacturers to use the materials as drop-in replacements, which do not require manufacturers to replace or retool existing equipment. This means clients can go from one product to many products easily.

“A year ago, a global manufacturer had interest in our materials, and fast forward one year later and they are not making one product made with Utopia plastic, it’s shelves and shelves made with Utopia resin,” she said.

With sustainability needs increasing for companies, she said companies call on Utopia almost daily to learn more about its offerings. Now, more than 100 different products have been made out of Utopia’s resin.

“To date, we have not had to approach anyone to work with,” she said.

For a startup with no market awareness less than five years ago, that speaks volumes.

Sharina Perry of Utopia Plastix wears a brown dress with her company's logo and looks up while leaning against a wall.
Photo by Charlie Neuenschwander.

“It’s a huge statement,” she said. “But if we’re going to talk about innovation, you must focus on a solution. And we are addressing the problem, but the solution is not just about bringing a product to the market, because you will always have people with ideas or products. That’s our big story. Our focus was not on one product. It was on, ‘How do we address this by bringing the solution?ʼ”

The solution she brings to clients is providing the plant-based resin while encouraging clients to be the face of the sustainability they are promoting. The products are not branded as from Utopia; they are products made sustainably by the client.

“The client intentionally made the choice to pick sustainability, and the consumer is the hero,” she said. “We want it to be a solution, but we have to educate and bring awareness so that you can identify the problem, too, so that you understood what you were getting when you chose Utopia plastic. That’s why a website isn’t a selling website. It’s education.”

Perry is a bit shier these days about releasing revenue numbers or discussing specifics on size or growth, as she said releasing that information often leads to people wanting to be involved that do not have her focused, intentional company goals in mind. She said her company is on track to having a $1 billion valuation, however.

“Partners have asked us not to report (specific revenue numbers), and the reason is because, believe it or not, those numbers can impact how you are growing as an organization,” she said. “It caused a lot of people to reach out to us that were more centrally focused on the monetary side, which created more of a distraction. We know our solution puts us on the track to be a unicorn.

“But that’s not where we’re focused. But that’s going to happen. And soon.”

But, to be clear, Utopia Plastix current capacity can deliver millions of pounds of resin on a monthly basis, and the demand with strategic partners is to deliver billions on an annual basis in the coming years.

“We’re seeing exponential growth in all opportunities, and what’s on the horizon for us will be to establish ourselves as an industry leader in sustainable materials,” she said.