Skip to content

Female Disruptors: Page Schult of On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Be resourceful. I learned this in n my first job, where I supported large consulting and private equity firms with due diligence. The pace of work was fast, and the subject matters were niche. There was not a playbook or the luxury of waiting for someone to tell you the answer — you had to use resources at your disposal and figure it out yourself.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Page Schult.

Page Schult is co-founder and CEO of The common thread throughout her career has been a passion for understanding how people interact with the changing world around them. Page started her career in consulting and market research role before shifting gears digital media strategy and eComm operations in the CPG space. Today, she is a member of the founding team of a VC-backed, ClimateTech start-up that’s creating the future of consumption.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always been drawn to understanding what makes people — and the world around us — tick. I love people-watching in the airport and on city streets. This passion has been a common thread throughout my career.

At the start, I was leading media buying and audience strategy on digital channels like Facebook, Youtube, and Snapchat. I worked with 21st Century Fox and the New York Times doing brand name projects. While I loved the consumer insights piece and working to understand what motivated someone to click on an ad or watch a video, my heart wasn’t in the day-to-day execution or subject matter.

I am always most at ease in the natural environment — hiking, backpacking, strolling through a park. I started thinking — how can I combine a love of the outdoors with an endless curiosity to understand human behavior?

Through this, I started down the path of focusing on sustainability and climate. My first stint in climate was working for a compostable tableware branding, running digital marketing strategy and eCommerce operations. This experience taught me how to have a challenger brand mentality and what it means to run a sustainable business, both environmentally and economically speaking.

Environmental sustainability is like a loose thread on a t-shirt; once you start pulling on it, you realize how interconnected everything is. From the wildfires that rage here in SoCal to the single-use plastic piece that plague favorite hiking trails and surf breaks, it became clear that daily human behavior and the state of the natural world are intimately interconnected.

While there are many large-scale industries focused on human and climate — solar energy and electric vehicles — I realized that no one was focused on the day-to-day systems that create massive amounts of waste in our world. Ultimately I realized I wanted to create a system that allowed consumers to participate in their daily rituals but in a way that is less destructive to our natural environments.

That’s when Topanga was born, alongside my two awesome co-founder, Adam Bailey and Max Olshansky.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At Topanga, we’re building the future of consumption. Our goal is to challenge the trash can and create a platform that serves as the digital infrastructure to create a new economic model. We are trying to move businesses and consumers from linear to circular economies. Ones that add and create new value through reusing assets — like coffee mugs and to-go containers — vs. throwing them away.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m sure there’s been so many — we’ve learned and laughed at ourselves a lot throughout this journey. For example, before we were a software company, we were a milkman-style closed-loop market. We procured products from local farmers, packaged them for consumers in reusable glass containers, and dropped them off at your doorstep.

One of our products was a cacio e pepe, an Italian pasta sauce made from butter and parmesan. It’s rich, delicious, and… impossibly hard to scoop and package when frozen. But we didn’t know that! So we purchased 30lbs and thought it would be our best selling product.

The result? Customers loved it, but it was impossible to package. It not only literally broke our kitchenwares trying to scoop it frozen but also broke our operations!

The takeaway lesson? It’s essential to have systems thinking approach to solving problems. Think through every detail — just because something makes sense on paper, is it really going to translate to the real world?

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

To me, the best leaders are those who are able to lead by example and give their team members space and confidence to execute themselves while always being a resource should questions arise. At my previous job, Jessica, our Director of Operations, exemplified this perfectly.

While I was not directly on her team, she was always available to help me problem solve how to build an excel model or think through warehouse SOPs. Rather than tell her direct reports how to do something, she made sure the tools and resources were accessible for them to solve the problem independently.

When the team won, she made sure everyone felt they were part of the success. When there were challenges, she was right there in the trenches helping to problem solve.

I believe a strong leader never has to be the loudest person in the room but rather always knows how to cast the spotlight on those around them. This is an inspiration I’ll take with me throughout the rest of my career!

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Yeah, it is a complicated word.

Being disruptive is good when you’re challenging people to think differently about an established mindset or behavior. For example, Topanga is disrupting single-use consumption. Our goal is to get people to think twice each time they trash a coffee cup or food container they used for a mere matter of minutes. We want to disrupt this behavior and encourage questioning — why are we okay with continually sending things to landfills when we know we could do better?

That said, anything that aims to disrupt requires a systems thinking approach. For example, if I challenge or change Thing A, how does that impact Thing B, C, D, etc.? Its the role of the disruptor to take responsibility for how their challenger mindset might have ripple effects.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Be resourceful. I learned this in n my first job, where I supported large consulting and private equity firms with due diligence. The pace of work was fast, and the subject matters were niche. There was not a playbook or the luxury of waiting for someone to tell you the answer — you had to use resources at your disposal and figure it out yourself.
  2. Ask for help but have a solution in mind. The first part of this is pretty standard advice — if you cannot figure something out, and you’ve taken a stab it (see above on being resourceful), then absolutely speak up and ask for help. However, what I’ve learned as a junior employee and senior-level manager is that asking for help will be much more effective when you come to the strategy with a solution or idea in mind. This shows team members that you’re a strategic thinker and helps you learn muscle memory of problem-solving so that next time you face a similar problem, you will be better equipped to solve it.
  3. Make sure where you’re going is where you want to be. This applies to business strategy and daily life. A senior leader in my first job advised me to take a moment each year on my birthday and answer the following question: is where you’re going where you want to be? This helps ensure that the work that you’re doing on a day-to-day basis is a step toward a long-term goal. And if you’re not on track, then you can make a plan to redirect yourself.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Oh yeah, we’re just getting started! Topanga is interesting in that we’re introducing digital tools that change how people behave in the physical world. While some of our initial clients are in the food delivery and grocery delivery space, there is so much opportunity to challenge all consumer categories.

Each time something is thrown away, we want people to think, “what if this piece of trash didn’t exist?” “What if we designed a system that retained value and didn’t create waste?”

Our goal is to raise awareness and intentionality in consumption. Next up is starting to build a community of curious people interested in joining this mission. Beyond that, we’re rolling out some partnerships with bigger brands in the coming months and couldn’t be more excited.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

While I’ve had some wonderful male mentors in my career, I’ve also been in many rooms where men listen to men. I’ve seen this behavior firsthand as a female founder and CEO alongside two (amazing and respectful) male co-founders. Unfortunately, this behavior feels exacerbated in the venture capital ecosystem, which is frustrating because if those with the capital to support the businesses of tomorrow are not listening to new voices, how can we progress towards fair and equitable access to funding?

I believe there is a genuine intention to give underrepresented groups a voice, but cultural assumptions, actions, and behaviors still need to catch up.

If anyone reading this wants to join me in brainstorming how to ensure actions match words and intentions, please reach out to me!

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Two books have fundamentally changed my perspective.

One is Thinking In Systems: A Primer by Donatella Meadows and Diana Wright. While this is technically a textbook, don’t be scared! It’s an essential and worthwhile framework on how to make sense of the interconnectedness of everything from supply chains to natural ecosystems. It will teach you tools for how to strategically approach problem-solving.

The second is Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. To me, this is another book that helped adjust my perspective on business and life. It inspired me to embrace intentionality, be kind, and work hard for myself, those around me, and the future of our world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Per the above, I think people are at their best when acting intentionally and leading with curiosity. More specifically, I would love to be part of a collective movement surrounding changing our daily consumption habits, encouraging all of us to ask, how is what I do today going to impact the world around me tomorrow?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My all-time favorite quote is from Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest.— “…You have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.”

I’m happiest when I’m challenged, doing stuff I love, and remembering not to take everything too seriously. We have one life to lead, and it truly is a journey. If we fail to embrace the experience of navigating to the destination, then we will be hardpressed to appreciate it once we arrive.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow myself and on linkedin or sign-up for Topanga’s quarterly digest, Trash Talk.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Female Disruptors: Page Schult of Topanga On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.