David Friedrichs, co-founder and CEO of “Cerqular”, a comprehensive multi seller marketplace that connects innovative sustainable brands and passionate, sustainable shoppers on a single platform.
He is also a 4x entrepreneur of sustainable consumer brands, growth expert and storyteller.
Cerqular is the fastest growing one-stop sustainable marketplace platform to buy & sell verified products (new & used) from across all consumer categories (A-Z). Enjoy online shopping 100% guilt-free!
Based in LA, California
Connect with David and Join CERQULAR!
Click Here to Read the Full Transcript
FC Podcasts: [00:00:00] Pivot with Purpose a podcast that highlights the unique stories of
professionals that pivoted their careers to align with their work lives and personal lives,
more purposefully, and with more joy.
Pivot with Purpose is hosted by Meghan Houle, a globally accredited career and business
coach and creator of the Meghan Houle method.
Meghan Houle: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Pivot with Purpose podcast. In this
episode, we talk to David Friedrichs, co-founder and CEO of “Cerqular”, a comprehensive
multi seller marketplace that connects innovative sustainable brands and passionate,
sustainable shoppers on a single platform.
FC Podcasts: [00:00:51] Thank you for listening to Pivot with Purpose with host, Meghan
Houle. You can find out more information about each guest including full transcripts at
pivotwithpurposepodcast.com. And if you’d like to share your own Pivot with Purpose, click
on the share button and add your story to the conversation. Finally be sure to subscribe and
share your comments wherever you listen to your favorite podcast, your support amplifies
our voice. And now this week’s episode.
Meghan Houle: [00:01:25] David and his current endeavor Cerqular are based in Los
Angeles, but he has also held various roles in business development and sales in China, Hong
Kong, and Australia and co-founded several brands specializing in organic coffee and natural
personal care that is sold across the world. David is now immersed in making sustainable
consumer products across all categories. Easily accessible to people everywhere and
commercializing sustainability at scale. David Friedrichs, welcome to the Pivot with Purpose
Thank you for joining us today!
David Friedrichs: [00:01:55] Thanks so much for having me, I’m super excited!
Meghan Houle: [00:01:58] Me too, I’m excited. I know we were chatting a little bit as
everyone, David’s in Australia. I’m here in Boston so we were laughing before that he is in
the future. So get ready, he’s going to tell us all about what’s going on!
But I’m really excited to dive into our conversation and some hot topics, especially all that
you’re building around and in my mind and opinion, really to rival Amazon, to become the
leading platform in the e-com space of sustainable brand, multi-category shopping. It’s
going to be so fun to learn more about all you’re building with Cerqular, but before we get
started, let’s learn something fun about you to ease into our conversation.
What are some things you’re enjoying beyond work these days? What are you up to?
David Friedrichs: [00:02:44] We haven’t lived in Australia for such a long time, so it’s only by
chance. And so we’re rediscovering the outdoors. We’re rediscovering nature. For many
years we lived in Asia, so we lived in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. So we’ve divided
our time between Hong Kong and the U S primarily Los Angeles and Miami.
So we haven’t lived in Australia since 2008 and we’re loving it. So we are close to family
experiencing fresh air that we haven’t experienced in such a long time. So it’s really nice.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:15] Oh, good for you. And now seasonally, where are we at in
Australia? Where are you at?
David Friedrichs: [00:03:21] It’s unfortunately it’s super cold. It’s freezing cold. It’s getting
close to winter. But thankfully it’s great outside. So.
Meghan Houle: [00:03:29] All right. Well, I’ll send you some sun and enjoy your Australian
air. Maybe we’ll make it there one day. Definitely hashtag goals. Yes. But let’s dive in, to the
heart of this podcast where we highlight career pivots that lead our guests to creating or
aligning themselves to their ultimate passions.
And I know you’ve really managed some incredible things in your career, but really just share
some highlights. What pivot highlight would you say that you’re most proud of to date,
David Friedrichs: [00:03:59] Most significant one to me was converting from doing
something simply because I love business and I love being an entrepreneur.
So this isn’t our first business venture. It’s one of our, I think it’s our third or fourth. So the
pivot that I had was one of doing something that I just love for commercial reasons to
launching Cerqular that had a very deep and very meaningful connection to our life. And it
solved a very big problem that we were encountering on a daily basis in our personal lives.
So in our previous lives, we managed and ran companies primarily, always in the natural
sector, but personal care, a beauty range, vitamin supplements. And also a coffee range that
we launched and sold across the Middle East. A lot of these businesses were based on an
interest based on just because I love doing business and commerce and connecting people.
Cerqular is very different, it’s a massive exercise.
It’s one entity that has the impact of many, and we launched it to solve an incredibly big
problem. So I’d say the biggest pivot to me has been going from just doing something to
whether it’s to earn an income, whether it’s because of just finding it enjoyable to doing
something that has almost the meaning that it has to be done,
and if no one’s going to do it, I really have to do it. And so we launched Cerqular out of
complete dedication to find a big solution to the environmental problem that we were
facing in an economic way. So it’s a business solution to the climate change problem.
Meghan Houle: [00:05:38] Yeah. I love that.
And , where did the idea come from that led to your desire to pivot and create the shopping
David Friedrichs: [00:05:45] So our aha moment was we were living in Hong Kong. In
addition to having brands on the side, we also had career lives. So I was working initially in
Hong Kong in law firms. So I come from a professional background.
My wife was in a wealth management and finance. And so you can imagine when Hong
Kong, which is New York on steroids, we were working crazy hours. I was traveling over 50%
of every month across Asia and internationally. So we would see firsthand people affected
by consumerism. We would experience on a daily basis the effects of pollution, we would
often receive notifications on our mobile phones, that it wasn’t safe to go hiking or to do
outdoor activities because of pollution. And you would feel it on your skin.
Meghan Houle: [00:06:32] The air quality, right?
David Friedrichs: [00:06:33] Yeah. When you experience things firsthand, rather than just
seeing things on the news or on the television, it becomes part of something that either you
can switch off and ignore, or it becomes a factor that you just have to either escape or find a
It was one day when my wife and I, we said what can we do to incorporate sustainability in
our lives? And it wasn’t a Cerqular moment just yet, but it was let’s buy whatever we can,
whether locally, organic, sustainably, essentially everything that just has sustainable
components. So whatever we’re normally buying, what can we do to buy it in a sustainable
more conscious way?
We hit a brick wall pretty much instantly because it’s impossible. It’s impossible to buy
whatever you’re normally buying, whether it’s on Amazon, whether it’s at the local grocery
store whether it’s fashion, giftware all from one place. So because of the inaccessibility to
access sustainable products and also services, people give up. We revert to whatever’s
easiest to most convenient because we’re so time poor.
So we will always reverted back to Amazon and we love Amazon because they’ve actually
introduced something that is possible. But I think now what we’ve gained through
knowledge is that there is a better way. And the better way is to improve on what they have
done an absolutely excellent job at doing, which is utilizing the power of technology to give
us more consciously made products at our fingertips.
And that’s what Cerqular is. So we launched Cerqular to make it super easy for us, for all of
our friends and anyone who wants to do right, but not only for the environment, but it could
also be to enrich their lives with better food, whether it’s buying products that maybe, have
a conscious connection, whatever it is.
And so we launched it to make it just an accessible solution that is a no brainer.
Meghan Houle: [00:08:30] Cause it has to be easy for us. Right. God forbid a few more
seconds and you’re like, Oh, forget it. I’m just going to do it this way. And then you give up.
So, at the heart of Cerqular as you’re talking.
I mean, it really is truly supporting these amazing sustainable brands that you have on the
platform. And I know you kind of talked about this a little bit from your firsthand experience
of some environmental things that really brought this passion to life for you, but diving into
a topic around sustainability that I truly feel has come front and center even louder than
ever before this past year.
Why is sustainability, such a hot topic now, and why should people care about supporting
David Friedrichs: [00:09:10] I think that’s the most important question. And it’s such a
subjective question that if you asked a hundred people, you may get a hundred different
answers because sustainability, it can either mean doing something for the environment.
It may mean being more sustainable within your own lives, such as becoming more spiritual
or finding a place of inner Zen. So some inner happiness, and that may incorporate different
foods or different lifestyle. And it may mean things for the animal; animal life, wildlife, but
also may mean things for people that we’ve never encountered before.
So equality, inclusivity, and so Cerqular is all about what we define as accessibility. So our
solution is accessibility. And what COVID, I think has taught us- and it’s such a sad thing that
we need to go through such a tragic episode to have an awakening. But I guess as humans,
we only learn through some type of negative environments.
And so I think that’s our feedback mechanism, but what COVID has taught us, it’s taught us
that we need to become more resilient locally. So rather than relying on whether it’s
overseas markets or overseas players, so to become more locally invested. I think it’s also
taught us that sometimes we can not rely on what we normally relied on, which is just the
nine to five jobs.
So sometimes we may need to look at other revenues, whether it’s growing our own
produce, whether it’s doing things differently. And it’s also shown us that life is just so
precious. And sometimes what we appreciated before, the rat race and doing the things that
were so important previously now have very little value.
So it’s a realignment, it’s a shift. And I think it really echoes what you were saying before. So
in addition to having a career shift, I think people can also have a personality shift
throughout their life. And I think this occurs whether it’s through maturity, through the life
episodes. And I think COVID is a universal one for many people where I think it’s just made
them realize that there is a more conscious way to living. And sustainability is just one
component of that.
Meghan Houle: [00:11:29] Right. And appreciating what we have and this beautiful Earth
that we need to take care of. Climate change, all of these things like it’s real. This is not fake
news people, so beautifully said, and as we love to leave a little teaser in this podcast, and
then we pick back up after a short break.
So a yes or no question. Do you remember the exact moment you decided you wanted to
David Friedrichs: [00:11:54] Yes.
Meghan Houle: [00:11:56] And with that, we will be going to a quick break and we will pick
this up when we get back.
Okay, David, before the break, you said yes. So describe the moment that you wanted to
really bring this idea to life. And I’d love for you to talk a little bit more too, about the heart
and soul of this e-commerce platform.
David Friedrichs: [00:12:26] Sure. The awakening moment was: I was going on a hike in
Hong Kong, I was walking to the Hong Kong peak and I thought, whatever we’ve been doing
in our past life in terms of launching consumer brands, why don’t we do something that is
possible across infinite number of brands, infinite number of consciously made products and
make them incredibly accessible to people.
And I went home, we sat down together, my wife and I, and in addition to being my life
partner, she’s also my entrepreneurial partner in everything we do. And our go to moment
was number one, let’s see if there’s enough market size in this. Is there a demand? So we did
all the background research.
We did everything, all the checks and instantly, we saw that this is a massive opportunity
and we just couldn’t believe that no one was tapping into the space of the ethical Amazon.
At least across all consumer categories with everything that we know that could be done. So
that was the moment when we decided to dive totally into Cerqular.
And we chose the name Cerqular, obviously because it’s a spin on the circular economy
because the way we see the economy transitioning over the next 10, 20 years, IS one in
which we become more resourceful in terms of upcycling, repurposing and reusing, not only
the products that we use, but also the raw materials from products
in their life cycle. Because through technology, we can actually get maximum enjoyment
with far less import. And so, you’ve got a lot of brands on Cerqular and many brands that we
still want to join the platform that have created the most incredible products by simply
incorporating technological aspects to their business, which don’t impact the environment
or people in communities as much as conventional products.
And so Cerqular is a place where essentially shoppers who want to do better, whether it’s
for themselves, for their family, for whatever reason, they can connect on a single platform
with sustainable sellers. It’s as simple as that.
Meghan Houle: [00:14:48] I love it. I know you have so many wonderful categories and
assortments, and we’ll, we’ll jump into that and, and your consumers, but how can someone
partner with you to get their business on your platform?
And what measures do you take to certify them as sustainable?
David Friedrichs: [00:15:03] I’ll address your second question first. I think that’s the question
that we get a lot.
Meghan Houle: [00:15:06] Okay.
David Friedrichs: [00:15:07] So the question is what do you need to be to join Cerqular?
Great question. So essentially we look for at least one sustainable component to your
business and product.
So as long as you have a component that is sustainable we’re definitely interested in doing
business with you. And when we first started, we wanted to go all out Cerqular, vegan, the
whole works, but we realized very early on that we were actually being an inhibitor rather
than being an amplifier.
And what Cerqular is primed and positioning itself to do is to be the amplifier of brands that
want to do better to redefine the category. And so we’re starting off by taking little steps by
helping brands that are doing at least certain things right. And grow with them over time so
that eventually we can incorporate a more structured Cerqular program where we also help
brands incorporate deeper levels of sustainability into their business.
So at least one sustainable element, and that could be anything from organic materials. It
could be a giving back program. It could be how you manufacturer, so fair trade… Where
you manufacturer as well. And just so you know, we love women- owned businesses.
We love diverse business owners because part of sustainability is also accessibility to
resources. And that involves inclusivity. And so at Cerqular we’re super proud to say that
over 80% of our sellers are 100% female owned and it’s not because we’ve gone out to
search for them.
It just so happens that they create the best brands. And so we love diversity because
diversity, initiates passion, energy change, and that’s what we need right now. So that’s
what it’s all about in terms of the other one, in terms of reaching out we make it super easy
to join up on Cerqular, but also to get in touch with us.
So, we’re on social media, hook me up on LinkedIn. I’m pretty much always available and we
do the setup for brands so it’s super easy to get set up we’re very technologically advanced,
so get in touch.
Meghan Houle: [00:17:15] Well, that’s awesome. And I really hope this podcast and our
voice and your message drives some amazing traffic as I’ve been playing around with
Cerqular since you and I connected.
And you just have such a wonderful assortment of categories that I believe are truly
beautifully curated. And I love to hear that you really do focus on diversity, inclusivity, all of
the things and the topics we really all need to be aware of, and truly care about and our
heart and soul.
I think for the customers that come to shop your platform now, who would you say are
those customers and where are the opportunities to maybe attract some new businesses
and audiences and how are you trying to reach them?
David Friedrichs: [00:17:54] Sure. So without a doubt, we’re targeting the conscious
So definitely the millennials, the gen Zs and also the people who aren’t yet fully convinced of
sustainability. So even in my family, there are a number of people who believe sustainability
isn’t a thing. Surprisingly, there are also the same people who think that COVID, isn’t a thing.
But at the same time,
Meghan Houle: [00:18:18] We all have that one family member!
David Friedrichs: [00:18:20] We will have that one person. But the thing is Cerqular is
converting people without converting people and we’re doing it by giving them brands that
they would normally want to buy from, but they just so happened to also be making things
consciously. So for example, we’re not targeting brands and not because they’re not great.
We’re targeting brands that are great because they create incredible products, whether it’s
because of innovation, style, look and feel, nutrition, whatever it is, it’s because they are
excellent product makers and marketers. So that’s what we have. And it just so happens that
it becomes a guilt-free shopping experience that at checkout you’ve not only got something
that is ethically made.
But you’ve also got something that you personally love that you would personally want to
wear or consume or give or gift. And it just so happens it’s guilt-free because it’s done
consciously and that’s the word that I like to use, because I think there’s always a better way
to doing anything, whether it’s in a personal relationship or making your product.
And so we are working with people who have actually invested time and effort to create
something that’s better. And so in terms of the audience, millennials and gen Z it’s just so
happen to be the more conscious shopper. And so we love millennials and gen Z is because
they actually care about what they’re buying, but we’re also seeing another demographic,
which is the older demographic who are joining the platform.
And it’s because they’re either buying gifts for their children or they’re buying gifts because
they’re now seeing products that they didn’t otherwise realize were sustainable. So Cerqular
is a platform for everyone but in particular the millennials and gen Z’s. We’re targeting
people initially in the US, but within five months were definitely international. We have
brands and sellers from across the globe. And we’re super happy. In fact, we just signed on a
new seller this week from Japan as well.
Meghan Houle: [00:20:21] Oh, that’s awesome. Whoa, super fun. And I have to say and
your site is like really easy to navigate.
There’s so many cool product categories. Of course, I’m always drawn to the fashions. For
people that love like vintage and kind of shopping something that’s different and nobody
wants to look like everybody anymore, we want own our own identity.
Yeah, so get on there and check it out. And for someone who may be listening, going back to
the business side: if someone has a sustainable business that they’re looking to scale or
maybe that entrepreneurial soul going on a hike, with something in the forefront of their
minds, ready to bring to life, what in your advice would be the best first step someone can
take to really help scale the business or to build on their business offering or idea
David Friedrichs: [00:21:08] it’s funny you say that, because in addition to Cerqular, I’m
actually also mentoring a few of the brands on Cerqular and not because I put myself out
there. It’s simply because I just love business so much because business is all about finding
opportunity. And what I keep reminding myself is firstly action comes in many forms, but
action is the first thing that’s required.
And so from a thought process, we need to act. And that can either mean diving into
research, diving into doing testing or diving into some type of performance. But the thing
that I would recommend as the first step is to really understand what your end goal is, and
to always imagine your business as already being super successful.
Because I think a lot of founders enter business on the notion that they could potentially fail.
And with that mindset, we are often too careful and often tread so lightly that we don’t do
the things that we would normally do. And that could mean launching a new product or
identifying a new market or doing a different marketing campaign or talking to different
So essentially we limit our opportunities by thinking that our growth is also limited. So I
always say, start from the get-go and imagine yourself as the dream business that you want
to be, and then make the decisions that you believe you need to make to achieve that
business size or that business growth.
And so that comes in many shapes and sizes, and then you start building a plan around that
growth and it all comes down to planning and execution. And busy-ness doesn’t equate to
performance, right? I mean, we are also inundated with emails and all these things today,
but ultimately it only comes down to doing a few things that actually make a significant
impact on what we do.
And that could often mean a conversation with someone that could mean running tests. And
I love this thing. I don’t know who said it, but no one knows more than anyone else,
essentially. Ray Dalio’s, if you read one of his books, Principles, it all comes down to doing
testing. Testing testing, testing, and constantly learning.
So, don’t be scared about failing because failing is the only way that you’re going to get to
the place of success. It’s impossible to reach success without failing and in some shape or
form I fail each and every day, but thankfully I have a resilient mindset and great people who
we work with, who pick you up and remind you that eventually you will become that
solution that you’re trying to solve.
Meghan Houle: [00:23:52] How important would you say it is to have a really solid network
around you, to help build and scale, and maybe for somebody looking for mentor. What can
somebody do to reach out and maybe connect with people that are like minded?
David Friedrichs: [00:24:06] I would say network collaborations and partnerships make up
almost 90% of everything that makes Cerqular. The remaining 10% is luck. So I think that the
efforts I personally make is almost minimal, negligible. So networks are the most important
thing. I don’t think anyone has made a successful business or a successful life by being a lone
ranger. And so we are super pleased and super proud to work with incredible partners, such
as Sendle, which is 100% carbon neutral shipping originally from Australia now massive in
the US, Project Verte which is an unbelievably tech driven supply chain company
and we’re doing incredible things with them as well as a number of other partnerships as
well. So these partnerships not only provide a service and a functionality, but they open up
networks to people who continuously introduce us to more magical people. Whether from
an investment perspective, from a functionality perspective and Cerqular, as well as any
business, as well as any relationship realize wholeheartedly on these, on these relationships.
And I think the key success to building a successful relationship is a win-win, just like you
having a intimate relationship. I think a business one has to be built on the same factors,
which are trust, always a win-win and a give and take and patience. And as soon as you
found those synergies, I think incredible things happen well beyond just a commercial
And that’s what we found with all of our partners. And my advice to anyone is even for
people who are introverts trust yourself, that people will see the inner beauty. As long as
you see the inner beauty in yourself. So as long as you can find a way to communicate what
is truly and deeply meaningful to you in a platform where you feel comfortable, whether it’s
on LinkedIn, podcasts, blogs, your own business products, people will find it.
Anyone who doesn’t find it, that relationship wasn’t there to begin with. So keep on going
until you find that right connection. But I think it’s 90% of the business and definitely don’t
Meghan Houle: [00:26:26] Don’t give up, share your voice share your value out there and
you will be seen, and there are some wonderful people out there that just want to help and
make other people’s lives better.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for a conversation. So serendipitous, how you and I
connected. I’m so grateful for our relationship and can’t wait to continue to support all
you’re doing! So with your expert advice, and then, we’ll talk about how listeners can find
you and engage with you.
What is one thing that we can all do today to live more sustainably in your opinion, in our
David Friedrichs: [00:27:01] I think having an awareness of what is possible; it starts with
having an awareness and open mind that there is always an alternative to everything.
Whether it’s lifestyle, food, clothes you wear, holidays, you go on how you spend your time
and how you spend your money.
So it starts with having an awareness and from an awareness, it takes a bit of curiosity. So
with curiosity, you start to dive into a bit of research and that could be in a Google search. It
could be talking to a friend, it could be trying something new, and then it simply is giving
something a try.
So actually the doing part. Something that may be not everyone knows, but whatever you go
and do your weekly shop at the grocery store, or you go shopping to could be Zara, it could
be H&M it could be even other brands. Essentially there is an alternative to everything we’re
already buying that is made either through high quality products or through different
conscious practices that doesn’t compromise on style or nutrition or identifying with your
That just also happens to be either having minimal to no impact on the environment, but
also having a positive impact on people in communities and also animals and wildlife. So
that if you just made a simple switch to buying what you’re already buying, just a different
version of it…
Ultimately you’re not only going to get a lot more value, but you’re also going to be helping
a lot of people and other parts of the chain and clearly price is often a factor for a lot of
people. I mean, who wouldn’t buy organic produce given the price, but it comes down to if
we all actually joined together and we all tried to include just one element of sustainability
companies will reflect that change on whatever they produce.
And so the prices will go down. So our advice to shoppers out there is shop with a bit of
consciousness because whatever you spend your dollars on that will be reflected in what
companies produce and how they produce it. And thankfully, sustainability is no longer
And all of our incredible brands are producing so much more at prices that are often lower
than conventional products. So, yeah. Incorporate one element of sustainability by just
making a simple switch. That’s all it takes.
Meghan Houle: [00:29:32] Right. I have to say for me it was the plastic baggies, the Ziploc
bags that we all grew up with at one point, it would just pain me to put these things in the
I’m like, I can’t do this anymore. So you’re right. It’s an investment. And there are expenses
that come with that, but you feel good washing out those reusable baggies! Might take like
an extra second, but I’d like to think of all the plastic I’m saving, I think of the turtles, we also
love to travel.
And I am an ocean girl, I grew up in the ocean, every animal to me, I just love so you gotta
connect it back to like your “why” and the things you love to do. And you’re right. If we all
come together and do our part we can truly make a difference. So thank you for sharing all
And in closing, how can our listeners find you engage with you, get on the Cerqular platform.
And of course we’ll link everything in our summary, in the show notes. So everyone can click
on and start shopping away.
David Friedrichs: [00:30:29] We want everyone to join because we want this to be the next
generation shopping platform.
So you can definitely always find me on LinkedIn. We’re on Instagram, also on the website.
So go to Cerqular.com and we’re open to all ideas, to all collaboration ideas, because
ultimately by banding together, we’re going to make a systemic change. And Meghan, thank
you so much for also introducing your world to us as well, because you’ve given us an
opportunity to share our voice, but also at the same time, I think that you have
such an opportunity to help so many people out there who may be a little bit lost on how to
get to another step, whether it’s in a career or being an entrepreneur. And we all have
different paths in life and whether it’s starting your own business to changing a job, to
becoming a parent, whatever it is, it’s all part of a life’s journey.
So I think sustainability is also about maximizing the enjoyment of someone’s life to the
fullest extent. And I think that you’re playing a huge role in this. So thank you so much.
Meghan Houle: [00:31:35] Wow. I mean, that is just like the most kind and generous
compliment. You made my day, month, year. Thank you, David, for your unending support
and your authentic and enthusiasm
as I truly know, it comes from the heart and we truly appreciate you sharing your story. Also
in your expert insights into a topic where this conversation only needs to get louder around
sustainability and how we can better support brands through your platform and build a
cleaner future for us all, please, everyone go check out Cerqular and stay tuned for more
Pivot with Purpose stories to come and be sure to share this podcast with your network.
Thanks so much, David!
David Friedrichs: [00:32:16] Thank you so much, stay healthy everyone.