Queer people of color are some of the most resilient and have some of the best grit in any industry and once people see us in action, it’s infectious.

SOMETHING THAT MAKES ME LAUGH: people. I just love people. nothing is funnier than people. SOMETHING I’M REALLY PROUD OF: this company and everything that has come with it — raising money for it, building it, hiring people to build it with me

Zuleyka Strasner

Helping protect the planet, one item at a time

REINVENTING REUSABLE RETAIL. Zero, Zuleyka Strasner likes to express, is like a milkman supercharged by technology. Zero is America’s first plastic-free online grocery market, and Zuleyka is its Black trans founder and CEO. “Right now we have over two thousand products in our store—everything from hairbrushes and bath bombs and personal care; all the way to the more obvious groceries such as meat, fish, dairy, and produce; all of which comes in single-use, plastic free, compostable or glass containers and jars that we pick back up on your next order.”

As part of the zero waste movement, Zuleyka has strategically positioned Zero to be the grocery that keeps our collective future in mind. She also observes how the zero waste movement is not new, saying that “living zero waste is something that historically has been so important to indigenous populations in particular; living with the land is centered on reusable systems, and the worship of the environment and the planet as well.”

“When I started seeing the zero waste movement taking shape online in 2016, I wasn’t what you’d call an environmentalist. I wasn’t ignorant to environmentalism, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my work.” Her vision for Zero came to her while after honeymoon in the Caribbean, witnessing the effects of single-use trash in the Caribbean environment. “One day I just said to myself that I wanted to dedicate my life to this issue. I didn’t exactly know what that looked like, or even if I had the right skill set, but I could feel the urgency and immediately adopted a zero waste lifestyle.” This meant cleaning out every part of her home to remove all plastic, and then replacing it with glass and sustainable containers. Once she understood what it took to live this way, it allowed her to think more broadly about how she could allow others to live this way too.

“It didn’t hurt that I had come from the venture capital world. The problem was that I knew first-hand that within the venture and founder communities, there weren’t really people that looked like me—a small handful, maybe, but not many; a minority within a minority, for sure.”

WALKING INTO AS MANY ROOMS AS NECESSARY. Zuleyka’s awareness of her difference didn’t stop her from getting straight to work on building Zero. “I have the background, I have the badges. I went to Oxford. I knew the market, and I knew the sector. I was living the life now for well over a year. I know that so much of this sector is often pattern-matching, but I also knew that despite the rhetoric, my diversity and my commitment and my background wasn’t going to isolate me from success.”

“Today is a different day: I get emails; I get phone calls. Folks who passed on me are now explaining that they made a mistake, that they should have invested at the time. I couldn’t agree more! Zero makes sense. It did now, and did then. I really want people to examine why that is and why they walked away.”

Zuleyka understands how inclusion and diversity benefit Zero: “Zero’s commitment to diversity runs through our DNA. Our proportion of Black engineers is extremely competitive in the industry. When people talk about there being a ‘pipeline problem’, that’s a myth. There isn’t a pipeline problem—there is an access problem, and I built Zero to remove access issues. Not just to zero waste freedom, but toward human inclusion too. And I’m proof you can do it all.”

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Presented with Pride Here is the first collection of one hundred incredible and inspiring LGBTQIA+ venture-backed entrepreneurs featured in this year's Gaingels 100.