Ask Steve Blanco ’23 what his favorite course at Yale is, and he’ll start talking about spending an entire class lying on the floor, learning how to feel the ground and his own body.
Professor Irene Hultman Monti’s “Dance Theater,” offered in spring 2019, was a post-modern contemporary dancing class that Blanco said taught him to be more aware and introspective and provided valuable insight into the world of improv.
“The way improv is, you’re just going with it and you don’t really know what’s going to happen next but you have to learn to accept it,” Blanco said. “Improv helped ground me, in the sense that life wasn’t always going to make sense, just like how an improv dance doesn’t always make sense, but I just had to go with it and it would work out if I just kept going.”
He said that, in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced him to improvise and pursue a non-traditional academic path by taking time off from school.
Rather than take classes in the Elm City, Blanco opted to remain in his New Jersey home to pursue a dream he has had since high school: found his own startup.
“Steve doesn’t stop at a ‘maybe’ or an idea,” Hana Galijasevic ’22 wrote in an email to the News. “He follows through with it, be it a design, a joke, an appointment, conversation, or, you know, a startup. He’s incredibly kind and resourceful.”
Blanco’s startup Mobius Capsules offers an innovative approach to sustainable skincare. He said that single-use plastic represents one of the biggest problems in the skincare industry, with many companies using non-recyclable plastic bottles for their products. Even companies whose bottles are recyclable, he said, often do not end up recycling them due to oil residues from the products.
Blanco’s startup is designing an innovative system that allows consumers to return skincare bottles so that they can be cleaned and refilled and then shipped back to the consumer in a carbon-neutral way. The bottle is shipped with the capsules inside and the customer opens a capsule when they need new product.
“The special part about it is that the skincare isn’t in the bottle,” Blanco said. “It’s in capsules, almost like supplement capsules, but they’re twist off capsules that have the skincare inside, and that plays into the sustainability part. It helps reduce waste when you’re using it.”
He explained that this design enables his company to clean the bottles more easily, allowing for higher rates of recycling. Galijasevic described Blanco as “incredibly caring about the environment,” saying that it was entirely unsurprising that he took time off to achieve his long-standing goal and spread sustainability as much as possible.
Blanco, a cognitive science major, said he called in his friend Ikenna Maduno ’22, a molecular biophysics and biochemistry major, to help him out with the more scientific aspects of the startup. This includes researching and designing formulas for the startup’s skincare products.
“[Building this startup] is a totally different world than just consuming products,” Blanco said. “There’s so much that happens in the background that I didn’t really realize until I started. The main thing that surprised me was how overpriced skin care is –– especially how unsustainable skincare, which has cheaper packaging, is so overpriced.”
He said that the next phase of his work for Mobius Capsules involves looking for investors to help overcome the high startup costs associated with designing the mold for the packaging, as well as ordering the bottles and capsules themselves.
Besides this professional work, Blanco is also using his time off from school to explore personal interests. He said he turns to art for at least three hours every day to ground himself and feel as though “life is still going on” during the pandemic’s turmoil.
“I’m experimenting with what perception is in the modern world, where everything is edited,” Blanco said. “So I’m doing a lot of photo manipulation and experimenting with new filters in Photoshop.”
He explained that he did not make time for any of his art during his first and sophomore years at Yale –– leading to a two-year chronological gap in his art journal –– but that his time off has made him think critically about how he spends his time and has enabled him to dedicate time pursuing what he loves.
Even so, Maduno expressed that Blanco’s absence from the Yale campus has been significant. The two were supposed to live together in a suite in Benjamin Franklin College this year, Maduno said.
“I can be salty that I don’t get to see him but I’m also incredibly proud of him that he’s doing his damn thing so I can’t be excessively mad, even though I would like to be,” Maduno told the News.
Blanco will be taking time off in the spring semester, as well, to continue work on his startup.
Julia Brown | email@example.com