Caitlin spent almost a decade in traditional oil and gas before joining Solugen as our fourth employee. At the time, she thought “it could be something, it could be nothing.” Six years later, she’s still going strong as our VP of manufacturing, responsible for building out our new Bioforge in Marshall which will scale up production and drive down costs.

Headshot of Caitlin Molloy wearing a red hard hat with biomanufacturing equipment in the background.

What brought you to Solugen?

I started my career at ExxonMobil and then Motiva, where I worked as a project manager at the largest refinery in North America. A recruiter reached out to me about Solugen at a time when I was disillusioned in my role and its growth opportunities. I actually had a job offer from a more traditional chemical company, too, but that would have been more of the same so I decided to just jump in and see what happened. When I joined, I was the fourth employee. No regrets so far!  

You cut your teeth working in legacy oil and gas operations. How is working at a climate tech startup different? 

Before Solugen, I always had trouble reconciling my personal beliefs around sustainability with what I was doing day to day at work. The answer you always get from big companies is that you can change things from within, but that’s really hard to do when you’re one person in a 75,000 person organization. At Solugen, I can actually see and measure the impact of what I’m doing. In my almost six years here, I feel like I’ve had a 20 year career. The work is harder but it’s more fun, so the time goes by faster. 

What does your day to day look like at Solugen? What does a VP of manufacturing do, and how has your role changed over time? 

I was hired as a project manager and my one big OKR was building the Bioforge. Jumping in, I quickly realized my skills could help in other parts of the organization. I’ve now transitioned from projects into operations, and I’m currently working on hiring the team for our new Bioforge in Marshall. I’m troubleshooting the plant and ensuring customer orders go out on time and with good quality. It’s been a wild ride. I’ve done everything from picking out paint and carpet to building an entire chemical plant. There’s so much room to grow at Solugen and touch basically every part of the business.

You’re playing a big role in getting the new Bioforge up and running in Marshall, Minnesota. What’s your vision for the new facility? 

The new Bioforge is in the midwest right next to an ADM plant, which is exciting operationally because it means that we are co-located next to our feedstock. That makes for a very reliable plant that delivers consistent products all the time. It also gives us economies of scale to drive down the cost of production

And what will the difference be between the Bioforge in Marshall and the original Bioforge in Houston? 

Our Houston facility will remain co-located with our research and development team, so the way I see things shifting is that the baseline products we’re currently making in Texas will start coming out of Marshall. The original Bioforge will then focus on developing new and exciting molecules. The goal is to make initial versions of customized solutions for customers in Houston where we can work out the kinks with R&D and then scale them up in Marshall where we can be a reliable supplier. 

What is it like being a working mom at Solugen? 

I’ve had two kids at Solugen, and with my first [kid] I was the first woman to have a child at the company. We didn’t really have a policy, then, but leadership listened and we now have a pretty generous parental leave. And that’s for all parents, not just moms. But I’m always pushing the envelope and advocating for more—I’m very passionate about how we as a country need to do better. Solugen can set an example for what it’s like to treat employees like human beings, and I’m proud to say that we are doing so. 

Where do you see Solugen in the next five years? 

The sky’s kind of limit for what we can do. Our new Bioforge in Marshall will definitely be up and running and likely producing several new molecules. I think we have the right team and are doing this in a time when the bioeconomy is increasingly being recognized as an important part of American industry. And ultimately customers genuinely do want to move to more sustainable solutions. There is an active call to arms within the industry to move away from the status quo. Solugen is well positioned to fill that demand. 

Ok final question – as one of the first employees, what’s your favorite piece of Solugen lore? A deep cut story others may not know about. 

That’s tough, there are too many stories from the early days! When we were in construction on the first Bioforge, things kept getting stalled. Sean [Solugen’s co-founder] organized this really epic all hands meeting where he assigned each of us characters from Lord of The Rings. Since I was project manager, I was Frodo and the “ring going to the mordar” was getting the Bioforge built. The Lord of the Rings bit really did galvanize everyone to feel like we were part of a grand mission.