Focus: Consumer Goods
Location: Long Beach CA, US
This week I sat down for a conversation with my friend and neighbor Kristina Kochan, founder of the eco-friendly brand of cosmetics and candles, Wilderess. Her brand has been spreading quickly to stores around the country, and even into Europe and Asia. She uses recycled and reusable materials in her packaging, and uses simple, natural ingredients in all of her products. She gave me the story behind how she got started, and what inspired her to create a green business:
1) What made you decide to go into business for yourself?
I was driven to create a business centered on informed consumerism. I felt that I had what it took to create something representative of my desire for clean products. I had also briefly experienced life in the corporate fashion world, and was disillusioned by how dishonest and terrible many of the business practices were. That experience was definitely a motivating force.
2) Can you tell me the story of how Wilderess started?
After quitting my corporate job, one day I turned over my favorite lip balm out of boredom, and read the label. I was disgusted by many of the ingredients, and decided I should try to make my own simple and clean recipe lip balm. My first batch was such a success with friends and family that I decided to launch a business around it. I graduated into candles after I poured a bad batch of lip balms and made a candle out of the ingredients so they didn’t go to waste. I’m a self taught candle and cosmetic maker.
3) Why did you decide to make all your products environmentally friendly?
There’s no more room in this world for products that do a disservice to the environment. There is so much waste involved in product packaging, and that’s something I definitely didn’t want to create more of. My candles come in reusable jars, and when I ship my packages, I use the biodegradable, water-soluble packing peanuts that I reuse from my own supply shipments. I have a sense that customers are becoming more aware about what products they’re using and how they might influence the environment.
4) What was the hardest part about starting your own business?
The hardest part is maintaining your confidence. I’m friends with a lot of women that run small businesses and we all discuss the same feelings. Do people like what I’m doing? Can I keep doing this? It’s really hard to stay confident. Sales don’t come every day and it takes a lot of encouragement to keep from quitting during those slower times.
5) Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?
1. You CAN do it. 2. Be thoughtful. I mean that in every sense of the word. Be thoughtful on how starting a business will affect your life, your family’s life, and your partner’s life. Be thoughtful on how your products or mission might influence the world. Be thoughtful on how you invest your money, spend your money, and grow your business. I didn’t want to accumulate any debt with this venture so I grew at a rate I could afford to. I learned so much by growing steadily and being smart with how I spent my money.
Environmental Impact: Reduced landfills, avoided use of harmful chemicals
Sources: Kristina Kochan, Wilderess
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