I am delighted to see the rise in interest in embracing the lifestyle change they encompass and really thinking about what they are consuming and the waste it produces.
Brianne West is the Founder and Formulator of the world’s first zero plastic, zero waste beauty brand. She started Ethique in 2012 out of frustration with the disgraceful amount of packaging produced by the cosmetics industry. A qualified scientist, Brianne formulates all our products and runs the show. She has developed an entirely solid product range – from shampoo to moisturizer to sunless tanner to cleaning products – eliminating plastic bottles and plastic waste. She started Ethique in college after learning 80 billion bottles end up in landfills annually from shampoo and conditioner alone. She crowdfunded $500K in 90 minutes to start the brand. To date, Ethique’s dedication to sustainable beauty practices has prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 350,000 plastic containers worldwide and created a social movement to #giveupthebottle. The concentrated face, hair and body products last 2-5X longer than their traditional bottled counterparts, and dissolve completely – Even the sleeves they arrive in are 100% dissolvable and compostable, meaning zero consumer waste.
Where did the idea for Ethique come from?
I always wanted to use my passion for environmental conservation to create positive change. I didn’t always know that’d be through beauty! But once I learned 80 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills each year from shampoo and conditioner alone, and the industry has many issues with water waste, excess packaging and ingredient cultivation, I started digging in. While I was studying at University I taught myself cosmetic chemistry, researching what each ingredient does and how to build a product. I realized up to 75% of shampoo and even 90% of conditioner can be water, which is crazy! I explored removing the water and simply combining the concentrated ingredients. I wanted to use ingredients of a typical salon-quality shampoo, not those of a solid soap bar (which have too high a pH to be good for skin and hair). Eventually I started replacing everything in my bathroom with solid versions. From there, I looked at packaging. Many high-end beauty products have packages within packages, often non-recyclable mixed materials. Even when the materials are recyclable, the reality is that only 12 percent of plastic worldwide is actually recycled and 8 million tons ends up in our oceans every year. Recycling is better than nothing, but I was passionate about creating compostable packaging that could still stand up to international shipping and retail display. It’s taken several years and we’re still innovating daily, but with this combination, Ethique was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
There are no typical days! I travel a lot so I am out of the country very frequently, but my time is taken up with a lot of emails, interviews, spending time with the Ethique team, meetings with my management team and marketing/PR activities but I still get to do a bit of product development and formulation too.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I am an ideas person, not so much an execution person. So I will come up with something, be it a product, or marketing idea, or future goal and immediately want to begin work on it. That’s pretty frustrating for my team at large, so I speak to my COO about most of these and we ‘triage’ them and see what actually has legs. Then my wonderful team and I work on carrying out what we think will actually work!
What’s one trend that excites you?
Unsurprisingly- the plastic free/zero waste movement! I am delighted to see the rise in interest in embracing the lifestyle change they encompass and really thinking about what they are consuming and the waste it produces.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Having my own private space (my office) in which to work. I know open plan offices are all the rage, with constant access to everyone the new way to run a business, but it doesn’t work in my experience. Yes, I like to be accessible as much as possible, but there are periods of time I need to close my door and really work on getting something complete. So being a little selfish makes me more productive. I also like to work late when the office is empty- I find that is my most productive time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop worrying about things that are weeks/years away, they probably won’t happen anyway.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A part of me hopes that megalodon still exist. But I don’t really think they do (and not many others do either.)
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Hire good people. Hire good people. I cannot say it enough. Yes, easier said than done, but the right hire can make or break a business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Hiring people who are cleverer than me and those with supplementary skills to mine. One person cannot do it all- it’s important to recognize this and embrace expertise around you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I’ve had many failures, some large and some thankfully much smaller! I tend to react emotionally to an challenge for a short period of time, then relax about it and approach the challenge with a view to solving the problem. The key to overcoming most failures is removing the emotion and your ego (easier said than done) from your response to it. Each time you handle it better than the last.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Yeah, nothing springs to mind…
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Jodhpurs for horse riding. I’ve decided to finally start getting some balance back into my life, which for me, means getting back into enjoying horses!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Evernote premium. I have a lot of random thoughts and ideas in odd places or at odd times. Evernote is with me across all devices at all times and helps me categorise thoughts, take notes from meetings and reminds me to do things.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Currently- “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre.
What is your favorite quote?
“Quocunque Jeceris Stabit” ‘Whichever way you throw me, I stand.’ It’s the Manx motto (I’m from the Isle of Man originally.)
• Hire great people who balance out your weaknesses; not only does this mean your business will grow quicker and more sustainably, with more balanced veiwpoints, but it will also ensure your business is in the best possible hands should you not be there in the future.
• Stop fretting about things that may or may not happen in the future. Entrepreneurs tend to be big picture thinkers and can often get caught up in worrying about long term issues that may never come to fruition. It’s important to concentrate on the now and what you can control.
Ethique on Instagram: @ethiqueusa
Ethique on Twitter: @ethiqueusa
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.