When Natalie Lennick was unable to find any plastic-free alternatives for shampoo and conditioner she decided to make her own. The result is Green Ablutions, plastic-free, vegan, cruelty free, made in the USA shampoo and conditioner bars. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania mompreneur started her business just a few months before the Pandemic and was forced to make a number of temporary adjustments, including where she physically sold her products. Lennick shifted from an in-person farmer’s market stand to virtual sales on her website. Today Lennick proudly sells her eco-friendly bars in ten stores in addition to her continued online sales and still donates 10% of all her profits to sea turtle conservation efforts.
Lennick’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business
An article in our local paper reported that Philadelphia burned half of their recycling in 2018 because it was too expensive to process responsibly. After reading more, I learned that only 9% of plastic worldwide is actually recycled. Most plastic ends up in landfills or the ocean. I quickly worked to reduce my own reliance on single use plastic and started looking for alternatives. Bulk goods and farmer’s markets provided many great options but most ‘shampoo bars’ I found were actually soap. It was terrible for my hair. I knew there had to be another way and decided to do it myself.
Green Ablutions, my zero-waste personal care products are perfect for the conscious consumer because they are zero-waste and plastic-free. All of our shampoo and conditioner bars work harder than 3 bottles of 1 ‘eco-friendly’ liquid products and are packaged in recycled paper boxes that can be home composted or recycled. This is important because most ‘compost-friendly’ products are not actually home compostable, and can only be processed in certain facilities in select cities, which means these products become trash instead.
Our products are also vegan and cruelty-free. Animal products are the leading contributor to climate change, and none of our products contain any animal products whatsoever, nor have they been tested on any animals. This is an important distinction because many ‘clean’ beauty products are misleading and contain dyes, beeswax, and other animal products.
How do you define success?
Success is making a difference. It’s not money, it’s not fame, it’s doing what you can with the time you have to make the world a better place. 2020 was supposed to be a monumental year for the plastic-free movement, with many cities banning single-use plastics. However, COVID-19 has caused a regression in this movement, with plastic packaging being the go-to solution for retailers. 2020 has been a difficult year for us wanting to change the world when the world changes so quickly around us. But Green Ablutions is proof that even our smallest purchases can still make a world of difference. I’m proud that we donate 10% of our proceeds to Sea Turtle conservation. We go beyond the “1% for the planet” pledge by donating a whopping 10% of all sales to conservation efforts.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
My biggest success so far was earning shelf space at my 10th store just six months after I started wholesale partnerships.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
In January of 2020 I had just launched my company. I started selling at a local farmer’s market. Only a few weeks later my state shut down due to the pandemic. I paused selling at the market, spent a few weeks building a new website, and engaged with customers through social media. By June, customers were coming back through the website. I also used this time to build up relationships with local stores. My products are now on the shelves at 10 stores locally. I no longer attend the farmer’s markets due to the COVID-19 risk but my wholesale and website presence is enough to keep the company going.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Absolutely, yes! I made a personal decision to step away from selling my products at the farmer’s market because of COVID-19. I have two kids and I’m also a primary caregiver for my grandmother-in-law who lives nearby. I lost a lot of business traction from leaving the market. But my business goals are not more important than the well being of my family.
Who is your most important role model?
My most important role model was my aunt who sadly passed away years ago. She taught me to always question the world built by men for men.