Interview with Lauren Singer, CEO of The Simply Co.
Lauren Singer, environmentalist and entrepreneur, turned a blog about minimal waste, “Trash is for Tossers“, into a tiny empire of sustainable commerce. Now she’s become the founder and CEO of the Simply Co., and her first brick and mortar store, Package Free Shop, which creates household and personal care products free from harmful chemical and wasteful packaging.
Below she outlines five questions every entrepreneur should be thinking about if they’re trying make their business more sustainably focused.
For the full interview and more discussion, check out the above episode of #BizChats.
1. What are my values and what do I believe in?
“For me, I realized that I really cared about environmental sustainability. It was my entire life. I studied it, I talked about it constantly, but my everyday actions didn’t align with that and I think as a business owner, even as an individual, it’s important to ask yourself that question, “what are the values of my business and what does my business believe in?
And so for me with The Simply Co., my values are environmental sustainability, not creating waste, and not using toxic chemicals. For my new business Package Free Shop, it’s a store for everything you need to live a zero waste lifestyle. Our values are helping individuals decrease their waste through individual power and making it easy, convenient, and accessible for anyone regardless of where you live in the United States to have access to products that help you reduce waste. So, that’s the number one thing: Know where your company is, where it stands for, and what it believes in.”
2. Does my company need to exist?
“I know that’s really hard for people sometimes. You know, a lot of entrepreneurs are also creators, and so they want to create things and make things, but there’s so much out there that doesn’t need to exist and if you’re an entrepreneur, you have the capacity to take something and make it into something.
If your company doesn’t need to exist, if you’re causing unnecessary harm, if your product isn’t useful and just creates waste, maybe you can use your energy as an entrepreneur to look and see if there are any other problems that have a social or environmental impact that you can use your skills and resources to solve instead of just making something for the sake of making something.”
3. What’s the problem my business is trying to solve? Am I solving this problem?
“This was something I definitely asked myself. The whole point of business, in my opinion, is to solve problems and to provide things that don’t already exist. That’s the beauty of business and why it can be so powerful and so amazing. For my businesses’ with The Simply Co., the problem was we couldn’t find sustainable products that were transparent, where I could see all of the ingredients that were in it and I could see the entire supply chain that I could align with the founder.
For my company Package Free Shop, I realized there was no easy convenient place to find all the tools I need to live a zero-waste lifestyle and provide education around sustainability. By asking myself those problems, I was able to really quickly decide what kind of a business I wanted to have and what I wanted that business to look like, so I built the business around the problem, not the problem around the business.”
4. Do I know my supply chain and their values?
“I think something that people don’t think about enough is that every single product that’s out there has a backstory that’s larger than the product in front of you. So, there might be a piece of clothing in front of you, but that clothing comes from textiles that need to be made in a certain way. Those textiles are grown from crops that are planted and harvested in a certain way. There are people who are growing these things that are being exposed to chemicals if it’s a product that isn’t organic that are being paid fair or unfair wages, so I always like to emphasize the importance of looking into a supply chain and trying to understand the backstory behind a product.
You should always know where your products come from and I believe you should always be able to have contact with the founder of a company that you’re buying from. It’s really important to know their values so what are the values of the companies you’re buying from? What do they care about? By buying this product, am I helping to empower a business that’s making positive change or negative change?”
5. Am I helping to empower those that I am working with?
“Outside the scope of business, it’s looking at your own business and asking: “Am I creating and fostering an environment where the people that are working for me can grow and take the skills that they’re learning and start their own businesses or empower those around them to do positive things?”
So for me, with my companies, everyone that works at Package Free Shop, we’re teaching everyone how to make their own zero-waste beauty and cleaning products. We’re giving them the products that they need to use to learn how to reduce trash in their everyday life and empowering them so they can have the hard skills that they need to go out into the world and kind of infiltrate other businesses and help them to be more sustainable. So they have hard skills they can take away, whether or not they’re working for us.”