Eco Lips Founder on Building a Planet-Friendly Company
Eco Lips creates all-natural and organic cosmetics, inspired by true love.
In the early 1990s, Andrea Danielson was crafting lip balms out of pure ingredients right at home in her kitchen for friends and family.
She carefully packaged her vegan and cruelty-free lip-nourishing handmade products in small amber jars to preserve their freshness. In 1995, she gave a sample of her vegan balm to an entrepreneur named Steve Shriver. He immediately fell in love with the product, and moments later, with Andrea.
Partners in love and lips
The couple were married in 1997 and soon built a lip balm business together. Their first product was Hemp Lip Buzz, a vegan lip balm.
Building their business in the natural products and cruelty-free beauty industries, the couple developed a specialized private label natural body care company, creating high-quality products for numerous brands. Soon they were leaders in the field of natural cosmetics.
Eventually, the two teamed up with their top sales rep, Jim King, to embark on a new business journey. The three decided to create their own unique brand of lip balms, and Eco Lips was born.
Today the company has expanded beyond the realm of balm. Products now include vegan body oils and lip + cheek tints that can be used for contouring, highlighting, and eye-shadow, in addition to adding color to lips and cheeks.
Building a better business
Eco Lips crafts cosmetics and vegan products that are free from toxins, but that’s not where their ethical standards end. To protect the Earth, they also use organic ingredients that are never petroleum-based.
The company also ensures that the growers of their ingredients receive a fair price so that they and their communities are supported through their relationship with Eco Lips. And there is never any animal testing; it's totally vegan-friendly.
Those who work for Eco Lips are a diverse community that includes cyclists, climbers, disc-throwers, glassblowers, potters, musicians, yogis, and parents. They are brought together in the interest of producing a high-quality product that protects the environment while healing chapped lips.
Eco Lips supports those who help make the company successful—whether they are growing the ingredients or producing the products—rather than exploiting them.
Off to a good start
KINDER BEAUTY: How did Eco Lips get started?
Steve Shriver: Back in the late 1990s, I met a girl, Andrea, who made lip balm as a hobby. I fell in love with her and the lip balm at about the same time. We tried a few different business ideas, including private label, and finally came up with the Eco Lips concept with help from our good friend and co-founder, Jim King.
KB: Eco Lips introduced the very first organic lip balm in 2003. What inspired you to go organic and what was the response?
SS: Honestly, we came out too strong too fast. People weren't quite ready for organic lip balm yet. That being said, we looked at our products as a "gateway organic product." Our goal was to give consumers an inexpensive organic product trial and our belief was if they had a good experience with Eco Lips, they would try other organic products.
Now that organic products are sold in every major retail store, I would say we succeeded! Additionally, we have always fought for organic accessibility. Everyone should have the option to buy organic, and organic should be affordable. We work hard to keep our prices low so we can provide the greatest value to our customers, while still being stewards of the earth.
Honoring the Earth
KB: In what ways is Eco Lips kind to the environment?
SS: We use certified organic, non-GMO verified, and fair trade ingredients. We just launched an amazing plant-based lip balm container called plant pod. We offset 100-percent of our electricity with solar and wind power.
KB: Eco Lips is a registered B Corporation. What exactly does that mean and what are the various impacts?
SS: We are a certified "B" Corporation, meaning, we have committed to focusing on a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. We are audited by a third-party governing body to ensure that we are continually creating positive change. This causes us to think about all stakeholders, not just the shareholders.
So—from our neighbors in our community to our employees, and the farmers in our supply chain—we have a responsibility to them. From measuring our energy consumption to employee pay and benefits, we get scored on all facets of the business.
KB: Eco Lips has a diverse staff with myriad interests. How does this affect your work culture?
SS: We have very little turnover so that's our greatest measure. We perform an annual culture survey to make sure our employees are happy and enjoy their work. In general, we want our employees to have lives outside of work so we love to have people with varying interests and hobbies!
Profit that protects the planet
KB: What are some of the causes that Eco Lips supports?
SS: One major cause is a local project in Cedar Rapids called Connect CR, which is creating a wetland trail around an urban lake. Another is Wings2Water, an organization that cleans waterways in the Mississippi watershed.
KB: What is most rewarding about your work with Eco Lips?
SS: For me, it's proving to ourselves and the world that you can run a truly sustainable business. We can make money and do good things with the money we make! Additionally, seeing our hard-working staff enjoy their lives, and smile at work.
In addition to Connect CR and Wings2Water, the success of Eco Lips has helped support organizations including SheJumps (which motivates women of all ages and backgrounds to step out of their comfort zone in a fun and inclusive environment, teaching them outdoor skills) as well as Trees Forever (which plants trees, encouraging volunteer involvement and promoting environmental stewardship through work focused on improving the environment).
Eco Lips continues to grow. The company just expanded from a 36,000 square foot facility to one that is more than twice its size and is on the Inc 5000 fastest-growing companies list.
Kinder Beauty Box is thrilled to be partnering with EcoLips in our August monthly box! They are one of our favorite beauty brands!
Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.