Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and home care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Irina Webb, Founder & CEO of I Read Labels For You, located in Denver, CO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is called I Read Labels For You. My team and I help consumers make informed decisions about products they use on their bodies and at home, such as shampoos, makeup, skincare and also water filters, air purifiers, cleaning products, cookware, mattresses, and basically everything that exists in the home environment. We help people reduce exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in a non-stressful way by offering many different services: free educational blog posts (including the shop section of my website, called ireadlabelsforyou.com, which is populated with products we have vetted for safety), and e-books, including rating list e-books for things like diapers, baby wipes, and hair dyes. I also provide one-on-one consultations and host a membership website called the Savvy Consumer Circle. In addition, I also provide consulting services to companies that are in the process of manufacturing non-toxic products.
Tell us about yourself
When I was pregnant with my son, I was putting together a baby registry, and I started with baby shampoo. I could not understand why baby shampoos, often described as organic and natural, had unpronounceable chemical ingredients. And I fell into the rabbit hole of baby shampoos and ended up researching them for a whole month. Then after my baby was born, I kept researching baby products, such as crib mattresses, diapers, and sleep sacks. Seeing my excitement when I found a non-polyester sleep sack, my husband suggested that I should write a blog and share my findings with other moms. At that time, I had no idea what a blog was, so he signed me up for a 2-day website design class. I came home from that and put together a website. And the rest is history. My family had to make a lot of sacrifices so I could spend over 3 years studying product ingredients and materials, how products are made, and trying to make sense of consumer markets. Unfortunately, there is no college degree one can receive in the type of product safety research I perform. Luckily, my 9 years of college education prepared me for that type of work.
My desire to help people motivates me every day. I know that normal people don’t have time for extensive research and often fall into the trap of greenwashing and advertisement. My dream is to help everyone make informed decisions, which will inevitably lead to manufacturers making safer products for the health of people and the environment. I am here to make this world a safer place.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment is that I ultimately created a new industry of non-toxic product research and defined the rules of the non-toxic product research industry. For instance, we created our unprecedented 5-Step Signature Product Research Method as well innovative Permanent Hair Color Rating List, Baby Wipes Rating List, and Diaper Rating List e-books. Because of this, I have seen so many positive changes in the product industry. For example, now baby wipes and diapers are safer than they were in 2014 when I started. And hair color manufacturers use fewer greenwashing techniques and instead disclose full lists of ingredients. I’d like to think that I had a hand in helping effect these changes.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
A long time ago, seeing my frustration, my friend said to me that I was ahead of time. Now I fully understand what she meant. It is not easy to convince and motivate people to become interested in the services and products we provide because most people do not know that they need them. There is still a large number of people who think if a product is sold in stores, it is safe for us to use. For example, there is a belief that if it says that something is “safe to microwave” on a plastic food container, many people think that it is safe for our health. Whereas it really means that the plastic won’t fall apart or melt in the microwave. Sadly, there is some evidence that all plastic leaches estrogen-mimicking chemicals when heated, and those chemicals go right into microwaved food. So no, it’s not safe to use plastic in microwaves, in my opinion. Normally, people start searching for non-toxic products when they get an allergic reaction, cancer, or other health conditions. And not many people feel like spending time and money on preventing a disease or believe that using products without endocrine disruptors, mutagens, carcinogens, or sensitizers is part of disease prevention.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be patient. It is important to realize that starting and growing a business may not always have a smooth road to success. There might be failures, delays, and mistakes. So be patient, and don’t give up.
- Surround yourself with talented people. Not everyone is talented at everything. Find and hire people who are talented in the areas in which you are not.
- Be creative. Sometimes we have strong beliefs based on our past experiences. Those strong beliefs can make our lives easier, so we don’t have to reinvent the same wheel many times. On the other hand, our strong beliefs, especially ones based on our negative experiences, can prevent us from looking at a situation with an open mind and creative approach. In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that there are no desperate situations. Keep your mind open to creative ways to solve any problem.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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