Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Claire Breskin, Founder and CEO of SuLu, located in Chicago, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
SuLu is the most sustainable, sustainable lip balm. We are 100% plastic-free, 100% zero-waste, and 100% vegan. SuLu lip balms are made in the USA using ethically sourced global ingredients. All ingredients are plant-based, and most ingredients are certified organic. SuLu comes from the combination of "Sustainable Luxury." Everything we do, including our products, packaging, and shipping, directly focuses on how to make each element more sustainable and luxurious. We've started our product line exclusively with lip balm, ensuring we created the best product possible. Pairing seamlessly with our slogan of "Make it simple. Make it better." helps keep us on track and makes sure we are doing our absolute best in every aspect of the business and products. Our paperboard tubes are made using recycled paper, constructed with rice glue, and lined with soybean wax. With the labels printed directly onto the tubes using eco-friendly plant dyes, the tubes become reusable for small trinkets, home-compostable, and recyclable. Our boxes are made with over 50% recycled paper, sealed with paper tape, and use paper shipping labels. The branded box design uses a method called Flexo printing, ultimately giant stamps, which use water-based dye. The boxes are reusable, home-compostable, and recyclable as well. To add a bit of luxury, we created a 100% aluminum container that can be re-filled with our lip balms, providing protection, improving longevity, and adding elegance to the standard paper lip balm experience. The reusable SuLu container can be, of course, reused but also recycled if needed.
We also support additional sustainability practices with every SuLu purchase. We are reducing carbon emissions by simplifying our shipping frequencies. To further guarantee our commitment to carbon neutrality, we have partnered with the Planet app, ensuring every order remains carbon neutral, as a guarantee, instead of an additional cost pushed onto the consumer. All SuLu purchases are sold with three lip balms as a four-month supply, ultimately a bulk option, reducing the number of times the lip balms need to be shipped to consumers. Preventing unnecessary carbon pollution. Our lip balms are also twice as large compared to the traditional plastic lip balm tube, and every last "drop" can be used because there is no hard-to-reach place within the product. We have also partnered with CleanHub to further support our purpose. CleanHub partners with local advocates to remove plastic pollution from the most susceptible locations before it ends up in our rivers, seas, and oceans. We have direct access to our progress report, as do our consumers, and we know exactly where our contributions are being used. No black boxes and no greenwashing. We want to be as transparent and consumer-friendly as possible.
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the crisis on our hands, and we wanted to make sure they felt they had a worthy alternative to the plastic-covered products they are used to. Our customers are looking for a conscious way to get involved in the sustainability movement without sacrificing quality or user experience.
Tell us about yourself
Ever since I can remember, I've been a lover of nature and always felt the sense to do good for our environment. I physically can't litter, and I've always enjoyed park cleanups. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than ridding our world of trash and being a part of an environmentally positive movement. The outdoors is my "happy place," and I want to make sure they are treated with respect and admiration! I grew my skill sets at the University of Nebraska, where I majored in both Marketing and Management with a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. I always dreamed of being an entrepreneur but hadn't yet found that spark of inspiration. After university, I moved to Chicago to pursue a marketing career, gaining experience in many different marketing roles. While in Chicago, I became more curious, knowledgeable, and aware of the ingredients and products I was using. As well as the packaging those products were wrapped in. The more I researched, the less satisfied I became with the reality of the situation. We are drowning in plastic and harmful ingredients. This is where SuLu comes in, well, the idea at least. I became more of a hardliner and was doing mass purges of my body and cosmetic products. Switching to shampoo bars and serums to remedy my skin concerns instead of using makeup to hide them. I was on the natural path and found true bliss in being there. I was able to find some amazing, natural, and plastic-free products that I consistently use to this day, but when it came to lip balm, I was never able to find what I was really looking for. Those that did meet my requirements on the ingredient side of things didn't meet my requirements for the user experience or sustainability side. Either the ingredients, packaging, or user experience fell flat, and for the cost, they didn't seem to be worth the compromise. With the curiosity of entrepreneurship and determination to find natural and plastic-free products, the puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place, and the spark of inspiration I'd always been looking for was ignited.
With a move to Berlin for my husband's career in the fall of 2021, I found myself again searching for natural and plastic-free products. Europe is ahead of the US when it comes to the mindset of sustainability, recycling is next to mandatory, and farmers' markets are year-round. This makes it much easier to find and discover the natural products you may be looking for. It was also a good environment to be surrounded by, and further grow my passion for nature and natural products, solidifying my mindset as a consumer. Understanding the US market, with over five years of marketing and branding experience. The US is very eager and willing to jump headfirst into this movement as long as the product is worth the hype. When it comes to sustainable products, there is a stereotype or stigma that the user experience or the effect of the product will result in a compromise for the consumer. The idea for SuLu, initially came to me while we were still in Chicago, but I was working full-time and put the idea on the back burner. So, with my newfound time and energy, I recalled my little napkin idea for a sustainable, natural, plastic-free lip balm that actually checked all of my boxes and thought there was no better time to start SuLu than now. SuLu officially launched in the USA in October 2022!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
With less than a year of being in business, my biggest accomplishment thus far is really getting SuLu up and running. There was a lot of research to be had, as this was not a specialty I initially knew how to create or perfect, as well as making all of the production and manufacturing connections and performing extensive reviews of their products. There was some pushback from manufacturers within my supply chain that encouraged the use of plastic or that only offered plastic alternatives, adding additional hurdles I did not foresee. However, I was fully determined to keep every aspect of SuLu sustainable and environmentally friendly from the start, so a few shifts had to be made in order to stay on the most sustainable path possible; this added to the complication but also the gratification of ensuring SuLu was set up on the right foot.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Entrepreneurship is like a juggling act, especially if you are the sole owner or founder of the business. You get to do the things you enjoy but, at the same time, are required to do the things you either don't know how to do or don't like to do. This is where the phrase "I quit my nine-to-five job to start a business, and now I work 24/7" comes in; it's not a simple switch; you have full responsibility when things go well and when things don't.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Research everything you can about your business before you ever even get started. Upfront research will save you a lot of stress and hassle down the road and hopefully help predict any challenges, pivots, or opportunities that may arise.
- Don't be afraid to fail. Entrepreneurship is a risky business; if you are going to fail, fail fast, but don't let the fear of failure keep you from ever starting in the first place.
- Be yourself and have fun with your business and brand; it's something that you will do or think about all day and every day. There will be days that are harder than others, be sure to take the time to reset and start the next day with full force.
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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