Karmalades is turning cleaning products into an eco-luxury that everyone can enjoy.
August 25, 2015
John Shegerian: Welcome to Green Is Good. This is the Green Festival edition of Green Is Good. We are here in beautiful downtown Washington, D.C., and we’ve got Cynthia Brevil with us. She is the Head Mixtress and CEO of Karmalades. Welcome to Green Is Good. Cynthia Brevil: Thank you for having me. John Shegerian: Well, thank you for bringing all your products and yourself over here. So before we get talking about your brand Karmalades. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: Let’s talk a little bit about Cynthia Brevil. Talk a little bit about your journey leading up to becoming and founding Karmalades and becoming an entrepreneur. Cynthia Brevil: I feel like I was born into this. My mother is a hippie so she raised us with a natural frame of mind. My father is an entrepreneur. John Shegerian: Wow. Cynthia Brevil: He’s owned buildings in New York. He is like a serial entrepreneur. John Shegerian: And you grew up in New York City? Cynthia Brevil: In Long Island. John Shegerian: Where in Long Island. Cynthia Brevil: Baldwin. John Shegerian: Baldwin. I’m a fellow Long Islander so I sort of get it. So your dad is a serial entrepreneur. Mom is a hippie. So you becoming a social entrepreneur, a mission-based entrepreneur – perfect fit. Cynthia Brevil: I feel like, yeah. John Shegerian: That’s in your DNA. Cynthia Brevil: Absolutely. That’s what he says. John Shegerian: Right? So when did you start Karmalades? Cynthia Brevil: As a business in 2008. John Shegerian: In 2008. And so Karmalades is a household cleaners and with a conscience. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: And for our listeners and our viewers out there, you can find Cynthia’s company – Karmalades – at www.karmalades.com. Talk a little bit about how you came up with the name, because we were talking about it off the air, but I want you to share with our viewers and our listeners. Cynthia Brevil: OK. Well, I’m really into karma. What you put into the world comes back. John Shegerian: OK. Cynthia Brevil: So you should really be conscious about what you do, what you say. The first product I created was Scrubbing Soufflé, and I wanted it packaged all cute like a scrubbing soufflé – I’m sorry, like a marmalades jar. John Shegerian: Right. Cynthia Brevil: So you take karma and marmalades and put it together – Karmalades. John Shegerian: Beautiful. So karma and marma – that is so wonderful. Coconut macaroon. Can I smell this? Cynthia Brevil: Please do. Yes. It’s my favorite scent. John Shegerian: Oh my gosh. I want to put this all on my hands and my face. Cynthia Brevil: I know. But you can use it on your tubs, sinks, countertops. John Shegerian: Really? Cynthia Brevil: Cook tops. Stainless steel. John Shegerian: And it leaves the room smelling like coconut macaroon. Oh my gosh. It’s amazing. So you started. Which was your first product? Cynthia Brevil: The Scrubbing Soufflé was the first product I made. John Shegerian: And then how did you branch out? How did you decide to branch out? Cynthia Brevil: Customers. So for about two years, I sold Scrubbing Soufflé exclusively and my customers were like, “Listen, I’m too lazy to scrub, can you make a spray?” I’m like, “Fine. I’ll make a spray.” So I went home and just started mixing things around and came up with a spray that did everything – glass, mirrors and countertops – because I feel like we have so many bottles, so much waste. Why can’t one bottle do everything? John Shegerian: Right. And then you launched this product. How did you come up with the ingredients to make sure that it was safe but also something that the consumer would like and that didn’t exist out there? Cynthia Brevil: Well, I did a lot of research – online, books – and when I created my company, I wanted the customer to be able to really connect with the ingredients. So, as you’ll see, I use ingredients that you can understand, like vinegar, castile soap, baking soda, so that let’s say you’re allergic to alcohol. You can pick it up and say “Hey, alcohol is not good for me.” So many products on the market right now, even though they are natural, they’ve got ingredients we don’t even understand like sodium lauryl sulfate or cocomida – I can’t even pronounce – and you don’t know if you’re allergic to that or not. John Shegerian: So you started. And then you did the R&D yourself? Delicious. Cynthia Brevil: Yes, I did. And friends and family. John Shegerian: In your house? Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: In your house. Cynthia Brevil: And I’m still making them from my house. John Shegerian: You’re still making these in your house. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: So you launched a product. Where can people buy these, and how have you helped distribution over the years? Cynthia Brevil: OK. Well, they can buy them at all the local Ace Hardware stores in D.C. They can buy them at Trove, Tacoma Park, which is a lovely well-curated home goods shop. Maple Avenue Market – it’s a small organic grocery store in Vienna. All the stores are listed on my site. John Shegerian: And you’re making it here. And where do you live now? Cynthia Brevil: Maryland. So right outside of the District. John Shegerian: So a New Yorker moved down here to D.C. area. I see what’s going on. Cynthia Brevil: Well, here and Miami. So I have to say Miami. John Shegerian: OK. Cynthia Brevil: New Yorkers all go to Miami. John Shegerian: Got you. Cynthia Brevil: And then we come back here. John Shegerian: So you’re making it in your home. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: And then you’re distributing them locally. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: Also, people can find these products online on Karmalades? Cynthia Brevil: Www.Karmalades.com. John Shegerian: Www.Karmalades.com. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. Absolutely. John Shegerian: OK, so ingredients. How important is sourcing your ingredients? Besides coming up with the product, how do you source your ingredients? Cynthia Brevil: Well, I use essential oils from a Green America-approved business. So that’s number one. I take a look at who I’m buying from. I try and buy as local as possible. For instance, the bottles come from Richmond. John Shegerian: And first of all let’s talk about this. I’m doing this because these aren’t plastic. These are glass. Why glass other than plastic? Cynthia Brevil: Because of karma. I mean, let’s say you decide to be crazy enough to throw away glass. It goes back to the earth. John Shegerian: Right. Cynthia Brevil: You put plastic in the trash and it leeches all kind of chemicals into. John Shegerian: Disaster. Cynthia Brevil: I don’t want to be a part of that. John Shegerian: Right. And what is a “Scrubbing Soufflé?” It sounds good. Cynthia Brevil: It’s fun. It’s my natural fun spin on like a soft scrub type cleaning agent. John Shegerian: Right. Cynthia Brevil: So you can use it on tubs, sinks, countertops, ovens, cook tops, stainless steel. John Shegerian: And it cleans it with you, just use a sponge? Cynthia Brevil: Just wet your sponge. Just like you would use soft scrub. You throw it down on the surface you want to clean, wet your sponge and scrub. John Shegerian: Have you shown your products? We’re here at the Green Festival in D.C. Green Is Good goes with the Green Festivals all across America. New York. D.C. L.A. San Francisco. Oregon. Wherever there is a Green Festival. Is this the first Green Festival that you’ve promoted your products at? Cynthia Brevil: No, this is probably about the sixth in D.C. John Shegerian: Wow. Cynthia Brevil: And I’ve done New York since they started it. John Shegerian: Wow. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. John Shegerian: And what is the response like, and why is this so important to your brand? Cynthia Brevil: Wow. So many reasons. But I started at the Green Festival. I actually got the idea to start my business volunteering at the Green Festival in 2007. John Shegerian: So you’re a volunteer. Cynthia Brevil: I was. John Shegerian: Turned ecopreneur. Cynthia Brevil: Hello. John Shegerian: I see what’s going on here. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. John Shegerian: You’ve got the Green Festival in your DNA just like your mom and dad. Cynthia Brevil: I do. It’s like a part of the family so that’s why I keep coming back. John Shegerian: Wow. That’s great. That’s a great story. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. John Shegerian: OK, so coming to the Green Festival and promoting it there is just a natural for you. Cynthia Brevil: Right. Absolutely. John Shegerian: So now they come on your website, they buy your products or they type in their zip code and find out where they can buy it locally. Cynthia Brevil: Right. John Shegerian: What’s your vision, Cynthia, to grow your brand? Cynthia Brevil: Oh wow. Well, I hope to have this all over the country – whether it be Whole Foods or whatever local natural food market – so that people can have access to this all over without having to pay shipping. John Shegerian: Jeffrey Hollender is a friend of our show. Jeffrey was the founder of Seventh Generation. Cynthia Brevil: Oh wow. Awesome. John Shegerian: And he is just a wonderful brilliant man who came on the show a couple times, and then, now has started another brand with his daughter actually in a totally unrelated field from cleaning products. But when Jeffrey came on years ago, we talked about how many of the cleaning products that are out there, Cynthia, that are grandfathered in and have never been tested and have all sorts of bad chemical and things of that such. Cleaning products that are iconic to our…. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. We don’t have to name names. John Shegerian: We’re not going to name names. But that makes opportunities for sustainable and healthy cleaning products. Is that what you continue to see, and is that where you continue to see growth opportunities where they still are a bunch of so-called “dirty cleaning products” and you can continue to create sustainable and healthy cleaning products? Cynthia Brevil: I think so. I think people are becoming more and more aware of the ingredients that they’re using – putting in their body, putting on their skin – and they’re looking at the labels now. I mean, I get so many questions like “How is this different?” or “What does this mean?” and I think one of the cool parts about this company is that you can readily identify every ingredient and you can make the choice for yourself fully aware of what you’re purchasing. John Shegerian: Do you feel that the biggest years are ahead of you in terms of Karmalades because the millennials and even the boomers now are really worried about the environmental burden we’ve put on ourselves and that they don’t want to do that anymore? They don’t want to burden their health and their society with the poisons that exist in other products? Is this now just taking off? Cynthia Brevil: Oh absolutely. Every year gets better and better. More publicity, more retail accounts. John Shegerian: Where is the majority of your sales? Retail or online right now? Cynthia Brevil: Retail. John Shegerian: Retail. Cynthia Brevil: Retail. John Shegerian: You’re a young person. How do you leverage the growth of social media to grow your brand? Cynthia Brevil: Wow. I’m trying. John Shegerian: Like we all are. Cynthia Brevil: I’m not a millennial. They have got it down pat. I’m a Gen X-er, so we’re kind of still…. John Shegerian: That’s OK. That’s funny. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah, so I’m trying with that. But I see that the millennials – I mean, everything is spread through social media. If somebody says something on Instagram, it’s like 1,000 followers come. John Shegerian: Yeah. As you continue to do R&D, what new products are you the most excited about? Cynthia Brevil: I want to do an automatic dishwasher powder. John Shegerian: Oh. Cynthia Brevil: Right? So people have been asking for it. John Shegerian: That would be great. Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. John Shegerian: That would be great. Cynthia Brevil: But I’m working on it. I’m almost there. John Shegerian: And you’re doing the R&D in your home. Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: Wow. Do a lot of your clients – is that how you get inspired? Your client base asks you for? Cynthia Brevil: Yes. John Shegerian: Got you. Cynthia Brevil: Oh yeah. I mean, the seed – I had Scrubbing Soufflé, but the only reason I went on to all purpose cleaning spray was because of the clients. That’s a moisturizer. That’s the Baby Butter. John Shegerian: Oh man. This all smells so amazing. I mean, my god. Cynthia Brevil: Essential oils. John Shegerian: Yeah. Cynthia Brevil: All natural. John Shegerian: Unbelievable stuff. Baby Butter. This is the Baby Butter. Anyway. Any final words or thoughts before we say goodbye for today, Cynthia? Cynthia Brevil: Well, I’m just happy to be a part of this movement. I’m glad to see people getting back to our roots. We all were natural at some point in life and then somehow we got caught up into the cloud of – well, you know. But I’m just happy to be a part of this new movement. John Shegerian: And mom and dad, how proud they are of you. Cynthia Brevil: They are. John Shegerian: Over the moon. Cynthia Brevil: And I’m thankful for them. John Shegerian: Oh, that’s how it works in life, right? Cynthia Brevil: Yeah. I’m thankful for them. John Shegerian: Oh, it works both ways, and that’s so nice to have you here with us today. You’re always invited back on the show. She is the Head Mixtress and CEO and founder of Karmalades. You can find Karmalades at www.karmalades.com. Cynthia Brevil, you’re making the world a better place. Cynthia Brevil: Thank you. John Shegerian: And are truly living proof that Green Is Good. Thank you so much. Cynthia Brevil: Thank you. I appreciate you guys. John Shegerian: Thank you.