Sarah Paiji Yoo
Jonathan has Sarah Paiji Yoo, co-founder and CEO of Blueland on this week’s episode of Conquer The Noise. Blueland sells beautiful, refillable bottles along with dissolvable tablets that turn water into cleaning solutions. The eco-friendly brand is reinventing conventional household and personal care products to reduce single-use plastic. Sarah starts with her founding story which started after her first child was born four years ago when researching baby formula and water quality. She learned about the microplastic problem in water supply and oceans which prompted her idea of Blueland.
Sarah talks about how she has reduced plastic use in her life and suggests asking yourself, “Do I need this product in my life?” If yes, then think about what it took to produce that product and buy accordingly, as well as what will happen to that product at the end of life. Is it circular? Is there an opportunity to reuse or refill?
As the show continues, Jonathan and Sarah talk about the importance of certifications with expert agencies and how important it is for brands to hold themselves to the highest standards. Blueland worked with Cradle-to-Cradle from the beginning to help them think about sustainability for a holistic perspective. “We didn’t want to be so focused on one area that we were unknowingly having a negative impact on another area,” said Sarah. Cradle-to-Cradle helped them look at ingredients, end to end production and how they manufacture the products.
Blueland is a certified BCorp and the approach is something they respect and agree with philosophically from the beginning. It takes a broader view on societal and environmental impact. Sarah goes on to talk through their EPA safer choice certification as well as the USDA Bio certification.
The conversation covers investor relationships and how there’s a lot of responsibility for both parties. You can divorce a partner but not an investor. If you have an investor that requires high return very quickly, might not be a good fit based on your goals. Planet-forward requires more money, slower approach so they had to find an investor you understand that.
Everything Blueland sells is a new behavior for customers. It’s not how people were using cleaning products in the past so it’s been helpful to be a DTC brand. Sarah says it’s important to have a direct line of communication with customers so we can quickly get feedback on products. They prioritize all the feedback that comes in through customer service. They regularly meet with the head of their customer service team to directly hear feedback. They realized pretty early on how powerful Instagram would be for real time feedback. Sarah feels that Instagram is powerful because people are exploring, learning and allows them to facilitate being able to speak to the community.
The conversation ends with the two talking about the dangers of taking on investors because when businesses raise a lot of money & at a high valuation, it results on needing to focus on the growth, distracting from the fundamentals of the business. “Effectively, you’re on a leaky boat where you can’t get water out fast enough,” says Sarah.
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