5 things I learned from...doing business at the intersection of purpose and profit

Christina Ramirez

Swell Investing Interviews Founder/CEO Christina Ramirez

Swell Investing is an impact investing platform that aims to deliver profit as well as purpose. 

 

5 Things I've learned from running an ethical business

1. We’re blurring traditional retail’s boundaries

For me, the most exciting part is witnessing the two categories merge. In the past, health and beauty were viewed separately and treated as such: Vitamins and toothbrushes were health, and moisturizers and natural makeup were beauty. Consumers and retailers now see that the two go hand in hand! Beauty begins with good health, so I'm really happy to see and experience more beauty retailers expanding into health and wellness products. It’s great news for all of us, whether we’re in the industry or buying the products.  

2. Small changes add up

As a company, we've prevented around 1,000 tons of plastic from being thrown into our oceans! Aside from PLUS ULTRA, I personally do my part by refusing single use plastics everywhere I go. From grocery store plastic produce bags to plastic straws, cups, and to-go containers at restaurants. If I think it's wasteful, I'll just say no thanks!  

3. It’s going to be hard, but keep going

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’ll make you stronger and help you to appreciate your victories that much more. Fail forward and learn from your mistakes.  Do not give up. You only truly fail when you quit. Keep going and stay flexible as your company grows.

4. If you want something done right, do it yourself

I developed our supply chain from the ground up and continue to oversee our production and quality control. When we first launched, I created a proprietary production process with my own set of high standards and testing procedures. We only work with factories and suppliers that I personally approve and that comply with our needs.

5. Be good at what you do, then on the next one

Our mantra is re-defining utility for the greater good, so our goal is to be the eco-friendly brand for all utility products in your bathroom and for your lifestyle. While other companies create waste with their products, we aim to reduce waste. You'll see us launch more utility products with bamboo, as well as other eco-logical materials.  

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

Thrive Market Blog- International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate all things female, we’re introducing you to 12 inspiring entrepreneurs who help make it possible for Thrive Market to achieve its mission of making healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.

From Korean sauces and eco-friendly food packaging to menstrual cups and bamboo toothbrushes, the products from these female-founded companies couldn’t be more different, but each business is committed to enacting positive change, whether that be on our food system, environment, or health.

Read on to learn the stories of why these women launched their businesses, the advice they’d give to young entrepreneurs, and their favorite products!

PLUS ULTRA

Christina Ramirez, Founder CEO PLUS ULTRA

Christina Ramirez, Founder

Plus Ultra’s mission is rooted in addressing the global crisis of plastic pollution, because when toothbrushes are made with eco-friendly Moso bamboo, it helps reduce the amount of plastic on the planet. These dental tools are made from more than 90 percent biodegradable materials, so you can make your smile sparkle sustainably.

1. What inspired you to start Plus Ultra?

My vision for the company and desire to make a positive impact started when I was a Global Studies major at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I came up with the idea for starting a bamboo toothbrush company as part of a writing assignment in class. Over 167 million toothbrushes were being bought each year in the United States alone!

The image of all those plastic toothbrushes piling up across the planet set me in motion to reduce plastic waste by redefining the conventional toothbrush. After years of product R&D with dentists, and professional guidance from advisors and mentors, I launched in 2012. Committed to creating common sense products that supported positive change, I named my company PLUS ULTRA, the Latin phrase used by explorers and motto of Spain, meaning “further beyond.”

2. What's the best piece of advice you'd give to young female entrepreneurs?

I have four tips!

  1. Don’t be afraid to fail. It’ll make you stronger and help you to appreciate your victories that much more.
  2. Research, interview, and ask for help! Repeat. Always.
  3. Do NOT give up. You only TRULY fail when you quit. Keep going and stay flexible as your company grows.
  4. Take care of your brain. Make sure to give it a rest.

3. If you had to pick a favorite product from your company, what would it be and why?

Our “hello gorgeous” toothbrush! It’s important to have a little positive affirmation in the morning and before bed. Seeing “hello gorgeous” makes me smile and is empowering!

For full article, visit THRIVE MARKET.com

Thank you to Nicole Gulotta for featuring PLUS ULTRA today! 

8 Bits Of Plastic You Can Quit Right Now

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# 5. Plastic toothbrushes. Yep, your plastic toothbrush needs to go. Most toothbrushes are made with nylon bristles, a metal staple to hold the bristles in place and the plastic handle. All need to be separated before being “processed” for recycling. And no, the plastic is not recyclable. (It’s a softer plastic, so these are usually turned into other products…but the plastic never goes away…)

Do this: Use a bamboo toothbrush.

For the other 7 bits of plastic you can quit, check our Sarah Wilson's blog below! Sarah shares her tips for a sustainable, toxin free lifestyle. 

http://www.sarahwilson.com/2016/09/8-bits-of-plastic-you-can-quit-right-now/

Bamboo: The Perfect Material?

Bamboo could help reverse climate change while replacing less environmentally-friendly materials.  

Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Classified as a grass, bamboo can grow up to 3 feet in a day or 1.5 inches in an hour. It’s a renewable resource that can be harvested between one and five years, unlike some hardwoods that can take up to forty years to mature.

Bamboo creates a significantly smaller carbon footprint in both production and harvest as compared to hardwoods. It needs little to no fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides to grow. In fact, bamboo produces more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than trees so its crops are actually helping to combat climate change. 

According to the New York Times article In Africa’s Vanishing Forests - the Benefits of Bamboo, bamboo can grow on land that is not suitable for other farming and it’s root system stays in place after harvesting, alleviating the need for new planting. In addition to being a crop that can provide income from formerly un-farmable land it also reduces soil erosion with it’s widespread root systems and even can prevent mudslides. 

When the measured against plastic there is no contest in terms of bamboo's more eco-friendly qualities. Not only does plastic release toxins into the environment during production it also never biodegrades but instead breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces eventually making it's way into our food and water sources. 

In terms of practical applications, "It’s strong as steel in tension, and stronger than concrete in compression” reports the Permaculture Research Institute. "It’s cheap. It’s easy to work with because it’s so much more lightweight than wood, concrete, or steel; it has a huge strength to weight ratio advantage, mainly because of the hollowness of its cylinder shape."

Leaders in positive environmental change and in innovative design are discovering new applications for this ancient plant. Here are a few of our favorites:

PLUS ULTRA Featured in Microsoft's Youthspark Program

In the early days of the brand, PLUS ULTRA was honored to be a part of Microsoft's Youthspark program. The initiative was produced by GOOD Magazine and was designed to inspire young entrepreneurs. 

Since it's inception, PLUS ULTRA has grown and changed. We've improved our product and our supply chain. We're now using paper certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Forest Stewardship and printing it with plant based inks. We replaced our inner plastic sleeve with Bio-PET, a material that is 30% sugar and 70% PET.

Another big change we made was that we used to promote our product as being 100% biodegradable. We learned that even if we used compostable bristles that nylon isn't something we want in our soil. 

PLUS ULTRA is still aspiring to be an zero-waste toothbrush - but we're not there yet. If you have ideas let us know! All this being said we still like sharing this video because we love encouraging people to follow their dreams, like Christina did.