Hello Jeff. Thank you for participating in this Q&A session. We would like to start by exploring your origin story. Please give us an overview of your background and career to date?
Jeff: Prior to Humble, most of my career has been spent in the Internet tech industry, with the following being my highlights from the past 25 years:
Mid 1990s to around 1999: I was in business development at Netscape, the original browser company;
1999 - 2001: I was co-founder of Gloss.com, an online beauty company (this was before you could buy beauty products on Amazon!). We sold the company in 2001 to Estee Lauder;
2002 - 2009: I built the business development team at Google. We had about 100 people in the company when I started and around 35,000 when I left. It was time for a change!;
2015 - present: Creating and growing Humble Brands!
What initially attracted you to entrepreneurship and at what point did you decide this was going to be a full time career?
Jeff: I've always loved the idea of creating something from nothing. That you can simply have an idea, get people excited enough by it to want to work with you, build a product and then (this is the really hard part) get people to spend their very hard-earned money for something you've orchestrated, is, for me, the highest form of creativity that I can produce.
There is also this energy at startups that you just don't get at large, established companies, which is typically why in the past I left companies which had grown too large. I dabbled in creating my own company with Gloss and I worked closely with our founders at Google but knew I always wanted to do it on my own.
What key challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how have you navigated them?
Jeff: Some challenges, in no particular order are:
Convincing people to embark on this journey with me, not being able to pay them what they are worth but giving them a piece of the pie, that's not always easy early on.
Every 6 - 9 months or so, re-evaluate your team to see if people are in the best role for the company and themselves. Set and forget doesn't really work in the startup world!
A nuts and bolts lesson I learned is to trademark your name as early as you can (don't just get the URL and assume it's all good).
Has your entrepreneurial journey been influenced by any present or past business leaders, and how?
Jeff: It was always great working with Sergey Brin, Larry Page (Google's co-founders) and Eric Schmidt (Google's CEO) and seeing how they made decisions. Sometimes there were the "go for broke" decisions and other times, the decisions were very subtle. Also, I had the opportunity to meet with Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia) when I was at Google and appreciated his philosophy of only launching a product after all of the extraneous elements have been removed, and you are left with its bare essence. We try to incorporate this ethos into all of our Humble products.
What is the origin story behind Humble Brands?
Jeff: Necessity is the mother of invention. After I left Google, I really wanted to detoxify and de-stress my life. I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to New Mexico and started living super healthy. I discovered how bad traditional antiperspirants are for you and none of the natural deodorants worked well for me so I started mixing in my kitchen. I started giving different versions of my deo to family and friends and about 6 months later, had something. I began by giving it away as Jeff's Pit Butter and then incorporated to Humble Brands in 2015. Up until recently, this has been a completely bootstrapped company, fully funded by me. People have been reaching out to me to invest so I decided to raise a round earlier this year to help fuel our growth.
What makes Humble Brands’ Deodorants different from other natural beauty and healthcare products in its category?
Jeff: Going back to my earlier comment about Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia), we remove all of the extraneous junk that so many companies put in their products. No fillers, dyes, chemical preservatives, artificial scents, etc. Just the simplest set of natural ingredients we can pull together that actually work. Oh, and they smell freaking great!
Please give us some examples of the natural ingredients you use to create your deodorants and tell us where they were sourced from?
Jeff: Let’s look at the Original Formula of our Deodorant. We use 4 simple ingredients: Corn Starch, Baking Soda, Beeswax and Fractionated Coconut Oil - and then essential oils for our scented versions. We use non-GMO Corn Starch and EcoCertified Coconut Oil. We also use Organic beeswax whenever possible. The Palo Santo oil which is in our most popular deodorant, is certified only harvested from Palo Santo trees which have fallen naturally and never harvested/cut down for commercial purposes.
What’s been Humble Brands’ marketing strategy to build brand awareness?
Jeff: We do use social media and educational blogs but so much of our marketing strategy has been word-of-mouth. Build great products that people love and a brand that people trust and they will tell their friends and family. It's by no means a quick way to build a brand but it's how to build a true loyal brand following.
Does Humble Brands have any carbon footprint target?
Jeff: We have not yet formally announced our carbon footprint target but are focusing on other areas such as creating the most sustainable packaging we can. All of our deodorant containers currently contain 75% Post Consumer Recycled plastic and are recyclable themselves. We do have an entire line of paperboard products we will be launching shortly. Many paperboard products are still lined with plastic which introduces micro-plastics into the environment when they break down. Ours are lined with a biodegradable silicon which completely breaks down. We are also exploring various bio-plastics to use in future products.
We have come to the end of the interview. Thank you Jeff for participating in this Q&A session. We wish you all the best.
Jeff: Thank you!