“You can get a real clean without bringing in toxic cleaning products to your home.” – Jenna Arkin
This week on the Gooder Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking with Jenna Arkin, the Vice President of Innovation at ECOS®. We discuss all things ECOS: the natural cleaning trends, innovation, leadership, and science. We also learn about some myths behind bleaching when it comes to cleaning and creating a healthy living environment. Along the way, we get to hear the amazing story of a dedicated and creative leader who continuously spreads the awareness of environmental protection and chemical safety legislation.
In this episode we learn:
- The history, the story of ECOS and what differentiates ECOS from other competitors in the cleaning category
- Jenna’s path in her career and her journey to ECOS
- About green cleaning product innovation and its evolution
- How the pandemic impacted the disinfecting, cleaning products industry and customers’ increasing adoption of green products
- Lessons that Jenna has learned professionally and personally during the pandemic and opportunities that came along with it
- Trends in the green products industry and the potential of this industry in the next 5 years
About Jenna Arkin:
Jenna Arkin is Vice President of Innovation at ECOS®, the maker of environmentally friendly cleaning products. Jenna uses her unique background in both chemistry and design to innovate safer, more effective formulations and compelling packaging designs for the ECOS®, Baby ECOS®, ECOS® Pets, and ECOS® Pro product lines.
Jenna leads the ECOS® partnership with the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice program, a third-party certification that helps consumers choose products made with safer chemical ingredients without sacrificing quality or performance.
She also directs the company’s educational outreach program, including ECOScience, in which she partners with local museums to bring hands-on green science education to thousands of elementary school children each year. Jenna brings a novel combination of passionate scientist and creative professional to solve modern green chemistry problems. Her sharp eye for trends has inspired out-of-the-box thinking, connecting seemingly disparate concepts to move the cleaning industry toward a more sustainable future.
Jenna joined ECOS® in 2010 as the Northwest Division’s senior chemist, overseeing both R&D and quality control. She most recently served as Director of Product Development at ECOS®. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and she earned a graduate degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Technology. Before joining ECOS®, she designed and directed a contemporary fashion line.
Jenna holds six U.S. patents for innovations in green chemistry and packaging design. She received the GenNext Award by Progressive Grocer in 2018 for industry standouts under the age of 40. Jenna is a member of the American Chemical Society and has served as an advocate for ingredient transparency and toxic substance reform with the American Sustainable Business Council. She actively supports environmental protection and chemical safety legislation at both the state and federal levels.
Guests Social Media Links:
National Public Radio, NPR, full name National Public Radio, is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to 797 public radio stations in the United States of America.
The University of California, Berkeley is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the University of California, it is the state’s first land-grant university and the first campus of the University of California system.
Biochemistry or biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes within and relating to living organisms. A sub-discipline of both chemistry and biology, biochemistry may be divided into three fields: structural biology, enzymology and metabolism.
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is a private for-profit college with multiple campuses in California. It offers degree programs in a majors including fashion, entertainment, beauty, interior design, and graphic design.
Green brands are those brands that consumers associate with environmental conservation and sustainable business practices. Such brands appeal to consumers who are becoming more aware of the need to protect the environment. A green brand can add a unique selling point to a product and can boost corporate image.
Family owned and operated since 1967, Earth Friendly Products® is the maker of ECOS™ Laundry Detergent and over 200 other environmentally friendly products that are safer for people, pets and the planet. Made with plant-powered ingredients, ECOS™ cleaners are thoughtfully sourced, pH balanced, readily biodegradable, easily recyclable, and never tested on animals.
The LA Derby Dolls is Los Angeles’ original women’s quad-skate banked track roller derby league. It was founded in October 2003 by Rebecca Ninburg and Wendy Templeton. The league is composed of more than 120 women divided into five teams who skate on a banked track.
The Environmental Protection Agency is an independent executive agency of the United States federal government tasked with environmental protection matters. President Richard Nixon proposed the establishment of EPA on July 9, 1970; it began operation on December 2, 1970, after Nixon signed an executive order.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is a large regulatory agency of the United States Department of Labor that originally had federal visitorial powers to inspect and examine workplaces.
Adam Ruins Everything is an American educational comedy television series starring Adam Conover that debuted on September 29, 2015, with a 12-episode.
The United States Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services.
Diana Fryc: Well, hello, welcome to The Gooder Podcast, I’m your host, Diana Fryc. As partner and CMO of Retail Voodoo and award winning branding agency, I have met with and worked with some of the most amazing women in the natural’s industry food, beverage, wellness and fitness. As such, I decided to create the Gooder Podcast to interview these great subject matter experts and have them share their insights, expertize and passions in a way that helps businesses all around the world become gooder.
So today we get to meet Jenna Arkin, vice president of ECOS or Earth friendly products as many of you might know. Jenna uses her unique background in both chemistry and design to innovate safer, more effective formulation and compelling package design for the entire family of ECOS products. And we’ll hear a little bit more about that in a bit. We’re going to talk a little bit about the direction of green science doormats and how science and art are closely related and maybe how saying yes can take you places you may have never imagined. So, yay, Jenna, we finally did it. We’re here today.
Jenna Arkin: I’m really excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Diana Fryc: Oh, yeah. No, thank you. How’s California?
Jenna Arkin: It’s good. It’s really good. I think everyone’s very excited and optimistic for a good summer, so we’re just taking it all in swaying.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, right. I know. And you guys have had your own unique history over this last month or this last year of this last month, I don’t even know what I’m thinking and it’ll be fun to share about that. But before we get too far into learning more about you, let’s give just a moment for you to give a shout out about your brand. Who is ECOS and why does the brand exist?
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, I’d love to. So ECOS; we’re really passionate about creating products that are different than the rest of green brands you find out there. Our focus is really on authenticity and affordability and that sets us apart. And the way that we do that is really by manufacturing all of our products in our facilities ourselves, which are carbon positive. So we really walk the walk and talk the talk. It’s not just about what goes into our products, but the love and care that we go through in product development, which is my world, to bring them to life and then also make them under our own roof and ensure the quality and really reduce a lot of the middlemen so that we can bring people safer products and nontoxic products that they can access at a price point that’s not crazy.
Diana Fryc: Carbon positive really quick for those of us that might not know what that is?
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, we talk a lot about carbon and we talk a lot about not using a whole lot of carbon and then one day hopefully becoming carbon neutral. So whatever kind of carbon you use, you offset and make sure that you’re not contributing to global warming and then surpass that as carbon positive. So not only caring for the carbon that you use, but not offsetting it, and one level above that is actually putting carbon back. So that’s where we are today as we’re the first carbon positive manufacturer of cleaning products, and that’s something we’re really proud of.
Diana Fryc: Now, I’m just curious. I listen to an NPR show, a couple of months ago where I learned about actually how companies become carbon neutral as in at the global level. Is it the same process for global carbon positive is that you are buying credits that exceed your carbon footprint? Is that what’s going on?
Jenna Arkin: That’s exactly right. The first step really for us is measuring, so understanding every single impact of how we do our business and then what we can make with our own solar and wind energy than we purchase offsets. So we’re above beyond neutrality, which is why we are carbon positive.
Diana Fryc: Okay, awesome. Now, Kelly Vlahakis, who I interviewed a few months ago, she’s just a big fan of yours and she’s the one that she’s like, if you interview anybody else on this planet, it’s really got to be Jenna. So I just wanted to give a shout out to Kelly and go, really great fit. Thank you so much, Kelly. You’ve got some amazing people that work for you. Let’s talk a little bit about now going back to Kelly and your relationship at ECOS, and you have an amazing path coming into ECOS and then even within ECOS, can you share a little bit about why your path, why your education and your employment history kind of went the way it did and how you found your way at ECOS?
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, I know it sounds really trite, but I think a theme for me, my career has just been to stay curious, and that path of saying yes and taking risks again, jumping with both feet into something totally new has really served me well. I really attribute it to the fact that;
I think I get bored pretty quick and I really like a challenge and it’s finding out what I don’t know and figuring out how to fill those knowledge gaps and just go to the deep end of the pool and jump in and just figure it out along the way has really brought me here.
So my background as an undergraduate, I went to UC Berkeley. I was really excited about being pre-med, that was like my whole life from kindergarten, I was going to be a doctor. So I went and I was just feeling a little angst about medicine and if it was for me; so I decided, you know what, I’m going to get into patient care and figure out if this is my path. So I trained to be an emergency medical technician, decided it was not for me, but I really liked Bio-Chem. And so I finished all my major in science and then right before graduation was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, like the classic quarter century crisis, and I thought I needed to do something creative.
I’ve always been a really creative person. I like to make things, build things, tinker and figure out how and why things work. Which is actually what drew me to science is that understanding of how and why things work. So much to my mom’s dismay, I did not go to medical school. I went to fashion design school and got my graduate degree at FIDM in fashion design so that I could make things with my hands and try things and experiment and just bring in that creative fashion. So apparel was awesome. I love the fast paced industry, but I got an opportunity to come work in ECOS and get back into science, and so it was really enticing and I thought, okay, back in the chemistry, I got a little bit of impostor syndrome. Not sure they wanted a fashion designer on the bench, but I loved it. I love it and I just started tinkering right away when I got in the field. And here I am building out a whole new department for innovation in ECOS.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, and even within, like when you say you’re building a whole department at ECOS, there’s a bunch of hats that go with that. So what does that mean in your world or ECOS world? You’re building out innovation. Is it the same as we might see at another company or is it different?
Jenna Arkin: Well, I really went to Kelly and it’s so amazing to hear that she thought it would be great for this. She’s such a role model to me and it’s been such an enabler to help me bring this vision to life. She’s just a phenomenal leader to work for. But really, for me, what innovation meant was keeping us on our toes and not resting on our laurels and being in the green industry. You really can’t just say we’re done. This is a great line of green products selling because our technology is changing so rapidly. And to stay at the forefront and be true to our heritage is being a pioneer in the field, we have to push. We have to constantly push barriers and boundaries. And so for me, it’s not just in the beaker, but I really tried to bring a very interdisciplinary approach to innovation. So other departments probably love and hate that. I will dabble and get over and say, “Hey, marketing, what about this? Or hey sales…”I try to be a resource, but also an influence in pushing us forward with new business ideas, new business models.
Diana Fryc: And you did come in through the marketing design arm or did you come in through a different way?
Jenna Arkin: I came in through the white jacket nerd route. I started as a QC chemist; I want to say that’s not a fantastic profession. It’s not for me. So the hallmark of quality control, in my humble opinion, is that it should be really boring because nothing should be out of spec. So it’s about logging those 10,000 hours and taking the PH every single day and bacteria testing and over and over and over again. But really, that laid a great foundational work for me to understand those nuances of formulas. And if something isn’t right, what are the levers you have to pull to fix it? And that got my brain thinking, okay, well, how are these things built in the first place? And if I wanted to make it better, what would be the ways I could do that? And so starting out in the chemistry segment and just being a QC chemist really got me the level of knowledge where I felt comfortable. I could start flexing the creative muscles on what we could do with the product portfolio.
Diana Fryc: When we talk about innovation and particularly in this cleaning phase and this kind of at the tail end of Covid, and we look back at the history of products in this space, there’s like in the way back there were efficacy issues, right? It was new. We didn’t have the technologies to kind of pull things apart the way that we have. And yet in the last few years, we’re seeing a huge push in new brands coming out, new entrants. We have our classic entrants;
Coming in with cleaning products, has something happened with a technology that is increasing the efficacy of the product, or is it just more of an awareness and that it’s working or maybe a combination of both? What’s your thinking around that?
Jenna Arkin: I think to be honest; the industry has come a really far away, and you’re right, 30 years ago, some of the green products, they weren’t that efficacious. That is honestly an uphill battle we fight every day because if you try the green products of another brand years back and you had a bad taste in your mouth, it’s really hard to combat that. But we’re really of the mindset that the technology is changing every single day, and so it is catching up to where it can be as effective as conventional. And it’s always going to be this teeter totter between really efficacious, but also really safe.
Something we try really hard to do is talk about what is clean, what is real clean and at what cost, and making sure that cleaning your home isn’t compromise on health and safety. You can get a real clean without bringing in toxic cleaning products to your home. And so both the information and education part have really advanced, consumers are so smart now, thank goodness they’re really looking at labels. But the other part is that the science is catching up and the money and innovation on the raw material side is being put in the green chemistry. There aren’t huge investments being made in petrochemicals. Everyone wants to know that’s great, but how can we do it with renewable materials that have less and not the same negative lasting health and environmental effects.
Diana Fryc: I feel like maybe we’re just at the beginning of this, like there’s got to be a green Drano in the future. But I don’t know how of course because that’s not my area of expertise. What’s being talked about out in the nerd world, netherworld, the green netherworld? How quickly is this evolving? And what does that look like for consumers in the next three to five years?
Jenna Arkin: I think our big focus right now is on concentration. That’s something we’re certainly looking at. And then the types of actives and how you use them. So a lot of innovation is happening with enzymes right now. Enzymes are basically catalysts that make reactions happen faster. So that means a whole lot of enzymes or a lot of kind of traditional surfactant or soap to do the heavy lifting for stain removal. You can use really smart enzymes that target exact types of stains and remove them. And then you’re also seeing a lot of concentration. So consumers are starting to say, hey, I’m buying this big container. Could I buy less? Since we know some of that’s water, how much water can we take out? So we actually just launched a really cool product called ECOS Next, and it’s an entirely liquid list, laundry detergent.
Diana Fryc: It’s in my home, I bought some I saw and I was like, I got to have this. Let’s go.
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, so I think the material science is really interesting right now, but also just how the products live in the world and the whole lifecycle analysis of their water footprint, their carbon footprint, that’s really the next wave of innovation we’re seeing come through.
Diana Fryc: And then we’re seeing greater adoption from the consumer, too, are we seeing it across all strata or are we still seeing it with primarily a certain socioeconomic group of people, or is it spreading?
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, it’s really spreading. We have this whole bucket of consumers we kind of called the interested conventional someone that has traditionally always thought their grandma’s favorite detergent and now they want their own detergent that suits their family needs and their lifestyle and the things that they believe in. And so once we get those interested conventions over into the natural category, we’re really seeing growth. And so if you look at all the categories in household cleaning, whether that’s laundry, auto dish, cleaners, really a lot of them are pretty flat after the Covid spike, obviously, people were cleaning like crazy. But what’s really driving growth and a lot of these segments are the green brands. So we’re seeing more consumers tip over into green and then stay in the green category.
Diana Fryc: Well, I was wondering because I may have seen conflicting information about how consumers when Covid first hit, I had heard and this may not be accurate, that at first everybody went with the hardcore kill everything petrochemical and then went back the other way, did it, like rebound? Did it move massively into naturals then after that? Or are we still seeing the balanced Plan B pre-Covid?
Jenna Arkin: I think in general people are understanding disinfectants and the need to really think about services a lot more, way more than a typical flu season. Say we actually did launch a green disinfectant this year that’s powered by hydrogen peroxide, and so we have an answer to that higher efficacy for just specifically killing viruses and bacteria.
But the other trend that’s important is that people were spending more time at home and when we spend more time at home, you think about things in terms of your safeguarding your home and creating a healthy home environment. And so people weren’t wanting to use harsh chemicals they have to inhale all day. They were wanting to find things that are safer ways to protect their family and then just hand washing. You don’t need an antibacterial hand soap to fight virus, which is not a bacteria. Hand soap in general is a category that exploded, and we’re still seeing a lot of growth there where people are looking for hand soaps that are both going to protect their hands, but also not tap and dry them because they started drying our hands crazy and a lot of these conventional hands soaps are really drying. So I think that is driving a lot of growth in the green as well.
Diana Fryc: Well, this is sort of a non sequitur, but I want to talk about this article that I read on Yahoo! Money, 2020, November 2020. And it was about the importance of keeping doormats clean during the pandemic. And I read it and I got to tell you first, I was like, this seems almost silly. I don’t want to dismiss it or anything. But I got to tell you, the next thing I did was I was out there washing my doormat. I was like, how did that article come to be? And like really is it important to keep your doormats clean? I know that sounds like a kind of weird question in the middle of all of this.
Jenna Arkin: No, it’s a funny approach. I totally like that you brought it up. But a part of keeping your home clean is stopping germs where they start. And so the idea behind that article is like, okay, we’re thinking about doorknobs. We’re thinking about our doorbell, like all these different things that come into our house. But creating a healthy home environment is also about the physical removal of pathogens and dirt and just actually keeping things clean. And so if you imagine life without a doormat, you would get a lot of those sorts of things in your home. So even a doormat clean, make sure that even inside of your home is as clean as well. So it was kind of a funny spin, but it’s important, and cleaning doesn’t always have to be bleaching something. It certainly shouldn’t be. That’s not always the best approach to making something clean, but just rinses a good old healthy rinse and with some basic soap and water can do a lot of good.
Diana Fryc: Right and that’s what Kelly was reiterating on our time together was everybody got really excited about disinfecting and killing and bleach and she’s like, if we just washed more frequently, most of that stuff goes away with just a basic washing. And so I kind of liked the simplicity of just hose your mat down and you’re already removing an X Factor right there. So it was just such a… I’d like to do a little bit of reading on everybody that comes in so I know who they are. Make sure I ask relevant questions and I just love that article. Now, tell us a little bit about ECOS science. What is that?
Jenna Arkin: Yeah. So what we kind of think about putting pen to paper and starting formulating ECOS science is kind of our approach to how we formulate and it’s very different. We really take a design to value approach. So we don’t start with saying, what is the most expensive product we could put to market or how much money could I get someone to pay me for this? We start with what is the consumer need? What do you need out of a laundry detergent as a busy working mom, or what do you need to wash a thousand dishes and not have your hands dry? We start with that need and then the ECOS science goes through and picks ingredients that are optimized for that purpose. My lights are out because we have low energy buildings in here.
Diana Fryc: That’s awesome.
Jenna Arkin: Occupational hazard. So it’s really about picking each material and optimizing at the best cost possible, not over engineering something to where you might get in the lab like a microscopic improvement of stain removal, but like a real life stain removal that actually helps you but doesn’t break the bank. So, that’s our approach. And then we also have published a really comprehensive chemical exclusion list. It’s called The Nasties. It just got published on our brand new website this April. And basically our thought is it’s not enough for consumers just to have the right to know anymore. That’s just throwing science. They also need the right to understand. And our job as scientists is to give perspective when we put things out to the world. And I think this year, more than ever, people have just really wanted science, but they need help translating science to contextualize it. So the Nasties takes a look at 500 chemicals that are commonly used across cleaning products and explains why they’re nasty and why we’ll never use them. And so giving consumers not only go buy our products, but, hey, here’s a list of ingredients we will never use. If you don’t want to use these, go out and start reading labels and make sure that you’re making decisions that align with your values.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, and what I love about that, because I think you’re right. But, the democratization of information has also created a lot of confusion out there. And I think that sometimes even in the ingredients that you guys use, the way they are articulated in a scientific format might be confusing to a layperson who is not a scientist. And so I think providing those opportunities and I don’t know if this is how you do it, but you might go instead of these chemicals we use, these chemicals or these compounds or these et cetera, so then people can start to see that all science is science, there’s good science and there’s bad science. But science is science at the end of the day. And it’s got its own vocabulary and it’s got its own language. And I think it’s really powerful to not just give them 30% of the information, but give them as much of the information as they can really comprehend so that they are making informed choices at the end of the day. Fantastic. I love it. Where would a person find that?
Jenna Arkin: Go to our Web page, Ecos.com. You’ll see there’s a whole section called Clean Chemistry and our marketing team side with me and pick my brain. And we built this beautiful thing together that I’m so proud of. And it really dives deep into the chemistry. And I jokingly say, and I think it’s even on there, it’s not rocket science, its soap science. And I think people sometimes get really afraid to die then. But we do have to break it down in a very digestible, approachable way and not take that highbrow. Like you can understand this. This is too technical. But hey, here’s a science. Come sit next to us. Let us walking through this and explain how we did what we did.
Diana Fryc: Yes. Awesome. Again, back when we were talking about covid-19, and I know that the first few months, and I don’t even remember how long those first few months were, there was a lot of, I don’t even know what the word is, not confusion. But there was a lot going on within your organization, keeping people safe, but then also making sure that the organization and the company was still manufacturing to meet demand. Tell us, did you learn anything from that time either about the people that you work with or consumers or retailers that you walk away from, like just kind of going, wow, in a time of crisis, this was a surprising finding, whether personal or professional.
Jenna Arkin: It was a crazy time, I think, for everybody. I think for decades we’re going to look back at 2020 and think how those few months felt living it. We’ll tell our kids and our grandchildren, I’m sure about it. For us here at ECOS, we understood that we had a unique ability to help in a way that other companies couldn’t. And so we kept the lights on. We kept running, we kept making hand soaps, we kept making cleaners. We couldn’t shut down, but we also had to make sure our workers were safe. And so round the clock, every department came together and we did whatever we could. I personally sold hundreds of masks for our workers so that we can protect them in the back and they could keep making soap. But we also got creative.
That was one thing that was so inspiring to me as our R&D department. We wanted to keep as few people on site as possible so that we could reduce the amount of transmissions if that were an issue. We didn’t know what would happen. So we moved R&D off site to literal kitchens and garages. And I am so proud of my team’s resiliency and I just felt scrappy and we got it done. Those first few Zoom calls, people didn’t understand how to use it. It was crazy, but I’ll never forget the experience of zooming into like my chemist’s kitchen and watching them make something and guiding formulation, so that was a funny moment. And I’m just proud that we have the lights on and we kept going. And during that time also we were wrapping up development on our green disinfectant, I mentioned, and the time was now we needed to get this done and we got that product to market so quickly and we just had to be nimble and keep moving. And we did. It gave us purpose. And I’m just really proud of the last year for sure.
Diana Fryc: Yeah. And remind me now, are you back at 100% right now in regards to production? Everybody’s in the office, what’s that look like?
Jenna Arkin: So production always stayed. They were our onsite essential workers and they really worked around the clock and had crazy spikes in demand. In terms of our corporate office, we just came back to like a hybrid model. So we’re kind of 50/50. Some employees are on site. Some employees are still remote, but now we’ve got some nimble and everything work really seamlessly. So it’s kind of a brave new world we’re navigating and finding ways to make sure we’re still connected and not missing a beat.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I think it sounds like you guys are very much a test and learn kind of organization.
I think that’s the conversations that I’ve been having with a lot of people and hearing them go, “Okay, well, this is what we’re going to do now,” as though it’s written in a tablet somewhere and it’s going to be like that forever. I think if Covid has taught us nothing else, it’s that we have to be okay with like this works today, tomorrow. Something else might be a better solution. But it sounds like that’s just kind of the nature of your organization as well.
Jenna Arkin: Yeah, I always say pencil’s never down because never empty. But you’ve got to iterate and prototype even business models or how we’re going to work today or how we’re continuing to change. It’s not return to work. It’s forward to work. And what does that even look like? So I think we have that innovation spirit in our organization, and it’s fun because we’re nimble and we’re also not afraid to take risk and admit when something doesn’t work out and pivot and keep marching. So that’s really the spirit around the halls.
Diana Fryc: Oh, awesome. So tell us now we’re going to do a really big pivot here and step away from work a little bit and get to know you a little bit more. I found something about you about Derby Dolls. And I know and I mean, I had the luxury of poking around and learning about what that is. But why don’t you tell everybody what Derby Dolls is? Because, again, this is not work related, and then tell us about your involvement with this magical family.
Jenna Arkin: Oh, I love it. So years back when I lived in downtown Los Angeles, my husband was like, he’s in law school and he wanted to go on a double date. And I was like, your law school friends and they will go. And the date was to go watch Roller Derby at Derby factory, which used to be in historic Filipino town, very near to downtown Los Angeles. And I walked in and it was this crazy rag tag energy of awesome strong women, athletic women who were moms and literally doctors, lawyers and they lived is totally awesome alter ego life, where they just got on roller skates and played this very physical game and just became literal superheroes. And I said, I’m going to sign up the next day. And I did, I put roller skates on and broke a few collarbones.
Diana Fryc: No.
Jenna Arkin: Oh yeah. It’s so fun. But my pseudonym was Furin Knightly and I had such a blast and it’s such a fun, empowering sport for women and it really encourages camaraderie and women that can do it all and be it also in such a positive force. And then actually when I moved up to the state of Washington to go work up in our factory up there, it was very much the Seattle freeze where I was the California girl, not able to make friends. And so, I went and signed up for the local Derby League Tilted Thunder, and I just skated there for a while, too, and then the holy rollers as well. So it’s also just a great place to make friends and just I love the energy. So that was a super fun chapter. And I hope one day I’ll get back on those skates.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I would say that I have some friends who have kids that are in Roller Derby and I would say it’s a family, at times, it’s a violent family, but it’s a family nonetheless. And there is so much power and energy that comes from that. Even on the men’s side, too. I’ve watched men’s Roller Derby as well. It’s so awesome. And it’s such an expression of who you are that like if people haven’t figured out who you are by just so far in this time that we’ve had together, like I feel like Roller Derby is like, okay, that’s the pinnacle expression of Miss Jenna. But we’re kind of coming up to the end of our time together. And there’s always a handful of questions that I like to ask everybody. So this first one is and you’ve already shared so much, but I always like to ask for what I call a happy hour of fact, something that I would tell my friends over. You would not believe that blank, blank, blank. Do you have a happy hour fact that you could share with us?
Jenna Arkin: Happy hour facts. Oh, man, there are so many. Three, oh my gosh, I think one of the things that would surprise people about green chemistry and green soap and just the idea that environmentalism, as we kind of take for granted how new it is. So the EPA, for example, has only been around since 1970, which is the same year that Earth Day started, and actually almost the same year, it was 1971 that OSHA started the Occupational Safety and Hazard Agency. So the idea of health and safety and wellness, we really take it for granted, but it’s only been around since 1970. So it really is new and we’ve got some legacy now and our company has been around since the beginning of the EPA and we really are pioneers in the space.
But I think we often like to think that it’s such a table stakes thing. But the fact that it’s still growing and expanding is a tribute to the fact that people really don’t think about the dangers of chemicals in the fifties, we were just making plastic and we were making chemicals. We had no idea what the implications were. So the science is catching up. The knowledge is catching up, and also the attention to toxins is catching up. So that’s something that might surprise people.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, I think that’s interesting. You ever hear of a show called Adam Ruins Everything?
Jenna Arkin: No, I haven’t.
Diana Fryc: Okay, I’ll send you a link. But I just say this. And he has taken these certain bits and facts with FDA and things like the Environmental Protection Agency and everything and gives a little bit of a back story of how they come into play. And in a very, very funny he’s a second city guy. If you like comedy at all, I’ll send it to you. I have a feeling you really, really like the back episodes. They don’t record anymore, but there’s about five or six seasons. And I think he does an episode on the Environmental Protection Agency, but it’s anchored in product safety somewhere. I’ll send it to you for sure.
Jenna Arkin: Oh, that’s awesome.
Diana Fryc: Yeah, really great. Tell us what other leaders or rising stars would you like to elevate or do you watch right now and why?
Jenna Arkin: So there’s one lady that has become my long distance best friend for sure that I am so impressed by. So back in 2019, before the world went haywire, we had the great opportunity to host the first ever Harvard Environmental Action Leadership is proof. So we flew to Harvard, got a bunch of students together and sat down to talked about environmental issues and brought together faculty and political leaders and try to see how could Harvard be more sustainable, what are the major issues and having these great thinkers of the world be at the table making decisions. And I happen to sit next to a woman named Shelly Xu, who was just starting at Harvard Business School, and her whole idea was creating sustainable fashion in a way that had never been done. So we’ve kept in touch as she just graduated Harvard Business School and is starting Shelly Xu Design and forever. I hope we get to make this happen. But laundry detergent is used on fashion, and that’s my previous life. And so one day, hopefully, there will be a Shelly Xu X ECOS collaboration, but she’s doing fantastic things with sustainable fashion. I mean, apparel is really ripe for disruption and it’s so fast fashion if you go and buy something for $10 and use it one. So I love seeing what they’re doing over at her firm and I think we can expect great things out of her.
Diana Fryc: Oh, wow, that sounds great. Oh, I love that. Tell me what brands or trends you are following right now. What do you have your eye on and why are you interested in them?
Jenna Arkin: Well, I have a strict rule for myself, one fiction to one nonfiction. I try to think about business and trends and future stuff a lot, but also just fun things and storytelling. And I really think that the brands that are most powerful are really thinking about the consumer as the protagonist and telling the story of their life. So I’m pretty diverse. I never miss any publishing from Fast Company. I love to see what they’re up to and kind of what’s the latest and greatest and stealing and borrowing things from other industries, whether that be what’s going on retail innovation or how are different industries like tech handling this crazy era of disruption? And I really think right now, when there’s so much change, companies that are going to win put the pedal to the metal and speed out of the curve. They’re not afraid of disruptive times because in this void and gap, you can really start to solve problems consumers have in better ways. And so trying to think about all the adjacent industries and the problems they’re solving and how we could bring those learnings into our organization.
Diana Fryc: Okay, great. And then the last question I have for you is, if people want to connect with you, what’s your preferred method? Are you a LinkedIn person?
Jenna Arkin: I think I’m really behind on LinkedIn. I am on Instagram. I’m @lifeaccordingtoJenna, that’s more of my family one. But also just through ECOS Cleans. I often collaborate and help on there for all the work stuff. And you can check our website. There’s a actual ask our green chemistry in which goes to me on our website. So if you really want to talk science, you can find me on our website as well.
Diana Fryc: Oh my gosh, I love it. Ah, our ECOS is very own Bill Nye. Not as quirky as him, but definitely breaking it down into the basics. I love that.
Jenna Arkin: Oh man. I loved Bill Nye as a kid. I was so excited and nerdy about science growing up. So thank you. That’s a huge compliment.
Diana Fryc: Oh, you’re welcome. Well, Jenna, I really want to thank you for your time today. I thank you for the work that you’re doing for the consumers out there and then also for the planet. And I’m really glad that I was able to get you on today. And I just know that everybody’s going to have loved listening to you.
Jenna Arkin: Oh, thank you so much for the opportunity. And you stay safe and hoping for a really great summer and lots of sunshine and outdoors.
Diana Fryc: Fingers crossed. Fingers crossed.
Jenna Arkin: All right. Thank you so much.
Diana Fryc: Thanks everybody. See you next time.
This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a creative marketing firm specializing in growing fixing and reinventing brands in the food, beverage, wellness and fitness industries. If your naturals brand is in need of positioning, package design or marketing activation, we’re here to help. You can find more information at retail-voodoo.com. And so there you go. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to this channel and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do gooder.