Green Inside and Out with CocoMe’s Lisa Wurtz

June 5, 2015

 
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good. This is the Green Festival’s edition of Green is Good. We’re here in beautiful New York City, New York, my hometown, and we’re so excited to have with us today Lisa Wurtz. LISA WURTZ: Hello. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Lisa is the founder of CocoMe. Lisa, thank you for joining us today. Before we get talking about your great company and the wonderful products that you have, share a little bit about the Lisa Wurtz journey leading up to founding CocoMe – the how, why and how you even got here. LISA WURTZ: I’ll be happy to. Thank you for having me too, John. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s an honor, really. LISA WURTZ: It’s really exciting to come out here and to talk to people. Basically, I was a teacher years ago and then became a stay-at-home mom when my daughter Charlotte was born. When she was a baby, I was busy getting ready for a dinner party and she got into my cosmetic things and took a huge bite out of my deodorant. After a panicked call to poison control, I thankfully found the chunk on the floor out of her mouth. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m sure that’s a very common occurrence. LISA WURTZ: It is. That was my sort of come-to-Jesus moment, when I realized we really have to have natural products in our home. I started seriously thinking about converting to things that were healthier for all of us. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Prior to that, were you a tree-hugging family or into these things at all? Or is that really just like the real epitome and flashpoint? LISA WURTZ: That was the epitome. I was interesting in becoming more natural and natural products. Years ago, there weren’t that many things on the market. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Great point. LISA WURTZ: We tried things, and it just wasn’t right for me. But after this happened with Charlotte, yes, that was my tipping point, and I started looking seriously and found great products. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How did that journey go? Where did you start looking? How many years ago was that again, about four? LISA WURTZ: It was three years ago. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Three years ago. So, how did you start looking and how did that evolve into creating a business? LISA WURTZ: I did, I think, what a lot of people do. You do a little research online. You go to Mrs. Green’s or Whole Foods and look at things. I would go and look in the aisle, I’d find something that was great, and I would go home and try it. If it wasn’t right for me, I’d try something else. I looked at labels, read the ingredients and found that I really didn’t know what a lot of the ingredients in these products were even though they were saying they were all-natural and completely safe. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Good point. LISA WURTZ: I started using just oils and fell in love with coconut oil as a body moisturizer. Feel in love with it. It is absolute the best thing that you can use on your skin. Unfortunately, it’s solid at room temperature and comes in a jar. So, if you want to put it on your body, you’re digging your hand in there, and these oil flakes are melting everywhere. One night, I was really just dripping all over my carpet and getting frustrated and said, “Gosh, if this were in a stick, my life would be so much easier.” Then I thought, wait a minute. Let me see if that’s there and it really wasn’t. I made one for myself with an old deodorant tube and just used it at home. Then my mom heard about it and said, “Can you make one of those for me?” and then my sister-in-law and it just started to snowball. I started really seeing a hole in the market and just an amazing oil that people weren’t able to use in a practical way. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, CocoMe was founded how many years ago? LISA WURTZ: We officially launched about a year and a half ago, the very end of 2013. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners and our audience members that want to find your products and also find you, it’s www.cocome.bodystick.com? LISA WURTZ: Correct, www.cocome.bodystick.com. We always do free shipping over $30. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Free shipping over $30. Where are you based? LISA WURTZ: We’re based right outside of the city, right in Westchester County, New York. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, you’re a New Yorker? LISA WURTZ: We’re New York, yeah. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Gotcha. So, www.cocome.bodystick.com. Launching the company, we have so many young people like you who want to be ecopreneurs, entrepreneurs. Did you have to go raise money? Did you just do this with your husband? How did you even put together your LLC and decide we’re going to make a business enterprise out of this? LISA WURTZ: I can tell you I do feel I started with an advantage because my father, who’s actually watching our interview at the moment, he’s always developed brands. So, I kind of new a little bit where to start, but we are self-funded. It very much started out as a mom and pop, sort of making it in my kitchen, let see how this goes kind of thing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, dad was a branding expert? LISA WURTZ: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh, you have a little bit of a head-start then. LISA WURTZ: He’s in beverages, but the industries aren’t that different. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s right. Brands are brands. Great brands are great. LISA WURTZ: Exactly. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Did he help you come up with the name and everything? LISA WURTZ: No, that was me. Like I said, we started in our kitchen, blended and started doing test groups and selling to people and here we are. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Let’s talk about these great products you have here. This is the body stick and this is the – LISA WURTZ: Lip elixir. It’s our lip balm. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, why this? I mean, I meet you on an elevator today and I see this in your hand as you’re going to a pitch meeting somewhere and I ask you for your elevator pitch. Why would I want to be using this and why is this better than anything else on the market? LISA WURTZ: You want to be using it because it’s nature’s most potent healing potion in the palm of your hand with no mess and no waste. It’s just organic virgin coconut oil with a little bit of beeswax, that’s it, 100 percent organic. It can go anywhere on your body. If you kid or pet bites into it, nothing bad happens. There is hardly a thing for your skin that this can’t do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You know I have to tell you something, Lisa. Years ago, I had one of the original founders of the first coconut water to come to America on Green is Good. LISA WURTZ: Oh, great. JOHN SHEGERIAN: He just literally floored me when he was telling me a little bit of the history of coconut water and just the great principles behind that. Even at one point during World War II when they couldn’t get enough blood to the wounded warriors out in the field, that coconut water is so healthy for you that they would actually mainline it into people who needed it. LISA WURTZ: Oh, wow. JOHN SHEFERIAN: Now with your products, it seems as though from a 360-degree point of view, ingested coconut water, they now say coconut oil even via pill or tablespoon, and now you’re even saying for your skin and for your body. It’s amazing from whichever way you’re getting it. LISA WURTZ: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And you’re offering it in a very clean, no fuss, no muss way. LISA WURTZ: Exactly. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, this is just like a deodorant stick really. Where do you roll this on to? LISA WURTZ: You can put it anywhere on your body where you have dry skin or any kind of irritation. If you have rough elbows, hands, calluses, after sun care, it’s ideal. Everyone’s shaving their legs for the summer, put it on after you do that. Your skin is your body’s largest gland. You absorb everything immediately. You have to be really careful. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Anywhere? LISA WURTZ: Yeah, anywhere. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Safe anywhere. Children? LISA WURTZ: Barring coconut oil or beeswax allergy of course. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But, for children or anyone? LISA WURTZ: Yes, for anyone. People with eczema. People with psoriasis find it very healing. You could use it in your hair. You can use it as a deodorant. It does have natural antimicrobial properties, so that is something you can do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, you launched this a year and a half ago – where did you launch it and how’s it been going? LISA WURTZ: We launched just right here, just outside the City in Westchester. It’s been going really great. It’s actually a thrill to come to events like this where you’re in front of the customer and there’s that moment where the light goes on. These are people who are educated and know about coconut oil or maybe they just kind of like the smell of coconut. As soon as you show them a jar of coconut oil and say, “You could be doing this instead and get all the benefits,” you see the light go on in their face and that’s really thrilling. We’re expanding. We’re starting to get into retail stores. We want to replace Vaseline in every home in America with something much healthier and safer. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, and Vaseline is a petroleum. LISA WURTZ: Exactly. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And not that sustainable of a product, let’s be honest. LISA WURTZ: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You started selling online, I take it? LISA WURTZ: Um-huh. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How soon after you launched this did you launch then your second product? LISA WURTZ: That was about a year after. Mainly we did that because of requests from customers who were using the big stick on their lips because they liked it so much. They were like, “It’s really great. It works great, but you just make it a little smaller because it’s awkward.” JOHN SHEGERIAN: This looks a little funny out in public. LISA WURTZ: Yeah, exactly or you don’t want to put something on your lips that you might put on your feet or your baby’s diaper rash. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s a good point too. So, this is now truly for lips? LISA WURTZ: That’s really for your lips. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Are retailers responding? Are you finding some luck getting into some retail locations? LISA WURTZ: We’re starting to. We’re very new. Right after launching the company, I had another baby, so we had to take a little bit of time. We just had our media debut last month and we are just getting into retail stores. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And it was a boy or a girl, your second baby? LISA WURTZ: It’s a boy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, now you have Charlotte, and what’s your son’s name? LISA WURTZ: Britain. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Britain. So, Charlotte and Britain. LISA WURTZ: Correct. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Online, how are you getting the word out online about your new products? LISA WURTZ: Basically, at first you start with just launching with the people you know on your Facebook page and asking them to spread the word. Then as you get into the retail stores, you are trying to support their business while they support yours. You kind of tap in to their social media resources, a lot of social media, the Google AdWords, and the best SEO that you can possible do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Speak about that. It’s a democratized world. One person like you, one ecopreneur like you can change the world. How do you get the best SEO? What does SEO mean for our audience out there who doesn’t know that? LISA WURTZ: SEO is search engine optimization. It’s basically a process that you go through with a professional who knows what they’re doing, where you optimize the search engine’s ability to pull up your site earlier in the people’s search so you can get more customers. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How do you find, like, a great SEO person? LISA WURTZ: I actually usually recommend word-of-mouth. I recommend interviewing other entrepreneurs and hearing their battle stories. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Okay, gotcha. When you were launching your new brand, what did Dad tell you? You know, Dad is a branding specialist. What was Dad’s advice to stand above the crowd, to get above the den, the noise? LISA WURTZ: Well, I have to tell you guys, Dad was a huge inspiration. When you start a company and then you have a baby and that’s hard, there are a lot of reasons to give up and to just not work that much that day because you’re exhausted. Him and my husband, too, were really voices saying, “This is good. Keep doing it.” JOHN SHEGERIAN: Your husband has another job? LISA WURTZ: Yes. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, he works another job. LISA WURTZ: He does. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, this is then your full-time job now from home? LISA WURTZ: It is. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. For our audience members that just joined us, we’re so happy to have with us Lisa Wurtz. She’s the Founder and CEO of CocoMe. You can find her great products right here at www.cocome.bodystick.com. What’s the price break for free shipping? LISA WURTZ: At $30.00. JOHN SHEGERIAN: If you buy $30. 00. How much does this approximately cost right now? LISA WURTZ: It retails for $15.00. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Fifteen dollars – and then this is how much? LISA WURTZ: Three dollars. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Three dollars. So, you buy two of each, and your set on the shipping right there. Talk a little bit about, you mentioned earlier, Lisa, beeswax. How does beeswax play into your products, and why beeswax in the coconut oil? LISA WURTZ: A lot of people ask me that because there are a lot of people who just moisturize with the coconut oil. Beeswax in itself is another ancient healing balm with its own healing properties. It’s also antimicrobial and it’s also non-comedogenic. When you combine it with the coconut oil, what it does is it seals it in and allows it to really absorb into your skin. If you’re somebody who already moisturizes with coconut oil, you kind of have to stand there and let it absorb and it still kind of gets on your clothes. This alleviates that problem and it allows the coconut oil to do its work, so you can just put it right on and you can use it neat or you could chose to rub it in. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Who’s reviewed your product? Have you gotten any product reviews that have helped make it go viral a little bit more? LISA WURTZ: We have actually. We’ve gotten some fantastic blog mentions, and recently, we’ve been featured in some TV spots. The word is getting out there slowly and the feedback is very positive. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What percentage do you think of your clients right now are men and women? LISA WURTZ: I would say the vast majority are women, although we have a lot of men users. I just find that for my kind of products if there are women in the household and there’s a man there that could be using it, the woman might be doing the purchasing. I would say it’s for the man. I would say the vast majority of our customers are women, but we have a lot of men users. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What are some of the more different ways that your client base say they’re using the product right now? LISA WURTZ: Oh gosh. There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t get another… I mean, everything from, “I use it on my calluses,” “I use it on my cat,” “I use it on my nipples when I’m nursing,” “I use it as a personal lubricant.” I mean, it’s just so safe and you can put it anywhere and people really do. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, it’s very versatile. Let’s just say that, right? LISA WURTZ: Very versatile although not latex-friendly, so keep that in mind. JOHN SHEGERIAN: We’re down to the last five minutes or so. Can you share a little bit about the journey as an ecopreneur, a young entrepreneur? First of all, I have to tell our audience out there that don’t have the benefit of being here, Lisa looks like she’s about 18 years old. So, if this is from this, buy it now. I’ll tell you like that. She doesn’t look old enough to have two kids. I keep looking at her saying that isn’t possible. And by the way, Charlotte bit into this. LISA WURTZ: Nothing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Nothing. LISA WURTZ: No. My daughter gets out of the tub and I hand it to her. She put it on herself. She calls it her body crayon. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s awesome. Talk a little bit about the journey. What were you expecting that didn’t happen? Just share stuff that wasn’t even in the playbook when you sat down and mapped this thing out at the kitchen table. LISA WURTZ: I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned so far is that there are no rules. Everyone talks about what’s your strategy? What’s your strategy? That’s all fine and good, but you get out there and the day happens and things come at you and nothing goes as planned ever. You have to be super quick on your feet and comfortable with change and really not give up. I think my biggest hurdle continues to be something that I’m looking for to improve my product is packaging. I didn’t imagine it would be difficult. I mean just now there are eco-friendly packaging and things like that that companies like me can use. We’re still not quite there yet for our design. We want to find a cardboard solution. If there’s anybody out there who has it, contact me. I want to make the switch. That’s something that frustrating, that I wish I could find for my particular product just a little different than others. JOHN SHEGERIAN: How hard was it to, once you decided to put it into this form, how hard was it to find the right manufacture to do it at the right cost, and to keep the quality what you wanted? LISA WURTZ: That was extremely tricky, too. When you’re starting out, you don’t have huge production runs and a lot of people don’t even want to talk to you. You just make 50 phone calls, 60 phone calls, and then finally, you find someone who wants to do business with you and you just kind of start from there. I was lucky enough to find a company that was willing to take me with small runs and start there. As you get bigger, the prices get better, but you have to make that investment. You have to take that leap of faith that what you’re doing is going to work. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You really feel that this is the type of product that could really take over for where Vaseline is being used today? In theory, though, that’s how big the marketplace is for you. I mean you have a big universe to chase. LISA WURTZ: Really, there is nothing you can do with Vaseline that you can’t do with this. This is 100 percent organic, natural and healthy for you and has lots of benefits. Petroleum is for your car. There are lots of places where this should go, and we want to take it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Do you have any competitors in this space? LISA WURTZ: It’s very, very narrow. There are like small, home crafters and things like that who make sticks with coconut oil and things like that. As far as mainstream that people know, oh gosh, I’ve got to put this on my skin instead, no, there is nothing out there. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Besides dad and your daughter, who took the first bite, where do you find inspiration in terms of business or entrepreneurs? LISA WURTZ: Oh, wow. There are a lot of really inspiring business people that I’ve met during this process and people that I’ve research and thought were great too. There are great brands up by me even in Westchester. There’s Babo Botanicals, who was actually a really inspiring brand for me. I don’t know them personally, but they started out as a couple in Westchester and they have an amazing line of products for children and they’re everywhere now. Their products are great and super safe. Also, people that I just meet here and that are so willing with their knowledge to give to other people and help you out as business-to-business. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. We’re down to the last two minutes. I’ll leave it to you now to share with our audience, both our online and off-line audience. What are some final thoughts that you have about the product and where you want it to go in the years to come? LISA WURTZ: Our product is, as we said, there is hardly a thing that you can’t do for your skin with this product. I think that there are a lot of companies out there that are great and want to market themselves as natural and all that stuff when really there could be things in there that are confusing or questionable. We’re very straightforward. Coconut oil is perfect the way that it is. We don’t want to change it. We just want to make it easier for people to put on. I see us going to every home in America where that jar of Vaseline is and taking over. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Lisa, how hard was it to source the right coconut oil and where does it come from for your products? LISA WURTZ: That was a little bit tricky, too. We’re very careful to make sure everything is responsibly sourced. The Philippines is where our coconut oil comes from. We’re very happy with the quality that we’re getting. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Perfect. Lisa, thank you for joining us today. For our audience members out there, to support Lisa’s great company and to change from Vaseline to coconut oil for the lips and for everywhere else, go to www.cocome.bodystick.com. This is the Green Festival’s edition of Green is Good. Lisa Wurtz, you’re obviously an inspiring ecopreneur, and we’re just so truly honored to have you today, and you are living proof that green is good. LISA WURTZ: Thank you.