Have you heard about CertClean? It's North America's largest certification for safer skincare and the first of it's kind. What they do? CertClean provides consumers a guide to nontoxic beauty and personal care products that are on the shelves right now. It makes it easier for the "eco-conscious" consumers to shop products that matters and are made with the mission for safer skin. To know more, read my interview with the founder and CEO of CertClean: Jenise Lee.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I smile a lot. I laugh even more. I’m an environmentalist who is afraid of bugs so I always joke that I can’t literally be a tree hugger! I love simplifying complex problems and figuring out how to solve environmental and social justice issues.
Professionally, I’m the Founder and CEO of CertClean and am focused on getting nontoxic personal care products into every home.
Jenise Lee: CEO & Founder of CertClean
What is CertClean?
Simply, CertClean is North America’s largest certification for safer skincare. You’ll find well over 1000 safer personal care products marked with the CertClean certification.
CertClean’s website will soon be the go-to site where you can find product reviews from real users – imagine a site like Trip Advisor exclusively for nontoxic beauty!
Why did you feel the need to start CertClean?
I saw an obvious problem that needed to be solved: brands cannot differentiate their product in the marketplace to reach the very consumers looking for safer beauty products.
There are a lot of charities educating and empowering women to avoid harmful chemicals in personal care products – in fact, I’ve been on the board of one such charity for almost 8 years. I learned that women needed a simple and easy way to identify safer alternatives to conventional beauty products and that’s how the certification came about.
There was a business name change that occurred less than 3 years ago, from Clean Care to CertClean, why you felt the need to re-brand the company?
It wasn’t by choice! A large multi-national company had also applied for the trademark ...so that was that!
Everyone must start somewhere, what was your first job?
My VERY first job? I was a babysitter. I had many jobs (as a co-op student) during my undergraduate engineering degree. My first job out of school was an environmental engineering consultant. I was the first employee to join the team.
What have you learned from all the previous jobs you had, that contributes to your growth when it comes to operate CertClean?
Confidence is key to success. Whether you’re an employee or have a leadership position, you need to be confident about your contributions and worth. You need to be confident enough to know you will succeed in all that you do.
Like Henry Ford said: " Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right."
From being a chemical engineer to getting your MBA in Schulich School of Business, how have you prepared yourself for where you are now?
I didn’t plan on being an entrepreneur or CEO! For anyone thinking about leading a business, I’d recommend hanging out with people who are not like you, join boards of charities and NGOs, join executive teams of organizations, etc so you can gain leadership skills in advance.
What are the most challenging parts of being not only an entrepreneur but a woman in business?
There are challenges to being a woman (and a visible minority!) who is leading a company within the female sector. Every single woman I speak to loves what CertClean is up to but I don’t get the same reaction from men– I’m still fine-tuning the messaging to men so that the CertClean is relatable to them.
CertClean has become North America's largest certification for safer beauty and personal care products, how do you explain such success?
CertClean is a better solution than what is out there, and it solves a big problem for both brands and consumers.
Sometimes I forget how tough life was when I started CertClean; my brother was battling stage 4 brain cancer. With the little energy and time I had to spend on CertClean, I was laser focused on one thing: creating the certification and getting brands certified. I didn’t spend time on social media, blog posts, creating a sales funnel, etc. I outsourced what I could and only focused on getting the early adopters on board.
More than 1000 beauty and personal care products are certified by CertClean certification program, what are the process for a makeup or personal care brand to get CertClean seal of approval?
Products must comply with our Standards, meaning that the products must not contain any of the 1400 prohibited chemicals on our list which consists of carcinogens, neurotoxins and reproductive toxins. Once we have determined that their product is eligible for the certification, the brands must continue to demonstrate compliance – for example, if they reformulate, the new product must undergo evaluation again.
In your personal beauty regimen, as a consumer yourself, were you always concerned about what kind of chemicals were used to make your favorite beauty products?
Growing up with severe peanut allergies and eczema, label reading was a part of my identity! So yes, I have always been concerned with the chemicals used in my personal care products.
What beauty brand and product you would recommend to our readers?
Our bodies all have very different need so, there aren’t brands or products that would work for everyone. This is precisely why CertClean is building a new platform – imagine something like Trip Advisor exclusively for nontoxic beauty products. This way, you can look through reviews and find the ideal product for yourself! See more info here: igg.me/at/certclean
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
My start-up experience is probably different than most. For most of the journey, my brother was battling Stage 4 brain cancer so it was easy to put him first. I spent as much time as I could with him. I knew that I was potentially compromising CertClean’s growth but it was an informed and clear choice. He passed away last year, and I have no regrets on how I divided my time and energy.
Family comes first.
What would you say, is the most rewarding part since you’ve started CertClean?
Seeing that we’re making the world a healthier place! When brands are reformulating to comply to our Standards! When women are telling us that they’re now going to buy only products certified by CertClean! Seeing these changes are really rewarding!
In your opinion, what is the most significant barrier to women’s leadership in 2016?
One of the biggest challenge is that the differences between men and women are not fully understood.
For example: what skills are needed for a man to lead 10 women? For a woman to lead 10 women? For a woman to lead 10 men? For one to lead a dives team? How are the dynamics different? If we do not understand the dynamics and differences, how can we equip our leaders – men AND women – with skills to effectively nurture their teams?
What advice would you give to like-minded entrepreneurs, who are just starting out in the industry?
I’ve got two!
Make sure you’re focused on solving a problem and not figuring out how your idea can solve a problem
Find your tribe – surround yourself with people who make you better personally, professionally, spiritually and beyond.
Your motto is: “Fail fast, learn faster”. Can you share with our readers the meaning behind it?
In the start-up world, speed of delivery is a competitive advantage that should be leveraged every day. My motto reminds me that the best way to figure out if an approach works is to just do it!
Before we conclude, can you explain to us what CertClean’s Indiegogo campaign is about?
We want to get clean beauty boxes in the hands of consumers! The proceeds from each box will fund the development of CertClean’s new initiative- imagine a site like Trip Advisor exclusively for nontoxic beauty. So for those who support CertClean’s mission, please get a box for yourself and family: igg.me/at/certclean
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