EarthKind, a company providing plant based naturally designed products that work, was started from nothing more than a 99 cent package of garden seeds and a dream.
“Living at poverty level, I never dreamed that I could make a difference,” says CEO and founder, Kari Warberg Block. “But my drive to create change truly amplified when not one company I called believed that people wanted both effective and safepest control products.”
It turns out they did, especially with the threat of ZIKA, West Nile virus, Dengue, and Lyme Disease. We spoke with Kari to find out more about her mission and how she turned EarthKind into such a success.
You started EarthKind at your kitchen table. What pushed you to embark on such a journey?
I’ve always been driven to make a difference in the world, dreaming of living on a planet where all life coexists in harmony. Living on a farm was as close to paradise as it got for me. Still, there were ungodly amounts of weeds and pest issues there – especially with mice.
Unfortunately, I discovered that 98% of all pest control products sold were toxic poisons. I knew that, surely, there had to be a safer, kinder, and yet still powerfully effective alternative out there – turns out there was, I just had to create it!
My initial thought was to make the pests want to stay away- meaning no messy traps, or dead body clean up, or risk to kids, pets, and the environment. I realized this live and let live approach wouldn’t be well received in the male-dominated, chemical-and-kill based pest control industry – and it wasn’t. Yet, I yearned to manifest real change- for moms like me - no matter how long it took.
Why are pest control ingredients like Deet harmful?
It should be noted that the CDC classifies DEET as safe to use on skin. However, there are various known effects of DEET, such as its ability melt through plastic and some synthetic materials, that are definitely raising some concerns.
Recent studies have shown that when DEET is sprayed onto the skin, up to 56% of it will be absorbed into the skin, and about 17% will be absorbed into the bloodstream. Studies have also shown that DEET can cross the placenta and enter into the bloodstream of a fetus. In addition to this, DEET is considered by the EPA to be highly toxic when inhaled, absorbed and swallowed, and to be toxic to fish, insects and birds. DEET also acts an environmental contaminant. There are reported skin irritation cases in relation to DEET, and it also emits a strong odor.
What makes EarthKind “Stay Away Mosquitos” safe, even for kids 2 and older and pregnant women?
Picaridin, the active ingredient in Stay Away Mosquitoes is a natural chemical that is bio-identical to a long black pepper plant. It is proven to be just as effective as DEET, and is recommended by both the CDC and EWG (Environmental Works Group) as being a safe alternative to DEET. It’s also been tested by consumer reports, and found to be a winner. In comparison, Picaridin does not dissolve plastics and synthetic materials, is biodegradable and is considered by the EPA to be practically non-toxic when inhaled, and have a low toxicity risk when ingested.
This year you were recognized as an outstanding women entrepreneur by Enterprising Women Magazine. What tips do you have for other women entrepreneurs like yourself?
I believe the first, and arguably the most important, tip is to find and continue to live in your purpose. We all have to unearth our unique purpose to begin to discover our true potential, and in the business world, discovering that is the key to success. Nothing goes without hard work, fearlessness, determination and unwavering confidence – and having a purpose-driven mission is what ignites these driving forces into fruition, and balances them with compassion to attract the right team and investors.
Next, don’t let industry status quo deter you from what you want to create in the world. Use that as fuel to get you through the painful moments that entrepreneurs face while shifting the energy and markets around established habits and outdated norms. There really is no easy way to build a new road. At least not that I’ve found.
Thirdly, network! I’ve always made it a priority to go to women’s industry events and all relevant trade shows that I can. I can truly say that it is these opportunities that have allowed me to not only get the word out about EarthKind, but to also interact with and learn from other successful female entrepreneurs in these great networks.