On March 1, 2014, PiperWai had our first order ever. To celebrate our fourth anniversary, the entire team headed back to the community kitchen where the business began.
During our three hours in the kitchen, we learned the process of creating the PiperWai jar and all the work that goes into it. Each person had an important role during the deodorant making, and everyone left with a new understanding of the company's roots, the product itself and how much work Jess and Sarah took on to create the company and grow it into the brand it is today.
Read each team member's unique experience in the kitchen, making the product they use every day.
"I vividly remember standing by the mixer four years ago, covered in deodorant, back sore from lifting heavy boxes, and dreaming out loud:
'One day, we'll have a factory making this stuff for us, and we'll have a real office that isn't a closet in my apartment, and we'll have a team of employees who are as passionate as we are about growing PiperWai into a major, internationally recognized brand and the hard work we're doing now will just be part of a really great humble beginnings story.'
Sarah and I chuckled and kept mixing and filling. We both felt deep down it would happen — we knew our product was special and it was only a matter of time before the world discovered it. But the dream felt so far-fetched and far away that admitting it out loud might jinx it and scare it away — statistically, most new businesses fail, after all.
I don't fully know how to describe this emotional, magical feeling of standing in that very spot, with my energy from years past, and closing my eyes to enjoy a moment of gratitude. Thanking the universe for helping me manifest a total dream come true. We did it. We totally did it! And we aren't even 30 yet. Grateful, fulfilled, empowered, etc. doesn't even begin scratch the surface of the feelings surrounding what we accomplished against all odds.
And that's why it was so important for us to bring our team back into the kitchen. To really get back to basics and show everybody what we built the brand on. They've all heard the stories ad nauseam — how we mixed in the middle of the night because we were bootstrapping and the kitchen rent was $10 cheaper after 8 p.m., and how much squeezing the deodorant into jars with a pastry piping bag made our hands cramp up, especially when we had to make 2,500 little samples by hand.
It's easy to get lost in the day-to-day minutiae of running a business when you get to a certain size. Really taking the time to remember our journey and what it took to even get here helps keep all of us humble and true to our roots.
This activity got me thinking a lot about how other things changed for us as a brand over the last four years. When we were small, I used to read every customer name out loud as I was packing up orders in my apartment to acknowledge them as people, not just numbers on a spreadsheet. I obviously can't do that anymore! It's completely wonderful for hundreds of thousands of new customers to discover PiperWai of course, but part of me misses that connection. Sarah and I started PiperWai as educated consumers in our own target market — we care about a lot of the same things our customers do. We always want every decision we make as a company to be in service to you, our customers, just like when we began. Fortunately, our dream team of incredible individuals agrees, so we strive for above and beyond as our default.
Thank you for giving PiperWai a try and for supporting our little deodorant startup that could, and did, and continues to do. I am so proud of what we built together."
"Several years ago, after months of researching how to incorporate wellness into my lifestyle, I learned about the trends, brands and research that would eventually shape the industry into what it is today. Late one night after work, I wandered into a panel about the lack of regulation in our skincare products, cleaning products and common household fixtures. (Thanks, Gilt City for the discounted ticket to the panel.) One of the speakers lamented about the lack of decent natural deodorants on the market – a common complaint I read about in blog posts and comments in the online green beauty community. It was one of many early signs that an effective, well-branded, completely nontoxic, natural deodorant would be the next disruptive personal care product. When I first suggested this to Jess, we instantly knew we could launch a company with the incredible handmade formula we were using. I figured if it worked for us, why not share it with the world! With nothing but a formula and a vision for our brand’s community, we put our strengths together to bootstrap our tiny artisan brand in a community kitchen rented by the hour.
Here we are five years later with almost a million customers worldwide and a kick-ass dream team, looking toward the next steps in our company’s evolution. Although handcrafting large batches in the kitchen for website orders, boutique retailers and sampling opportunities were often tedious and labor intensive, it felt satisfying to know we could craft a product with so much utility in everyday life. After experiencing the community kitchen alongside us, the PiperWai team has a new appreciation for our humble beginnings. We all had an amazing time getting creative with a product we sell everyday! That day’s experience was a short but sweet reminder to pay attention to clues and live guided a little more by instinct – you never know where your next idea will lead you!
Thanks for sharing in our journey!"
CASSI, CUSTOMER SERVICE:
"Heading back to the mixing bowl was an extremely enlightening experience. Seeing the process for making PiperWai, the care and attention to detail required, and being a small part of a ten-person machine responsible for the overall magic of whipping this stuff up brought a new appreciation for a product I already personally considered life-changing. This time, I got to see how much it really did change the lives of two hard-working, determined, patient and creative women. They started with just each other, making small-batch, handmade deodorant in a community kitchen to being an internationally recognized company that gives back to it's community whenever and wherever it can. Not only that, but PiperWai as a brand encourages and empowers that same motivation and determination in each of it's employees and customers, allowing each of us to be our authentic, interesting and passionate selves."
"Having the opportunity to see where Jess and Sarah created the first PiperWai jars was awesome! It was so fun to work together as a team, making and jarring the product from scratch. It's so important to understand humble beginnings, and being part of the crafting process has given me invaluable knowledge to transfer into my day-to-day role!"
JIYUH, LOGISTIC AND OPS:
"Back in 2014, I did a brief internship for PiperWai. I took a bus to Philadelphia to help Sarah and Jess fill 300+ jars at a local kitchen, which was the same kitchen the team went to for our four-year anniversary. The experience was total deja vu for me, and it also put into perspective how in four short years, PiperWai has grown exponentially — this time, there were nine of us. (Our tenth team member, Leslie, couldn't make it.) The best part of the day was spending time with my co-workers, who are so incredibly unique and different from one another but are able to come together to create such a special, supportive team (that also shares a love of '90s pop music). I'm proud to be part of this team of kick-ass women. After seeing the company go from just Sarah and Jess to a team of ten, I'm excited to see where the company is headed."
LINDA, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT:
"We need more deodorant making sessions that end with Little Baby’s Ice Cream! Last week’s four-year anniversary celebration and team-building event with the PW crew was definitely one for the books. Being able to see how it was made many moons ago at the Greensgrow Community Kitchen (where it all started) was such a great experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I loved getting my hands dirty and learning the process from Jess and Sarah."
LINDSAY, CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT:
"I am a terrible cook. Everyone knows this about me. So when we each had our own jobs to do in the kitchen, I was terrified of screwing something up. Luckily, I had my amazing PiperWai teammates to help me, filling my weaknesses in with their strengths and completely having my back. They gave me the easy jobs — melting coconut oil and washing dishes — and did the more involved processes themselves. (Which was also very helpful, because I was busy documenting the experience on our social media accounts.) At the end, I got to bring home a jar of deodorant that I helped make and one that I filled. It was especially cool to see all the ingredients laid out and putting them together to make the deodorant I use every day. It gives me much more insight into the brand and our beginnings."
KELSEY, SALES AND BIZ DEVELOPMENT:
"Not every day does someone get to be hands-deep in deodorant. I left this experience with a sense of pride, but also a huge amount of respect for the early kitchen days.
Just getting all the right ingredients together was a task in itself! Stalker status, I ran block to block and stopped at every USPS truck I saw, “Hey, I am looking for a package addressed to...” Yes, I work for a startup and this bootstrapped mission is fun for me! I also didn’t realize how filling deodorant was such a workout for your arms.
I truly believe that this ground-up experience was the best way to learn PiperWai’s history. Seeing, hearing, smelling: it was immersive. Quite an honor to be at the kitchen where this whole thing began."