“An all-natural deodorant fit with our goals of wanting to one day start our own business.”
~Jessica Edelstein | co-owner of PiperWai
Jessica Edelstein and Sarah Ribner have been in business together since their first lemonade stand as children. From there, the pair was constantly trying to invent new ideas.
“We were always gluing different toys together trying to make something,” Edelstein said.
In September 2015, the Philadelphia natives pitched their company PiperWai, an all-natural deodorant made from charcoal, to potential investors on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” The show offers budding entrepreneurs the chance to strike a deal with big-name business people to provide financial support. The episode featuring PiperWai aired in December 2015.
The University of Pittsburgh alumni first came up with the idea of a natural deodorant thanks to Ribner’s love of all-natural cosmetic products. The pair realized there was a large gap in the market for such a product.
“An all-natural deodorant fit in with our goals of wanting to one day start our own business,” Edelstein said. “We have always wanted to have a million-dollar idea.”
Though Edelstein wasn’t as familiar with natural products, she immediately began testing different formulas. When they came up with a final formula, Ribner tested it out herself while on a service trip in South America.
“I was amazed at how effective the product worked,” she said.
The special ingredient turned out to be charcoal—which rubs in clear and doesn’t discolor clothing like normal stick deodorant, according to a statement on the website. They began packaging at Greensgrow at 2503 E. Firth St. in Kensington, making 300 at a time using pastry bags.
“Charcoal can absorb a thousand times its own moisture because of its large surface area,” Edelstein said. “We did a lot of research before adding the ingredient to the formula.”
Edelstein and Ribner applied for “Shark Tank” on a whim, but once they heard back from a casting director, everything became a little more real for the businesswomen.
“We flew to LA in September, but nothing was guaranteed,” Edelstein said. “We didn’t know if we were even going to get to pitch in front of the sharks until the day of filming.”
Before flying out, the women did their research on each of the investors on “Shark Tank.” They were looking for an investment of $50,000 for 10 percent equity of the company.
“Pitching in front of the five investors felt less intimidating and more like a conversation,” Edelstein said.
After 35 minutes of pitching and questions they received two offers from Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner. In the end, Edelstein and Ribner made a final deal of $50,000 for 25 percent equity with Corcoran.
Since the investment, sales have increased from $110,000 to more than $1 million. They also moved production from Greensgrow to Powerline Packaging in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, where production of the deodorant is quicker and much easier.
PiperWai has become a full-time job for Edelstein and Ribner. Recently, the pair met with Corcoran at her New York City office to discuss the business.
“Barbara was impressed by how we were doing in sales,” Edelstein said. “She invested in us because of our passion and drive.”
PiperWai plans on expanding its line to other all natural products for both women and men.
“This is the game changing invention we’ve been wanting to start since we were little kids,” Ribner said.
Madison Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.