A Founder’s Story by CEO of Thrive Natural Care, Alex McIntosh
Like many founders, I saw a gap in the market. A “product gap,” yes. But also a “business model gap.”
Because when I reached for the shelves in the personal care section, I couldn’t find men’s products that were effective and truly natural, AND made by a company that reflected my values in a powerful way. A company with a model that would encourage other businesses to aim a lot higher than we do today.
Was it too much to ask for? I believe we don’t demand enough of the brands we buy from. As consumers, we have all the power to take the lead in demanding that business be a force in solving today’s pressing global challenges. So I created a business that would give that power to its customers.
At Thrive Natural Care we help customers to look better and live healthier with truly natural men’s grooming products. And we do so with one of the coolest business models on the planet, connecting customers like me and my friends to something greater than the product itself. We call it a regenerative business.
We intentionally design and create products which grow our positive footprint the more we produce and the more we sell. It’s a move from ‘do no harm’ (sustainable) to ‘leave things better’ (restorative). We believe that if a small business like Thrive can do it, so can the big guys, whether its personal care or anything else. As we near Earth Day, it’s a great time to celebrate and share that.
Celebrating Earth Day and Walking the Talk Every Day
We’re celebrating Earth Day this year by further catalyzing the regenerative movement taking hold across the world. To do so, we’ve partnered with REGEN18 to donate all our company’s Earth Day 2018 revenue (not just profits, not just a percentage) in support of action towards a regenerative society.
These funds — whether they’re from Amazon, our website, or in our Whole Foods Market locations around the U.S. — will support REGEN18 scholarships for those who otherwise cannot afford to go, adding important voices to the powerful discussions and connections that will take place.
We also see Earth Day as an annual milestone to celebrate how we’re more than just “Earth Day environmentalists” — we try to walk the talk every day, and our business is thriving because of it — 40% growth in household income of our founding farmer partners, 10x growth in our harvest, 400% growth in sales — in the past year!
In 2018, we’ll continue to raise the bar for the personal care industry, not only with new products, but in the way they are designed and delivered. In the spirit of this year’s Earth Day, I want to share the story of how Thrive came to be. And most importantly, why it came to be.
In a Land Far Away, A Company Was Born
Was it possible to create a company which, from the ground up and at every level of its operations, made the things it touched a little bit better every day? Earth Day to Earth Day, the business model itself would be the engine that created a positive footprint. And the fuel for that engine? The purchases of inspired customers who not only want to live and look healthier, but also play a part in leaving the world better than they found it.
In 2010, after more than a decade leading sustainability initiatives at various organizations, I knew I needed to find out. I headed to Costa Rica, seeking inspiration in a country that had made some crazy bets on environmentalism. Bets that were paying off in a big way.
Friends from The Nature Conservancy (where I had worked for some years) introduced me to a network of similarly-minded individuals in Costa Rica to meet with upon arrival. So I did, and soaked up every conversation I could. Listening. Listening some more.
Myself and some of our team in Costa Rica.
Carbon neutral by 2021. Demilitarization. Nearly 300 days of grid energy powered solely by renewables. 98% literacy rates. A quarter of the landprotected as national reserves. The country isn’t perfect, but by any standard it was doing amazingly well. Investing in education and the flourishing of its natural assets was raising the bar for other countries to do the same. It inspired me.
If a business could do the same, would it also flourish? Would it challenge other businesses to rethink business-as-usual? That idea still had me hooked. It went beyond a model of resilience — bad stuff is going to happen, be prepared. And embraced a model of restoration — make good stuff happen, from Day One.
A regenerative business model, and the name Thrive Natural Care, was born. At least intellectually. Five years in, the vision has come to life. And as our business has grown, so has our positive footprint.
A Nagging Need on a Crowded Shelf
I had a hunch that Costa Ricans could teach me and the world of business something about thriving, about going beyond sustainable. So I deepened my roots in that country, setting up operations to create products I had always sought on the shelves but never quite found.
Some of our beautiful farmland in Costa Rica.
It takes a little bit of crazy to jump into any competitive industry. The shelf space of the personal care industry is a particularly tough battlefield. It takes even more crazy to create plant-based products with ingredients never used before (making sure they are more effective than synthetic alternatives). Add in a completely new kind of business model and the need to stay price competitive, and you’ve got a recipe for the most difficult task of your life.
You’ve also got a recipe which calls for great people. Luckily, I found those people. Or they found me. First in Costa Rica, then in San Francisco (now our office headquarters). That’s how I knew I had something. A good idea resonates both in the heart and the mind, and I’m incredibly proud of the team that took form around the idea that a business could help us leave the world better than we found it.
Reinventing the Way Business is Done
If you are following us, you know that our restorative business model is core to our values and at the heart of our ability to deliver high performance truly natural products. If this is your first window into Thrive, here’s a glimpse of what that model looks like:
Every Earth Day, we ask ourselves, how are we doing? How are we doing in building a profitable company? How are we doing in leaving things better than we found them? How are we doing in expressing why all this matters?
Put simply, I’m excited with how we’re doing. On a personal level, I love using our products. They’re what I was looking for and couldn’t find just five years ago. Healthy, effective, and truly world-changing.
Even better, our customers and the market at large has taken notice of our small but growing business that is setting an example for a way to go beyond sustainable. In addition to the 400% growth in sales and the impact milestones I mentioned earlier, this past year we were selected as one of seven small businesses out of two million sellers to participate in Amazon’s small business spotlight.
The idea that you can create a thriving business which creates a positive impact along the way isn’t just an experiment anymore. It’s becoming a new competitive standard. Thrive has just scratched the surface of our full regenerative vision. But we’re off to a great start.
Earth Day as a Milestone, And a Way of Life
I love being outdoors, especially on Earth Day. Wherever I am, I’ll go on a hike or a run and make time to participate in a clean up event of that same place. “Leave it better than I found it.” Earth Day is a good reminder for us personally to put intention into such things. To invest time and energy into leaving things better, as my team and I aim to do with Thrive every day with the products we make and the way we make them.
Money from all sales on Earth Day 2018 will go to supporting this event! Click the image to find out more about the gathering.
As individuals we can also ask, how can I leave things better than I found them? Not in a guilt kind of way, but to explore a more proactive mindset so we can create a future in which we all thrive. I think we fall short if we just leave things “no worse off for our kids and grandkids.” Better for them, and more inspiring for us, to leave things better.
With our company and our customers we strive to create that future together. Improving soil, people’s livelihoods, their communities — we’re leading the way for business to be the force that restores health and vitality to our world.
So I invite you to start plugging in. To find a niche and litter it with your positive footprints (like the individuals we’re highlighting on our Instagram!). And next Earth Day, let’s check in and celebrate how we’ve made things a bit better than they are today.