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Meet the CEO: Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks

November 9th, 2021 by

This interview was originally published on Three Ships Beauty

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks joins us on the #HerHustle blog to share her leadership journey with us. She shares the importance of eco-friendly cleaning products for your health, and what she does to overcome moments of self-doubt and adversity.

Let’s dive in…

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND THE STORY OF ECOS?
I’m the President and CEO of ECOS, the maker of environmentally friendly laundry detergents and household cleaning products. I’m proud to sit at the helm of a company that is both environmentally and socially responsible. All four of our manufacturing facilities are carbon neutral, water neutral, and Platinum Zero Waste certified, and we recently announced that we’re now a Climate Positive manufacturer. As a woman of African American and Greek descent, I’m proud that we’ve created a culture of diversity and empowerment at ECOS; our leadership team is 58% female and 41% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color).

WHY ARE CLEAN PRODUCTS IMPORTANT TO OUR HEALTH?
On your wellness journey, you often think about organic foods and natural skincare products, but you don’t always think about the cleaning products in your home. Cleaning products play such a critical role in human health and planetary health; studies have clearly demonstrated that some many of the ingredients commonly used in conventional cleaners are linked to asthma, cancer, and nerve and organ damage. It’s critically important to green your cleaning to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OUR READERS ON HOW THEY CAN BE MORE CONSCIOUS ABOUT THEIR PURCHASING DECISIONS?
As you shop for cleaning products, you need to be aware that there’s no regulatory body overseeing safety in the cleaning products industry. Therefore, it’s important to look for the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice certification on the label. Our ECOS products bear this designation so you can easily see that they’re made with the greenest ingredients and that they perform well too.

Woman Bending Over With Laundry Basket & Bottle Of Ecos Lavender Laundry Detergent

WHAT WAS THE WORST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
The worst advice I’ve received is to be overly cautious or to “play it safe.” As entrepreneurs, leaders, and industry game-changers, we have to take risks, and we have to have a deep and abiding belief in our personal convictions to truly be successful in the marketplace. Those people who tell you to back away from opportunities often minimize the impact you can have on the world. I think that we need to encourage more strength, bravery, and courage in leadership.

WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
Success means leading a healthy, happy, purpose-filled life. It means being able to wake up in the morning and know that the actions I take during my day positively impact people, including my family, and our planet.

IN MOMENTS OF SELF-DOUBT OR ADVERSITY, HOW DO YOU BUILD YOURSELF BACK UP?
It’s important to take time to replenish, recover, and rebuild our strength, so during difficult times I’ll focus on what’s most important to me and make sure that I’m taking time to take care of myself and prioritize family time. These things can be really rejuvenating, especially if I feel my energy is diminished. Focusing on physical health, mental health, and spiritual health helps me more quickly reconnect to my mission and my purpose.

DO YOU HAVE ANY MORNING ROUTINES OR EVENING RITUALS TO HELP YOU STAY BALANCED?
Every morning I practice gratitude and the day’s intentions to set my mindset. I always start my day with a healthy breakfast, and I always try to end my day with a bath with Epsom salts as I listen to music and decompress. I have a sensitivity to histamines in my diet, and the hot water and Epsom salts help with reduce my symptoms from histamine intolerance and help me sleep.

WHAT TIPS OR ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE ASPIRING FOR       LEADERSHIP ROLES?
When I began my career, I was fortunate to have the support of some wonderful mentors, and that’s made all the difference in my success. Finding mentors, especially women who are experienced and who can give you support and guidance, is so important. Also, as John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to one another.” Continuous learning is critical for leadership, so keep learning and better yourself at every opportunity. That will help you create value for your organization outside the scope of your job title, which can lead to more leadership opportunities.

DO YOU HAVE A REGIMENTED SKINCARE ROUTINE? IF SO, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE PRODUCTS OR STEPS IN YOUR ROUTINE?
I am deeply committed to using natural skincare and clean beauty products. As the maker of a green cleaning product line, I understand that the skin is the largest organ of the body, and I want to make sure that I never use beauty or cleaning products that contain parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, etc. I’m currently using a mixture of Three Ships and Beautycounter products. In the morning, I start with Three Ships Purify Aloe + Amino Acid Cleanser and Beautycounter’s Nourish Cream Exfoliator. I follow this with Three Ships’ Calm Lavender Hydrosol Toner, and I love Three Ships’ Radiance Grape Stem Cell + Squalane Day Cream to hydrate my face and absorb UV radiation. At the end of the day, I use micellar water to remove makeup gently and apply Beautycounter’s Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream.

Supporting Cancer Research With Every Wash

September 28th, 2021 by

October is breast cancer awareness month. It also happens to be the month that we raise money for the American Cancer Society. When it comes to finding a partner, we always look for organizations who share our mission to help people live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. And there’s no better partner in that effort than the American Cancer Society; a group that works tirelessly to fund and drive research and fight cancer.

So how are we helping, you ask?  By donating $1 towards breast cancer research for every bottle of hypoallergenic laundry soap sold, up to $75,000. That way you can have loads of clean laundry, while doing loads of good. But first, a little more about breast cancer and our partnership…

How important is breast cancer research? 

Did you know 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime? That makes breast cancer one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among American women. And it’s not just a U.S. issue – according to the World Health Organization, breast cancer accounts for 12% of annual cancer cases worldwide. 

Now for the good news. Breast cancer fatalities have slowly decreased since 2013, likely thanks to treatment advances and early detection through screening. And with more research and more advances in this type of cancer, who knows how many lives can be bettered. After all, almost everyone has experienced a loved one going through breast cancer treatment, which means for every life saved, countless people’s lives are improved. 

But don’t just take it from us – the experts at the American Cancer Society have done plenty of research that can be read right here

 

Our Shared Mission To Live Cleaner 

We believe that what you bring into your home should be healthier, not harmful. That’s why our laundry detergents are made without dyes, optical brighteners, parabens, phosphates and 500+ other nasty ingredients we promise to never use (including all known carcinogens!). At ECOS, we are working to reduce your exposure to carcinogens and fund cancer research all at the same time. That makes doing your laundry pretty powerful, don’t you think?

 

You Buy 1, We Give $1 

This is where you come in. If you’re interested in donating towards breast cancer research, and reducing carcinogens in your own home, now’s the time to swap out your current detergent for a bottle of ECOS hypoallergenic laundry detergent. For every bottle you buy this month, $1 will be donated towards breast cancer research. So what do you say – ready to create a healthier home (and a healthier world) together? 

Take a look at our laundry detergents here or head to our store locator to find the closest bottle to you. 

Meet the Trailblazing Women of ECOS

March 11th, 2019 by

For over 40 years, people around the globe have come together to celebrate International Women’s Day, recognizing the strong, capable women who have led the fight for gender equality in both big and small ways. As a majority women-owned and women-led company, we strongly believe that our success owes a great deal to our powerful female leadership.

Our President and CEO, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, has broken barriers in the green cleaning industry, championing causes that empower women and cultivating a work environment where female voices not only matter, but are instrumental in keeping us true to our mission. In honor of International Women’s Day, we sat down with four women who work across our organization to learn about their career paths and how they are working to encourage the next generation of girls to build a greener world. 

Jenna Arkin, Vice President of Innovation

As VP of Innovation, Jenna is responsible for overseeing all things new. From improving our formulas, creating unique scents and designing novel packaging, Jenna’s unique eye helps keep ECOS fresh and fun.

 

What is it like working at a majority women-owned company?

What I love most about working at a women-owned company is the feeling that family is valued and cherished. We have many working moms in high level positions and this has created a wonderful community of people to relate to. Working moms really do juggle so many aspects of their lives and I am so inspired by the women working alongside me that handle it all with such seamless grace.

What professional barriers have you encountered as a woman and how have you been able to overcome them?

Starting out as a young female chemist at our company, I quickly learned that the chemical industry that comprised much of our supply chain was largely male, and typically much older. I used to have insecurities about how to hold my own in this environment, but I learned that hard work, dedication, and a heavy dose of creativity are more important than decades of experience. Green chemistry is a dynamic field, with the best ideas often coming from individuals who bring a fresh perspective. Once I learned to leverage my differences as an asset, I really started to grow professionally.

How do you serve as a role model to young girls in your circle of influence?

To borrow from Sheryl Sandberg, I think it’s just as important to chase a female role model that’s a few steps ahead of you as it is to ensure you’re holding the hand of the woman that’s a few steps behind you. I am passionate about girls’ science education and I developed a platform that teaches young children the basic principles of green chemistry. My hope is that this program instills excitement in their minds and shows them that chemistry is fun and being a scientist is cool.

As a mom to a sassy two year old daughter, I am careful about the example I am setting for her. I want her to be conscientious and kind, but also fearless and unapologetic. I do my best to model these traits so that she grows into a confident woman, ready to tackle whatever great tasks she undertakes in her life.

Gladys Beber, Chief Administrative Officer

Gladys keeps ECOS afloat. Detail-oriented and efficient, her work ensures that daily operations across our facilities run as smoothly as possible. Need answers to obscure questions? As a long-time company veteran, Gladys is our go-to.

 

What is it like working at a majority women-owned company? What makes it exciting/special?

For me, the best part is knowing that my words will be heard and that I will be respected and viewed as a professional by my colleagues.

What women in your life inspire you?

My mother. She is one of the hardest working immigrant woman I know. She started working a blue collar job without speaking a word of English. She worked in her field for 30 years, slowly learned English and rose through the ranks. Her hard work showed her managers what she could do and she retired as a leader in her group. She was driven by her desire to always put her children first. She and my father worked tirelessly to give us the opportunity to pursue better, more fulfilling careers. Seeing my professional accomplishments in light of her legacy is very humbling.

What makes you proud to be a woman?

I am happy to be a mom, a wife and a professional. It’s amazing to me that somehow I can juggle it all (some days better than others). I am proud to be my mother’s girl, to be an immigrant just like her and to be a testament to her own sacrifices and accomplishments.

Maggie Guevara, Purchasing Director

Spunky and funky, Maggie leads the procurement of sustainable, quality goods and services. Her supply chain and logistics knowledge make her a wonderful asset to the ECOS team.

 

What is it like working at a majority-women owned company?

It is refreshing and motivating at the same time. To see such strong women in leadership roles within the company reminds me how far we’ve come in this world. What makes it even more special and exciting is the work-life balance that I’ve come to enjoy while working here. I love that working in this company enables me to love and enjoy my life outside of it while still keeping me engaged and committed to doing my best in my role within the company.

What women in your life inspire you?

My mother has always been and continues to be an inspiration for me. She showed me that no obstacle, no matter how large it seems, should keep you from pursuing your dreams. All you need is to believe in yourself and work hard to make those dreams a reality.

What professional barriers have you encountered as a woman and how have you been able to overcome them?

In the earlier stages of my career the biggest barrier was not being taken seriously. However, demonstrating my knowledge and expertise on the spot proved to my colleagues and bosses that I was capable. It helped that I never focused on the barrier. I did not allow it to deter or sway me when confronted by it. I took this approach from all the lessons I learned from watching my mother through the years.

Taylor Nations, Product Development and Regulatory Affairs Manager

All of our certifications, from Safer Choice to Leaping Bunny and everything in between, are thanks to Taylor’s tenacity. As a trained chemist, she also works to develop innovative products that set ECOS apart.

 

What is it like working at a majority women-owned company?

It’s great to have strong, successful women to look up to. Seeing what so many women have accomplished in such a sort time constantly inspires me to push myself further.

What professional barriers have you encountered as a woman and how have you been able to overcome them?

Sometimes it’s very hard to be heard in a room. As a woman, it feels like you often have to talk twice as loud in order to be heard. It’s important to recognize this and yell louder rather than retreating.

How do you serve as a role model to young girls in your circle of influence?

I try to be authentic and lead by example. I think young girls need to be reminded that it is okay to be a nerd and it’s okay to do what you want even if it doesn’t please everyone around you. My best advice is to stop saying sorry for pursuing your dreams and voicing your views.

What makes you proud to be a woman?

All the fierce women around me fighting an uphill battle and still winning! It’s a pleasure to be part of that group.

Determined, encouraging and resilient, these women are only a few of the wonderful souls working to make a better tomorrow for people, pets and the planet.