Clean In Every Way: Interview With Sacha Dunn, Founder Of Common Good
Meet Sacha Dunn, Founder Of Common Good
Sacha Dunn is an Australian living in Brooklyn. Business owner and mother, when failing to find the safe and environmentally responsible products she desired for her own children, Sacha went to work and created them herself. On a mission to reduce plastic packaging, Common Good combines the clean minimalist aesthetic of Australia with safe and gentle ingredients in its line of beautiful plant-based cleaning products. This is Sacha’s story.
As a parent you were originally motivated by keeping only the cleanest products around your children – something I can absolutely relate to! Tell us a bit about your story. How did you move from stylist to entrepreneur, parent to production?
The first 15 years or so of my career I worked as a stylist and trend forecaster for various brands and print publications, originally in Australia, but then I continued on that path when we moved to New York. Something shifted after we had two kids and saw the sheer amount of single-use plastic we used every day on laundry alone, and there was no company making refillable soaps and cleaners that were also truly safe for the environment and our children. We saw this gap in the market and decided to make our own that would also have a fresh, clean, minimalist aesthetic that we had brought over from Australia. Everything on the supermarket shelves at the time was darker, or neon colored with busy packaging. As a stylist, I wanted to make a product that was eco-friendly AND actually looked good on the counter-top, that didn’t need to be hidden away under the sink.
We (my husband Edmund and I) designed the packaging ourselves, and then teamed up with a green chemist who could help us work on the plant-based formulations, and Common Good was born in 2011. It was a full-time job from day 1, learning how to manufacture a green product from scratch and slowly build a business. It was only six years ago that I was pumping soap out of my kitchen in between dropping the kids at school and hand delivering the products myself to local Brooklyn businesses. You can’t take the stylist out of the girl though, give me a photo shoot and I will be ON that set-up like a hawk!
I love a good building-my-business-out-of-the-basement kind of story. Originally from Australia, you now live in Brooklyn with your small family. Can you shed some light on international trends? In what ways are social and environmental business practices and consumer expectations different in Australia than in the USA?
The visual trends for consumer products in Australia, and even the UK, tends to lean towards the lighter, brighter, fresher, more minimalist and clean. US is now catching up on this design style, what we now see in the ‘Californian aesthetic’. Also, smaller brands are challenging the bigger corporations on quality and design and consumers are responding – they want to purchase from brands that have a social or an environmental mission.
Tell us more about the product. The cleaning industry is notoriously dirty – products are filled with chemicals and packages create excessive waste. In what ways is Common Good doing things differently?
Our products are plant-based, made from renewable resources and don’t contain sulfates, phthalates or hidden chemicals. They are readily biodegradable and safe for sensitive skin. We only use pure essential oils such a lavender and bergamot, so there are absolutely no synthetic fragrances. Our products are also Leaping Bunny certified against animal cruelty. Our mission is to reduce single-use materials in households, so we greatly encourage our customers to use our refill programs. We have over 100 refill stations worldwide at various retailers, where people can bring back their bottles and refill their products, rather than buying new bottles. We are always excited to have more shops involved in our refill mission, and we encourage customers to reach out to us with their local businesses that might be interested.
As a mother of two, how are the values you’ve built into your business reflected in other areas of your life?
It actually happened the other way around. I wanted the values that I had at home in the products I bought. I wanted green, safe, refillable products for my family, my pets and for the environment, and when I couldn’t find them, I built a business that reflected these core values.
Balancing motherhood and entrepreneurship has made me better at both. Patience is the key. I didn’t have the patience to run a business when I was younger. Also motherhood helped me on the multi-tasking and prioritizing front. I also don’t think I was confident enough to negotiate contracts before I had kids. But after negotiating with two children for eleven years, I’m an expert negotiator. Nothing phases me!
Your team is working hard to disrupt a huge industry by getting back to the basics. What have been the largest hurdles you’ve faced in building Common Good? And in what ways do you see the industry evolving?
The largest hurdle is managing the cost of growth. We could be growing much faster but it’s expensive. So we have to be selective with who we sell to. We’re planning to speed things up this year and get refillable products to far more people across the country. The cleaning industry is slowly moving towards more sustainable ingredients, but there’s still a long way to go.