As a farmer’s wife and mother of two, I began my journey as an unlikely disruptor, but upon discovering the alarming issues within the pest control market, I set out to challenge an industry that by its very nature is toxic. I discovered that 98% of pest control solutions on the market were poison & kill methods – so I invented a better solution: plant-based pest control powered by nature. As the CEO/Founder of EarthKind, I was the first to develop, manufacture, and commercialize poison-free rodent and insect repellents for farm and home use, while always leading with a mission to build a purpose led company to create change through business.
I was selected as an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneurial Winning Women,” and have gone from being a part of my local homemakers club to advising the SBA, Congress and the White House on policy that impacts women in business. My entrepreneurial journey has been featured in CNBC, the New York Times, Huffington Post and Forbes.
My name is Kari Warberg Block, CEO/Founder of EarthKind, and I am a fierce Mother Earth protector that, for the past 15-years, has made it my mission to challenge an industry that’s not only been poisoning pests, but by effect, poisoning our food-chain and environment, while compromising the safety of our families, pets and homes. I created EarthKind with a vision to create safe, plant-based pest control without the poisons and hazardous chemicals. I lead every day with kindness, ethics, determination and resilience, while redefining what it means to be a woman entrepreneur in a male-dominated space. As I continue to carry out my mission and search for new ways to innovate, improve and ensure the safety of product ingredients for consumers, I hope to inspire women as entrepreneurs and to further set the standard of kindness for our homes, our environment and our planet.
I’ve always wanted to make a real difference in not only mine and my children’s lives, but in the world in general. I was the wife of a farmer who was tired of living at poverty level and running into expensive rodent damage on my farm. My a-ha moment happened years ago when I discovered we had a terrible rodent issue, a mouse even ran up my leg! Upon discovering that the majority of available products were filled with highly toxic chemicals and poisons, I realized there was a pertinent need in the pest control industry for safe and effective products that did not include pesticides. I became determined to create natural pest control that was eco-friendly, effective and available to homes everywhere. So, with nothing more than a 99cent package of garden seeds and my new mission, I started EarthKind from the ground up in 2007, and built it into a $20 million-dollar company today.
Generally speaking, a lot of home/personal product brands – whether it be pest control products, cleaning products, even skincare products, have shifted toward being less reliant on poisons and hazardous chemicals. When I first started EarthKind, we were really the only plant-based, poison-free pest control option in the space. Now, there are a number of companies emerging with plant-based, eco-minded options, which means the poison-free platform is really taking off! In fact, since we’ve entered the market, there has been a decrease in consumer reliance on poison and kill pest control methods from 98% to 90%. With larger emergences into the natural space and changes in consumer purchasing trends – I expect this decrease to become more rapid in next few years. Our EarthKind goal is to cut this statistic down to 50% by 2025.
From the consumer demand perspective, I’ve seen a huge emergence of open-minded buyers wanting to both try and rely on natural options. There has certainly been a larger desire and higher level of importance placed on transparent labeling & supply chains, and consumers are more often buying from ethically-lead companies like ours who are giving back to our planet.
As I mentioned, when I first started EarthKind, 98% of pest control products sold were made of poisons. To me, not only was this extremely problematic, but this statistic also screamed opportunity. I wanted to create a brand that farmers, families, and homeowners could rely on and trust to be safe, natural and effective. I wanted to give power back to nature, and I wanted to protect our Earth. I yearned to start a movement that would shake up the industry by redefining what capitalism can look like when run by ethical, sustainably-minded CEOs, and to demonstrate that conscious, sustainable business model are just as powerful. Back in 2007, I knew this was the perfect moment to disrupt the male-dominated, chemical-and-kill based industry because that reality was not yet available for pest control users. I saw a promising opportunity to change a norm, and I had enough faith, determination and passion for my bio-innovative, plant-based products to start paving the way for effective, yet safe, alternatives.
A lot! We’re currently working on pairing with ACE Hardware to bring safe pest prevention into schools to improve the health and safety standards for students and teachers nationwide. I also just recently launched my “Mother Earth Pledge,” in which I expressed working to become a Zero Waste company, meaning achieving a carbon neutral manufacturing footprint, by 2021. Every Earth Day we will publicly update on our progress, we will be transparent and expect to be held accountable.
I think they would most enjoy the effective protection from pests without poisons, and without killing. All of EarthKind’s products have transparent ingredient labeling, another great aspect I think consumers are really searching for in their products, and are safe for use around children and pets when used as directed. All of the ingredients are listed on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list! I think they’ll love that our products are reliable, have diverse options, don’t poison or kill, and have a one of a kind blend of essential oils, which makes them smell amazing!
I believe the first, and arguably the most important, tip is to find and continue to live in your purpose. We all have to unearth our unique purpose to begin to discover our true potential, and in the business world, discovering that is the key to success. Nothing goes without hard work, fearlessness, and determination – and having a purpose-driven mission is what ignites these driving forces into fruition, and balances them with compassion to attract the right team and investors.
Next, don’t let industry status quo deter you from what you want to create in the world. Use that as fuel to get you through the painful moments that entrepreneurs face while shifting the energy and markets around established habits and outdated norms. There really is no easy way to build a new road. At least not that I’ve found.
My piece of advice is to become an expert in your field, and to be able to identify and understand the industry’s norms, its strengths, its trends, and most importantly, its flaws, inside out. Once you can do that, you’ll be able to make a standout business model that harps on strengthening the industry’s weaknesses, and by understanding the tides of the industry, you’ll know exactly when to strike. Networking, determination, patience and drive creates success – but a unique perspective, expertise and a groundbreaking platform disrupts an industry.
Thirdly, network! I’ve always made it a priority to go to women’s industry events and all relevant trade shows that I can. I can truly say that it is these opportunities that have allowed me to not only get the word out about EarthKind, but to also interact with and learn from other successful female entrepreneurs in these great networks.
Love life and live kind!
This motto helps me lead every day with purpose and optimism, and to work every day to achieve positive environmental and social change through acts of kindness and consciousness. I strongly believe in a company’s ability to continuously raise their sustainable bar, even when it means making tough business decisions, and this mindset sure does help with making this become a reality.