Every major event in life creates the opportunity for innovators, and the pandemic was no different. I saw that people were hanging face masks on the car rearview mirrors and letting them bake in the sun — the perfect breeding ground for germs! Most people were not running them through the wash and needed to be aware of the impact that can cause plus a solution to resolve the issue. This is how Cavere was born — the pandemic created the need for an entirely new consumer category that had previously not existed.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interview Chris Winston.
Chris Winston is the founder and CEO of Cavere, a consumer products startup specializing in natural air and fabric care. The initial product launch for Cavere was a naturally derived face mask cleanser that pioneered a brand-new category made necessary by the COVID pandemic. Prior to Cavere, Chris held various operations roles in other CPG companies such as P&G, Clorox, and J.R. Watkins, and got his first taste of a startup at ThinOptics. He lives in the California Bay Area with his wife Jennifer & 3 children and enjoys going to Northcreek Church in Walnut Creek and ski trips up to Tahoe when not working.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
Despite working for Fortune 500 companies most of my life, I have always had an entrepreneurial bent. Right after joining P&G out of college, I started a small water ice business (think Italian Ice) with my roommate. While at Clorox, I also participated in companywide innovation contests — making the finals twice. I then worked in start-ups such as ThinOptics and PE-backed J.R. Watkins (which was run like a start-up from a resource standpoint). In every case, I only dipped my toe into the water of true entrepreneurial life until I left my job and a steady paycheck to start Cavere.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
Like most, I started working from home in March 2020, and this continued once I left J.R. Watkins to start Cavere. The biggest adjustment has been a good one for my puppy as he gets lots of walks and attention.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
Definitely travel. My wife and I were about to go on a France/Switzerland trip in April 2020. Needless to say, that was canceled. Additionally, our oldest son Jack is a Junior High School football player. California was one of the last states to allow the kids to play, and this finally happened in mid-March. He’s bummed that his season was thrown out of whack but thankful to be playing now.
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
I’d like to see a workplace that does not discriminate against remote employees. At Fortune 500 companies, I have observed remote employees at a disadvantage in terms of opportunities and promotions. In fact, I’ve had to move my family 5 times to follow career opportunities within one company because remote work was not allowed. Now that the pandemic has made remote work the norm, my hope is, when companies go back to the office, remote employees will be viewed the same as in-office employees, so that people can live where they want to live.
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
I think this has put us more on guard against future outbreaks. This could have been A LOT worse. Not trying to discount those who lost their lives nor their loved ones, but the fatality rate was relatively low compared to Polio and other diseases. My hope is that we will be more prepared the next time to ensure the next one isn’t as bad or worse.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
It was hard at first, as I had a short-term sprint mindset. Once it became apparent that this wasn’t a 2–3 week thing, I buckled down into more of a routine. Plus, we ensured our social bubble was large enough and got together often enough to not feel isolated.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
I trust in God and endeavor not complain about my circumstances. Everyone has had a lousy 2020. But for a lot of us, our problems have been first-world problems. Missing sports, not being able to go to a restaurant, having to use a different brand of toilet paper… I do miss the human interaction with others, but everyone else does too. So, I’ve looked at the brighter side of being able to launch a business while God has enabled me to support my family in the process. Plus, I’ve been able to see so much more of my family than I ever had commuting into the office!
OK, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Every major event in life creates the opportunity for innovators, and the pandemic was no different. I saw that people were hanging face masks on the car rearview mirrors and letting them bake in the sun — the perfect breeding ground for germs! Most people were not running them through the wash and needed to be aware of the impact that can cause plus a solution to resolve the issue. This is how Cavere was born — the pandemic created the need for an entirely new consumer category that had previously not existed.
- You work to live, not the other way around. When I started working from home, I realized I was working harder and longer than when I was commuting into the office. And what’s crazy is that even though I was in the room next to my wife, I saw her less than before?!! Finding the appropriate work/life balance is even more critical when you WFH. Of course, I’ve had more control to maintain this balance now that I am running my own gig.
- If there are cultural issues with your team, they will be exacerbated over Zoom. Body language and social cues will not be as obviously communicated when remote. The camera will not pick everything up and can be muted as well. You need a strong team culture to ensure remote success, and a poor culture only gets worse.
- You need to block out time to work and for self-care. I found myself in meetings for 10 hours straight, and it was impacting my mental and physical health. Again, much easier when you are doing your own thing, but working for someone is not an excuse to be unbalanced and will eventually catch up to you.
- Everyone has an opinion: masks are critical, masks are dumb and not effective; we need to isolate 100%, we need to get out and keep the economy moving… What I have found is that moderation is usually the right approach, however, it’s important to respect everyone and their POVs. If someone is afraid of the virus, that’s ok. If someone wants to lick a lamppost because they aren’t afraid of getting sick, that’s ok too. Let’s try to appreciate and respect each other rather than spreading hate by going out of our way to point out how their POV doesn’t make sense.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” — Gen 50:20. There were some difficult circumstances at my last company which led to my departure. A few individuals acted in a political manner to discredit me unjustly. And as much as I felt wronged at the time, I have seen the blessings that God provided by enabling me to start Cavere. I have no doubt that if not for those wrongs, I would not have taken the leap to go out on my own. I not only forgave those who have wronged me, but I am also grateful that it played out as it did. I wish my old company nothing but success and am very happy where I am now.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’m a big fan of Mark Cuban. He is so incredibly business savvy, but he also seems to care about those he works with. He was a big part of my first [small] stock market gain when I began investing. I purchased a few shares of Broadcast.com (which he started) prior to it being acquired by Yahoo. Unfortunately, I did not own enough to turn around and purchase an NBA team with the earnings. In fact, I believe I lost all of the profits shortly thereafter on eToys.com. Easy come, easy go!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please visit us at cavereproducts.com, like us on Facebook & IG @cavereproducts and follow us on LinkedIn @cavere. Our products are sold exclusively on Amazon for the time being, however, we are in the process of opening a DTC site over the summer.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.