“Let’s say we didn’t care about reducing plastic waste.” with Penny Bauder & Alicia Sharp

Let’s say we didn’t care about reducing plastic waste. If we wrapped our bars in plastic, we’d still need to put them in a box for several reasons ranging from appearance to making them easier to have on display on store shelves. Thankfully, plastic-free is our motto so by cutting plastic out of the equation […]

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Let’s say we didn’t care about reducing plastic waste. If we wrapped our bars in plastic, we’d still need to put them in a box for several reasons ranging from appearance to making them easier to have on display on store shelves. Thankfully, plastic-free is our motto so by cutting plastic out of the equation altogether, we’re immediately generating a better bottom line and reducing our carbon footprint.

As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Sharp — Founder of Upfront Cosmetics.

Alicia Sharp is the Founder of Upfront Cosmetics — makers of salon-quality shampoo and conditioner bars without the plastic waste. Their products are vegan, sulphate-free, paraben-free and Leaping Bunny certified. Alicia was inspired to start the company after the birth of her first son when she began looking for shampoo products that were safe to use on her baby. She couldn’t find any products that were sulphate-free, so she decided to do her research and create her own product. Today, Upfront Cosmetics ships shampoo bars to stores and customers across North America. You can learn more at

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

While it might sound cliche, I became an entrepreneur to solve a problem I was personally facing. I had just given birth to my first son and I was determined to find safer alternatives to common household products to use on him. Sure, there were “safer” brands, but many were still using harmful sulphates. And I couldn’t find any companies offering a sustainable, plastic-free alternative to shampoo and conditioner products. So I went on to create my own product and became the Founder of a sustainable, plastic-free haircare company. I have been on a personal mission to help keep our customers safe from harmful chemicals while protecting our environment from unnecessary waste since day one of my business.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

At Upfront Cosmetics, we take an active, unbiased, and curious approach to everything we do. We do the research, so you don’t have to, and we’ll always make the truth of our creations accessible for your discovery and understanding. We are committed to minimizing the needless waste associated with brand packaging. We respect our customers right to transparency and that’s why we make products with real ingredients that truly work.

The problems we are trying to solve are excessive single-use plastic waste and harmful ingredients in everyday products that families rely on. Our concern for health and beauty extends far beyond us to the very life source that supplies us with every ingredient. Our products contain no sulphates, no parabens, and no synthetic fragrance in an industry that is extremely under-regulated. We take pride in knowing where our every ingredient comes from — whether a plant, a mineral, a laboratory or some combination — and we pride ourselves on sourcing the best possible ingredients.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Addressing climate change and embracing sustainability is the driving force behind our business. Which means that nearly everything we do takes minimizing our ecological impact into consideration. That starts with our shampoo and conditioner bars. Each Upfront bar replaces up to 3 bottles of packaged alternatives, minimizing waste and ecological impact. We always ship your order plastic-free and in compostable mailers.

Lastly, giving back is very important to us. Our company is proud to be a part of the 1% for the Planet movement and we donate a portion of profits to various charities and not-for-profit organizations each month. We also plant one tree for every order received.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

It all begins with believing in your value proposition. If you believe in what you are doing and what you are creating and you have a value proposition that is sustainable, then your customers are going to show up. For example, we chose paper recyclable boxes for our bars to keep our business plastic-free, but at the end of the day — our solution for packaging is actually helping us be more profitable because we’re limiting the amount of packaging required.

Let’s say we didn’t care about reducing plastic waste. If we wrapped our bars in plastic, we’d still need to put them in a box for several reasons ranging from appearance to making them easier to have on display on store shelves. Thankfully, plastic-free is our motto so by cutting plastic out of the equation altogether, we’re immediately generating a better bottom line and reducing our carbon footprint.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

  1. As parents, we need to always be teaching our children about being eco-friendly. We regularly talk to our children about the environment and sustainability. We have long discussions about where plastic waste goes and why we don’t want to use plastic products. We’re big believers in being honest and upfront with our children.
  2. Show your children different alternatives and ways of doing things that are more sustainable. When we go to the store, we explain to our children that we don’t buy things that come in plastic bags. We take them to stores that sell in bulk so we can explain why bulk is better and why we bring our own bags for things.
  3. In the summer, beach trips become an opportunity to educate. We point out plastic waste on the beach and we encourage our children to pick up litter to be put in the trash bins. You don’t have to sugarcoat it. It’s OK to tell your children that some people make bad decisions and choose to litter. Use these opportunities to explain to children why they should do good and not litter.
  4. Teach your children about recycling. My children’s toy trucks are all recycling trucks. They love to tell people they meet about their trucks and how recycling works. Children are never too young to start learning about reduce, reuse, recycle.
  5. Lastly, teach your children where the food they eat comes from. In the summer, we plant a garden and use this as a teachable moment to show our children how to grow food and why it’s more sustainable if we grow it ourselves. Not only do we as a family get fresh veggies, but our children also love the shared responsibility of taking care of a garden and harvesting our bounty!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You will improve as you go. If we look back a year ago, our product packaging was so different and our displays? Some of those were non-existent. Just get started and improve as you go.
  2. Make sure that you actually know and understand your value proposition. Make sure it’s something that people care about. Businesses get so caught up in things they think people care about, make sure your customers really do care about your mission and values.
  3. Which brings me to my next point: do your customer research! Making sure that you have a product people actually want to buy.
  4. I know this one has been said a lot but hire slow and fire fast. If your spidey senses are tingling and something feels off with an employee, do something about it.
  5. Lastly, believe in yourself. And sometimes, this is the hardest advice to take. I still have moments where I don’t think we’re doing enough or making a big enough impact. I make sure to regularly remind myself of the work we’re doing, the difference we’re making and celebrate my wins. To be successful takes a lot of believing in ourselves.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have so much gratitude and appreciation for every single business mentor that I have had the opportunity to work with along the way. Mentors are invaluable for a business owner. The right ones just have this magical ability to see a vision and passion inside you that you didn’t even know existed.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see a global code of ethics or policy when it comes to transparency on what is found in household products but especially personal care and beauty products. The very items we’re using every single day on ourselves and our family. It’s so frustrating to see different rules and regulations in every country, with many countries being far more lenient about chemicals and harmful ingredients in best-selling products sold to the masses. We need to have better standards across the globe.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

“I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.” — Greta Thunberg

When it comes to sustainability, every small change makes a difference. We don’t need a handful of people doing it 100% right. We need EVERYONE doing the best they can to reduce their ecological footprint, making better decisions and choices in the products they buy and the businesses they support.

And as for me and my small business? It’s so easy to have those days where we feel small in the grand scheme of things, but I always try to remind myself that while we’re small, we’re mighty. And every day, we’re making a difference.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Upfront Cosmetics on Facebook:

Upfront Cosmetics on Instagram:

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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