Model behaviors and actions that show you care and that small actions taken consistently matter. I grew up in a household where my father rode his bike to work, always, in all weather for his health and to reduce our carbon/fossil fuel footprint. When my brother or I complained about the house being cold in the winter we were met with “put on a sweater.”
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Stahl and Petra Nemcova.
Stephanie Stahl and Petra Nemcova are the co-founders of Ace of Air, the only beauty and wellness brand created to redefine clean beauty with fully integrated skincare & supplements and zero waste clean packaging. Stephanie, a seasoned beauty executive and former Revlon C-Suite member, and Petra, supermodel and catalyst for conscious, sustainable & vegan living, founded Ace of Air alongside David Knowlton, their friend and founder of merchant banking firm Three Ocean Partners, to be entirely circular and fully zero-waste, taking responsibility for the complete lifecycle of their refilled packaging — with everything the brand does designed to help both our planet and our people thrive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Stephanie: For more than 30 years, I have worked in the consumer goods and beauty industry, including as CMO at Revlon and Coach. My very first assignment at The Boston Consulting Group included evaluating the level of effectiveness of plastic and paper recycling. (The conclusion: very low.) Fast forward 30 years and you’ll see that very little has changed. Sadly, I know firsthand that consumerism and prevailing brand and retail practices are fueling excess waste. I feel deeply disappointed (and personally accountable) for single-use plastic consumption given what we now know, and want to make a difference.
Petra: I’ve had a career in fashion for more than 20 years and sadly learned firsthand the harm that has and is still being done to both people and our planet. Mostly unconsciously, but consciously too. As such, I’ve dedicated my life to catalyzing conscious and sustainable consumer options, which is why I co-founded Ace of Air to provide consumers with a no waste option for skincare and supplements that leave a positive impact on our planet.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
We are consuming more than our planet can provide, and we are creating more waste than our planet can withstand. Every industry needs to find solutions and we wanted to find the solution for the beauty and wellness sector. We did this not because we thought the world needed another beauty and wellness brand (it doesn’t), we did this because the planet needs a beauty and wellness brand that fundamentally changes what and how we consume. We started Ace of air to deliver premium results without the prestige industry footprint.
We aspire to be the Tesla of the beauty and wellness industry by creating a successful business with coveted products that make a meaningfully positive impact on our planet, and catalyze the industry to take similar significant actions. Our overall mission is to elevate people and the planet by helping our customers look better, feel better and do better. The way we are doing this is through our ‘buy the product, borrow the package’ model, which will be a true industry game changer and will be a driving force for positive change.
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?
We are the first 100% circular beauty and wellness brand out there, which means that we create valuable, resuased packaging that works to eliminate waste. Period. We work to deliver premium brand results without the premium beauty industry environmental footprint or price tag. In addition, we are redefining clean beauty by integrating clean supplements and zero-waste clean packaging.
We are able to follow a fully circular model by tracking our packaging, supply chain, and also by paying a lot of attention to our ingredient sourcing. Ace of Air has numerous certifications, one being the B Corp Certification, which really holds us accountable, as well as the Leaping Bunny Certification.
The beauty industry is making a lot of promises such as products being recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. We prefer actions to adjectives, which is why we have adopted a 100% circular model where we reuse and refill our packaging. We are choosing not to leave packaging disposal to consumers and local municipalities (who are struggling to handle all the waste) and take responsibility for all the packaging with our ‘buy the product, borrow the package’ model. We know what consumers ultimately want are the products. Consumers want great skincare and supplement products. We don’t need to own packaging; we can share and reuse. Our model is getting what you want — the product — and providing a planet-friendly solution to our packaging problem. Our packaging is designed to be reused over 100+ times.
We are responsible for the full life cycle of the packaging. We have designed our packaging from the start with an eye not only for its 100+ reused life, but also its fully recycled end of life. We have also designed out any and all unnecessary packaging, while still delivering the premium experience consumers expect. Reduce, reuse, recycle. With the help of our customers, we will put an end to single use packaging — manufacturing less, reusing more and recycling the right way when it’s time to retire a package. We have spent the majority of our time and efforts on the two most powerful R’s: reduce and reuse. We have designed out all secondary packaging. When a piece of Ace of Air packaging needs to be retired, Ace of Air will recycle it in a responsible way to ensure our products are being recycled properly.
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?
Converting your facility’s energy source to solar is a great example of improving your economics while becoming more environmentally sustainable. The payback on your upfront investment is financially compelling, plus you get the environmental returns too.
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.
- Spend time in nature with your children. An early love of and appreciation for nature creates the foundation for caring for nature and planet.
- Model behaviors and actions that show you care and that small actions taken consistently matter. I grew up in a household where my father rode his bike to work, always, in all weather for his health and to reduce our carbon/fossil fuel footprint. When my brother or I complained about the house being cold in the winter we were met with “put on a sweater.”
- Take your children on a tour of your local recycling center. They will see, and hear from the tour guide, what recycling is able to contribute and where it continues to struggle.
- Learn about and talk about what’s happening around the world to move the environmental protections forward: from Greta’s school strike to the recent cancellation of the Keystone XL project to China’s significant investments in eco-infrastructure.
- Ask your children for their ideas on how to make your household more eco-positive and work together to make them happen.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- After enough of it — and there will be plenty — you’re going to find rejection a breeze. It’s the relentless skepticism you have to be careful about — being able to internalize valuable feedback while protecting yourself, and your concept, from those who may just not get it. Listen hardest to those who do get it, even if just a little.
- This will be the most challenging and rewarding thing you’ve ever done. Enjoy the adventure.
- People, people, people. Surround yourself with the very best. Be relentless on this.
- Perhaps try not to launch a new business during a pandemic.
- Do your best. That is all you can do, and it’s a lot.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you both are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Stephanie: From my first memories, I remember my mother saying to me and my brother, “The world is your oyster,” and “You can go to the moon.” She was the most optimistic, joyful, can-do, will-do person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and her loving support was priceless.
You are people of great influence and are 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. 🙂
Dream big and listen hard. If you’re talking, you’re not listening.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Stephanie: Help Thanks Wow from the book of the same name by Anne Lamott. Every day I reflect on where I need help, and who I can help. I think about who and what I am grateful for. And find moments of wonder and joy for what is.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?