I believe in a perfect world, the healthy choices we should make would be convenient and easy. Little changes make a big difference. When you clean your phone, you are making a healthy choice and taking responsibility for things you own. It’s not a massive change to how your live your life, but instead it is something simple you should do that is good for you.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessa Zapor-Gray.
Jessa Zapor-Gray is CEO and founder of uck-off, a brand of screen-safe alcohol-based cleaning wipes for the tech you touch. Zapor-Gray’s experience working in consumer electronics and the music industry for several years informed the concept for uck-off, as she came to realize the importance of everyday disposable cleaning wipes for our smartphones, tablets, computers, smartwatches and car touchscreens, often becoming petri dishes of bacteria and other germs. She found that these dirty devices were the culprit for continuous skincare ailments, such as breakouts, and most products she had tried either left streaks or worse, harmed the tech itself due to the use of harsh chemicals. The California-based brand was launched in 2020.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I previously worked in the consumer electronics industry before moving into the music industry a few years ago. Throughout this time, my phone has become an extension of myself. I started having problems with breakouts on the sides of my face and after speaking to my dermatologist I realized that my phone was likely the culprit. Like many people I was not cleaning my phone enough, so I began wiping down my phone frequently, and quickly found my breakouts had cleared.
However, I couldn’t find a product to clean with that I liked, so I decided to make my own. That product is uck-off, disposable cleaning wipes for the tech you touch. The wipes are biodegradable, and the cleaning formula is safe to use on tech screens. It has a low-moisture formula, so a single cloth will both wipe and polish screens without leaving wetness or streaks, which means you can use them anywhere without having to dry your phone after every use.
Keeping your phone clean is a healthy choice, so I wanted to make something that makes that choice easy to make.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The entire world shut down at exactly the same time as when I was preparing to release a product onto the market. A lot of things changed quickly and a lot of plans I had been making for months became obsolete overnight.
The takeaway is that you cannot predict what will be happening in the world. The best you can do is be forward-thinking and not be cynical.
Do good work, make a great product and always keep in touch with your reasons for doing what you do.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I didn’t push schedules hard enough. You have to always have your hand on the wheel. Someone has to be telling everyone where they are going and when you intend for them to get there.
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?
There is a cool cat named Joe Harley. He’s a vinyl record guy known as the Tone Poet at Blue Note Records. Joe gave me my first job in the consumer electronics industry where I learned about sourcing and product development.
He has also been an invaluable resource for my work in the music industry. Having someone to whom you can talk who is more established in an industry and who can say “oh yeah, that’s normal” is reassuring.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
I say this a lot, but I believe in a perfect world, the healthy choices we should make would be convenient and easy. Little changes make a big difference. When you clean your phone, you are making a healthy choice and taking responsibility for things you own. It’s not a massive change to how your live your life, but instead it is something simple you should do that is good for you. I developed uck-off because I wanted something better to clean my phone with and I want cleaning phones to be a normal part everyone’s daily routine.
Sustainability is not just about materials and resources; it is about our habits and routines. I think the idea of wellness has been commodified to make it seem exclusive to those who can afford fresh-pressed juices or yoga retreats. That’s not wellness, those are lifestyle choices.
Wellness consists of little choices we make each day to keep ourselves and those around us mentally and physically healthy. I do not want to make expensive products that are only useful to some people, I want to make things that are attainable and good for everyone. I want all uck-off products to be things everyone finds useful and can afford.
Wellness should not be a luxury for the few.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
We all need to clean our tech and eyewear! It’s good for your health and your skin, and you should take care of the things you own. Little actions are seeds to greater change.
Everyone should send birthday cards. In the mail. I started making a point to do this a few years ago and have been surprised to find that many people don’t receive any birthday wishes beyond social media or a call. People need to be told that they are special to someone, especially on their birthday.
Try to not eat within 6 hours of bedtime. I read somewhere that was good for sleep and have found it to be true for me.
Walk everyday while listening to music. Not while making calls, not with a podcast or audiobook, but with music. Make sure the walk is long. I’ve tried meditation and I am terrible at it, but a long walk with music is the closest I come to a meditative state.
Keep sunscreen next to the door, on your dresser, in your bathroom, your car, everywhere. Make sure you can see it. Remove your excuses for not wearing sunscreen. Wear sunscreen.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would put more weight behind the right to repair movement. Having more of our electronics be repairable rather than built for obsolescence would do incredible things for the environment and save people money.
More broadly I want to see changes in our consumer culture, and the right to repair is a big part of that. It allows the things we buy to become the things we own and take care of and keep. As consumers, the things we decide to purchase often play a part in defining who we are to ourselves. It’s similar to the Marie Kondo ‘spark joy’ thing. What are we bringing into our lives?
How can we make those choices more meaningful? The easiest things we can do is not buy things with a “good for now” mentality and instead take care of the things we have.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Learning to pick your battles is difficult, but it is also one of the truest paths to happiness.
if something makes you feel like shit, don’t do it, whether it’s drinking to working out too hard. Physical pain is not sustainable.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is an expensive waste of energy.
If you do it right, the project is never over.
Imposter syndrome is normal and healthy. It’s what you do with self-doubt that matters, not the fact that you have it.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability and environmental change.
I want the kids in my life to have a good world to grow up in. That should be something we are always thinking about — what are we doing for the next generation? How do our choices affect others?
We are meant to protect things that cannot protect or take care of themselves. When we make choices based on that ethos, we acknowledge our responsibility to everything around us, from people, to animals, to nature.
You can’t live a fulfilling life if you only focus on your own experience.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Via all of my socials for uck-off. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are all @uckoffclean.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!