Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

Eco Mom Entrepreneur is Founder of ECOlunchbox: Healthy for People and Planet

Eco Mom Entrepreneur is Founder of ECOlunchbox: Healthy for People and PlanetWhy did you start ECOlunchbox?

What’s for lunch? You hope it’s not plastic, lead, vinyl fumes or anything else that’s leaching toxins to people and our planet. As for the delicious, nutritious lunches you pack, they should fill up your tummy – not the garbage can.

Yet so often these days we can’t be sure our lunchboxes are non-toxic and waste-free.

I started ECOlunchbox to make available an eco-friendly lunchbox solution for families seeking to reduce their exposure to leachy plastics and cut down on the amount of trash they generate at lunchtime. What I came up with was a back-to-basics lunchware product line hewn from traditional reusable materials: stainless steel bento boxes and artisan cotton lunchbags & accessories.

The ECOlunchbox line is completely free of waste and saves families hundreds of dollars.

Eco Mom Entrepreneur is Founder of ECOlunchbox: Healthy for People and Planet

Sandra Ann Harris

ECOlunchbox has bootstrapped its launch and organically grown into an international brand with very limited start-up resources. Sandra Ann Harris founded ECOlunchbox in 2009 and has little by little grown the company from her kitchen table.

Our products are showing strong sales at Whole Foods Markets, The Container Store and hundreds of independent natural grocery stores and boutiques nationwide. Internationally we have growing demand through our distributors inCanada ,Australia and Denmark.

Do you have advice for entrepreneurs?

If you’re looking to make an easy buck, I wouldn’t recommend entrepreneurship as the best approach. There’s nothing practical about being a social entrepreneur.

However, I was passionate about helping families make change at lunchtime and I committed to launching ECOlunchbox to provide healthier solutions. It’s my commitment to the ECOlunchbox vision of helping families reduce their dependence on plastics for health and environmental reasons that has carried the business forward.

An estimated 38 percent of students in the United Statespack a lunch each day, according to data from the U.S. Census and the lunch program. That’s 19.1 million students packing a lunch 180 school days each year, resulting in 18 billion pieces of trash discarded at our schools nationwide each year!

Everyday a mountain of trash is thrown away at lunchtime, creating environmental problems, health hazards and wasting hundreds of dollars for every family packing a lunch.

School trash cans nationwide are overflowing! Plastic water bottles. Granola bar plastic packaging. Plastic chip baggies. Plasticized cardboard juice boxes. Cheese stick plastic wrappers. Paper napkins. Plastic yogurt cups. Brown bags. Plastic utensils. Plastic Ziploc baggies.

Additionally, scientific studies have shown us that using leachy plastic throw-aways in food packaging has negative health consequences. A study published in the July 2011 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives found that hundreds of types of plastics leach hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as BPA (bisphenol-A) and Phthalates. Hormone disrupters have been linked to obesity, neurodevelopmental impacts, early puberty, diabetes and cancer in humans.

And lastly, families are wasting a lot of money buying these throw-aways. Our nation’s 19.1 million school-age students typically each spend about $183 annually on throw-away packaging, such as plastic baggies, yogurt cups, juice boxes, paper napkins, water bottles, plastic utensils, and chip bags, according to a study by ECOlunchbox.

Eco Mom Entrepreneur is Founder of ECOlunchbox: Healthy for People and PlanetLunch facts like these get me fired up! I believe change can start at lunchtime by empowering families with our stainless steel lunchboxes, artisan cotton lunchbags, cotton napkins and reusable snack containers.

I would strongly advise would-be entrepreneurs that passion and commitment are the cornerstones of entrepreneurial success. Passion is gas in the engine of a start-up company. You can’t power your vision without passion!

I would advise all entrepreneurs to first DREAM! Next, BELIEVE in yourself and know that you can succeed with commitment. Then, get real: do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis and listen to what the data shows. (The U.S. Small Business Administration has some great templates for business planning available free for download!)

Once you launch your venture, you will find strength to persist as you “dream,” “believe” and reflect on your “SWOT” analysis.

Do you have any tips or tricks for bootstrapping entrepreneurs?

What cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?

Keep your overhead as low as possible for as long as possible so you can re-invest the savings in the growth of your business. This is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to keep ECOlunchboxes a virtual company and use cloud computing services and outsourcing (Third Party Logistics Services).

I like to keep our company light on its feet and as scalable as possible, especially since our product is seasonal and we have big spikes in demand in during back-to-school lunchbox season.

Keeping your business at home for as long as possible is a great way to keep overhead down.

I would recommend that entrepreneurs set up their business from inception with cloud computing so that the founder as well as employees can work from remote locations seamlessly. Don’t tie your business to a physical location if you can help it. Using a virtual phone service like Grasshopper is an inexpensive way to set up a corporate answering system and have calls forwarded your cell phone. The system sends voicemails and faxes directly to you via email.

Also handy is setting up Vedivi VPN services so that you can access your desktop remotely. Using Vedivi we have total access to our networked desktop computers as well as our Quick Books accounting software. Our bookkeeper can work off location.

In terms of payroll services and worker’s compensation insurance, I would recommend hiring a payroll company, like Paychex or Wells Fargo Payroll, to handle these administrative functions and keep track of taxes and premium owed.

And finally, free cloud computing through Google Docs and Drop Box are invaluable for file storage that’s easily accessible to a small team working in disparate locations. “Free” is my favorite four letter word!

Have you segmented your market and how?


The target market for ECOlunchbox is what we refer to as the ‘deep green’ consumer. This segment is more commonly known as the LOHAS (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability) consumer population. We have over 3,000 LOHAS consumer in our ECOlunchbox Facebook community (also free!) where we share green living tips every day?

ECOlunchboxes is part of the green and healthy product industry. Green and healthy products account for more than $400 billion annually (Business Journal). The demand of green products is on the rise and the green merchandising industry is booming.

Green and sustainable merchandise has been gaining momentum for the past several years. Retailers are offering a vast assortment of green and sustainable products and beyond.

Eco Mom Entrepreneur is Founder of ECOlunchbox: Healthy for People and PlanetI would strongly recommend that entrepreneurs carefully target a nice market. Who are you selling to – exactly? Don’t try to be all things to all people. The “peanut gallery” of supportive friends and family will often suggest throwing a wider net and diversifying your concept to see what will float.

I think it’s better to stay focused with your original concept – to test it in the marketplace to see if you can win traction. If not, then pivot. But trying to push forward to many initiatives at one time can dilute branding and strain a start-up’s meager human and financial resources.

Please join our Facebook and Twitter communities for deals, meal ideas and eco living inspiration!

Check out the new video we’ve made telling why I founded ECOlunchbox!:



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