Sarah Ribner '16

Sarah Ribner
Job Title: 
Co-Founder and Vice President, PiperWai
Area of Interest: 

CHARCOAL: NOT JUST FOR GRILLING

PiperWai’s mission is straightforward — develop a growing brand of all natural skincare that supports a healthy lifestyle, starting with an effective, all-natural cream deodorant. When Sarah Ribner '16 and her co-founder Jess Edelstein launched PiperWai, there was a diverse selection of natural skincare products on the market, but deodorant options were few and far between. “I’ve always been into alternative personal care products,” Ribner recounts, “but deodorant was the one thing I couldn’t find.” Ribner’s co-founder had the same problem, and had been working on perfecting her own formula. The breakthrough came from an unlikely ingredient — charcoal, which, as Ribner explains, makes the perfect base ingredient for deodorant. “It is both effective and good for sensitive skin,” plus, she says, “it can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in moisture, it balances out the pH environment under your arms, and it’s less irritating than many other natural deodorants that use baking soda.”

PUTTING IN THE SWEAT EQUITY

The popularity of the product has grown quickly. PiperWai now has several thousand customers, but their success can be attributed to more than just an effective formula. Ribner and her fellow co-founder were involved in every aspect of the company from the beginning, an approach she feels contributed greatly to their progress thus far. “We wanted to get our hands dirty and get involved in every part of the process,” Ribner says. This involved everything from handcrafting the deodorant in small batches in an FDA-regulated community kitchen, to working with designers to create the packaging and website, and even setting up booths at artisan fairs to sell directly to the customer. “We really did put in the sweat equity — we constantly had to put ourselves out there, but through that process we met so many helpful contacts; it was also great for customer discovery,” Ribner adds.

BALANCING MORE THAN JUST pH LEVELS: SCHOOL AND STARTUP

PiperWai had already launched by the time Ribner started her first semester at CBS. While balancing both endeavors was been challenging, Ribner leveraged the experience and insights she gained in her classes to help her grow PiperWai. “From presenting in front of a class, to pitching in front of an investor, or speaking at a public event related to [the] industry, getting my MBA has provided a broad range of experiences, which has been very helpful for running a business” Ribner notes. “The second semester was especially helpful because I was able to take entrepreneurship classes and do independent studies focused around PiperWai.” Ribner took The Lean Launchpad and Launching New Ventures, along with Advertising and Managerial Negotiations classes, all of which have proven to be useful. “Launching New Ventures was incredibly helpful — not only did it put me in contact with investors, but also with great guest speakers, some of whom I am still in touch with today,” Ribner says.

Watch the video below to learn more about PiperWai: