Interview with the Founder of Serenade

Serenade is a new plastic-free, zero-waste online beauty retailer, which is an answer to our prayers! All our favorite sustainably packaged indies all in one place, who could ask for more? They stock some of our all-time favorite brands like Fat and the Moon and Sea Witch Botanicals. Giulia and I have both made many switches to zero waste alternatives like the Hello Cup and Ritology Razors, and we’re always down to discover more zero-waste indies. We had the opportunity to ask Serenade’s founder Maya questions about her journey starting a company that focuses on sustainability.

Body Butter
Yay For Earth Sensitive Skin Face Lotion
Your website says that it’s a zero-waste retailer. Does this mean that every product Serenade stocks is 100% zero-waste? Do you make any exceptions?

Our definition of zero-waste is products that are packaged in 100% recyclable or biodegradable materials. Although we recognize the benefits of refillable products, we do not at the moment carry any refillable products. We are definitely striving to stock them in the future, though! So according to our definition, yes, all of our products are zero-waste and do not contain any plastic packaging. Our shipments too, use recyclable and biodegradable without any plastic (including shipping tapes!)

Axiology Lip-to-Lid Balmies
How did you find brands to stock at Serenade? Do you have a research process before you decide to stock a brand?

We’ve found brands through a variety of ways! Some were from social media, some were from wholesale third-party websites, some have reached out to us directly, and some just from good old fashioned googling 😉 Given the small number of zero-waste skincare and makeup products out there that do not use plastic in their packaging, we research and decide on each brand on a case-by-case basis. We ask ourselves, would this brand fit with our overall mission of making zero-waste and sustainable beauty mainstream? Would our customers want these products? Would they be happy with our affiliation with this brand?

Sea Witch Botanicals Tint
Is it hard to find zero-waste beauty products? Are there any product categories that you just can’t find a zero-waste alternative for? 

Yes! It’s absolutely hard to find zero-waste beauty products. But my vision for the brand is to be a well-known destination retailer for new zero-waste makeup and skincare brands as they pop up! Currently, it’s definitely hard to find liquid-based color makeup (such as foundation, concealer, etc,…) that are not packaged in plastic. But we’ll keep looking!

Since you’re an online retailer, what is your solution for keeping shipping as low-waste as possible?

We partner with a carbon-neutral shipping company to carbon-offset our shipments. Of course, we recognize that this carbon offset involves only the transportation routes between our distribution center and the customers’ homes, not the routes between our suppliers and our distribution center. Some of our suppliers carbon offset their shipments to us, but some don’t. But! We are constantly evolving and brainstorming new ways to keep shipping as low-carbon as possible!

Solid Shampoo and Conditioner
HiBAR Solid Conditioner and Shampoo Set
Do you plan on expanding your catalog to more brands? What about more categories of products? 

Absolutely! New sustainable brands are popping up all the time and we are always so excited to look into establishing new relationships with brands. We’ve actually recently added quite a few more brands to our catalog, including Axiology, Cleo+Coco, Unwrapped Life, NoToxLife, and Little Seed Farm! All of these brands are amazing in their own ways and we’ve been very excited to partner with them. 

What was it like starting a zero-waste company from scratch?

It was both harder and easier than I thought! Establishing relationships with brands has been somewhat easier than I thought. Many companies that I work with are also small businesses so they are very flexible with small order amounts for their new retailers. Getting the word out and converting has been much harder. Overall, though, I’ve been thinking of a concept to establish a sustainable or zero-waste brand within fashion/beauty for a long time and when the new year started, I thought I should just go for it. Whatever challenges I face, I’d deal with them accordingly.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced when starting Serenade?

The biggest one is spreading the word about the company. When I started, I knew that the demand was there and this was something people really wanted. Zero-waste communities online are relatively tight and involve a lot of exchanging of advice and information, but it was still hard for me to get the word to enough people. This is still the challenge I am working on the most right now.

What are your favorite zero-waste beauty products at the moment?
  1. Yay for Earth Sensitive Skin Lotion. I love how it feels on my face and how all of the ingredients are completely natural. This face moisturizer has done wonders for women of all skin types and remain one of our most popular products!
  2. I am IN LOVE with Unwrapped Life Shampoo and Conditioner Bars. I’m currently using the Hydrator Shampoo and Conditioner Bars. They are sooo pretty and smell fresh and amazing at the same time. Unwrapped Life carries a large selection of shampoo and conditioner bars for all hair types, and we have been so excited to welcome them into our catalog! I think someone pointed out to me that it’s crazy how a lot of the operations on producing and shipping shampoo are really just involved in using water and transporting a ton of water all over the place. It’s like when you see it, you can’t unsee it. Now, I love my shampoo and conditioners bar. They’re so cute to see and use and I feel like they’ve simplified my life a lot.
  3. Fat and the Moon’s Glow Highlighter has to be one of my all-time-favorite makeup products ever. At first, I was a little thrown back by the fact that I’ve never used a cream highlighter. But this highlighter has been so fun to apply, gives me an amazing natural glow (looks even better in the sun), and stays on all day.  (*Fat and the Moon Beam Highlighter is Giulia’s all time favorite product. Period.*)
  4. Sustainyourself’s Body Butters have to be on my list as well. Body butters are quite thick, unlike regular moisturizers. I’ve used them as massage oil and they’ve been amazing for that use. They also carry such a nice, light scent!
Serenade Founder Maya
What are your future plans and goals for Serenade?

My focus right now is scaling the business. In the past 6 months or so that Serenade has been in existence, I’ve already received so much more support and learned so much more than I ever anticipated. So, our proof-of-concept is pretty much done. The challenge now is spreading the word and getting people to know about our brand. We recently launched an Affiliate Program that operates primarily through Instagram where those who are passionate about beauty and sustainability can join our community and spread the word about Serenade! We plan to grow this program and launch an Ambassadors Program soon. My vision from the very beginning, though, is to create a zero-waste care brand that is mainstream and accessible to the average consumer. Ethical and sustainable sourcing would always be our core values. 

Fat and the Moon Masa & Olive Face Paste
Do you have any zero-waste hacks you’d like to share? 

I don’t have any particular zero-waste hack I’d like to share per se, but I want to encourage everyone to educate themselves about sustainability and the waste that’s being produced in our economy! The problem is so much more complex than I’d ever thought, but it all boils down to the fact that no part of our economy had been designed to prioritize sustainability. Look into what’s happening politically in your community too! Why is it that your city rejected or passed certain legislation aiming to increase the standards on environmental protection? If you can educate yourself on the how, why, and where we should go from here, you’d be surprised by what you learn.

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  1. KPunk | 8th Sep 20

    This interview is so wonderfully done. Sustainability, zero-waste is where we are heading, so this interview in particular we were super excited about. Congrats to her for starting this at the beginning! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for zero waste brands and for brands heading in this direction!! GREAT Interview!

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