“I never thought I would become an entrepreneur. When I was doing my MBA, I knew I wanted to change the world and make it a better place. But my vision of that was joining a big company as their Director of Sustainability. Over the course of my studies I started realizing that there were problems in the world I could solve. When I was looking at job postings, I just felt like I was pigeonholed or there were bigger issues that needed answers.
Towards the end of my degree, I started thinking about an entrepreneurial journey. Then during the last week of my MBA, both my aunt and brother were diagnosed with cancer. That changed my career trajectory. What others may not know, is that I was my aunt’s caretaker for three months before she passed, and I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my brother before he passed from stage 4 brain cancer 3 years later. Both of their cancers were not genetic, so that meant that something gave it to them, including lifestyle, diet or environmental factors. I realized that I wanted to be part of the prevention, so that others do not have to go through what my family and I had to go through. Given my background in chemical engineering, and my passion for the environment and the sustainability sector, I focused on the cosmetic industry.
Before women leave the house, they are exposed to 168 unique chemicals through their beauty products, and many of them are potentially harmful. So, I wondered how do I solve that? There was a market for these safe products, and brands wanted something that consciously formulated beauty products but there was a huge gap. I started researching with the brands, asking them questions and kept asking what kept them up at night. After a bunch of back-and-forth consultations, the idea for CertClean, a certification for safer beauty and personal care products, was born. Since I had built relationships with the companies who were interested in the idea, I had tremendous support from the brands, so from day one the CertClean was revenue generating. I had clients wanting the certification and seal of approval before I even had a name or a logo.
After successfully launching the company, when I would tell people about the certification, they were pleased that they would not be misled by products being greenwashed, but would always ask, what do I use? What do I recommend? That was the nugget, people are not going to buy a product just because the ingredients are vetted, unless they know it works. So that is where PurPicks came to be, a trip advisor for organic skin care.
Every time if I can help someone to buy a safer shampoo or skin care product, it is so rewarding knowing we are helping reduce the chemicals people are exposed to, prevent these chemicals from entering our waterways, and preventing illnesses like cancer – all while pushing the industry to adapt.”
Jenise Lee is a graduate from The Schulich School of Business and is the founder of Cert Clean and PurPicks. She won Schulich StartUp Night pitch competition, recognized as top 5 startups in Canada at the Alibaba Global Pitch Competition and will be pitching for up to $5 million on a global stage in Hong Kong, was named top 10 beauty tech all-time on Product Hunt, finished third at Orbitz Pitch Competition, and shared the stage with two former "dragons" (Bruce Croxon and Brett Wilson) from Dragon's Den at the recent Ontario Economic Summit to shed light on the challenges of scaling startups and what industry, government and post-secondary institutions can do about it.