A women-owned local business is helping both people and the planet stay clean.
Made-up Gossip, a new Gainesville-based personal care brand, launched its first line of hand soaps designed to eliminate single-use plastics (SUPs). By incorporating humor and style into its brand, Made-up Gossip uses its personalized platform to educate customers on the repercussions of using plastic.
While many businesses suffered during the pandemic, plastic companies boomed in revenue. UF alumnae and founders of Made-up Gossip Olga Sinnreich and Lacramioara Schulte auf’m Erley foresaw the need for reusable soaps and sanitizers in a rapidly polluting world.
“We were doing a lot of research on Gainesville's entrepreneur legal system, and I realized Gainesville has a very good shot at becoming a good hub for agro-tech start-ups,” Erley said. “This was only a few months before the pandemic hit, and then we realized the importance of handwashing.”
Around the world, health regulations required the use of disposable equipment in the health care, home care and personal care industries. The use of disposable items for businesses to operate safely under CDC guidelines led to a surge of masks, gloves and other SUP items found in beaches, coastlines and rivers.
“The pandemic actually contributed a lot to plastic pollution,” Sinnreich said. “With the plastic bottles and the masks, it’s a massive problem.”
Sinnreich graduated with a master’s degree in finance from UF’s MBA program in 2013, and Erley earned a doctorate degree in Nanotechnology from UF’s Department of Chemistry in 2005. After meeting at a local start-up business competition, the two joined forces in July 2020 to combine science and strategy.
After nearly a year of design work, manufacturing and packaging, Sinnreich and Erley published their website on May 20 and expect to begin shipping in the United States on September 1.
Made-up Gossip’s first line of soap products are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates and dyes. When the 5-ingredient wash powders are shaken with water, they turn into natural, sustainable and cruelty-free hand soaps.
“I started to use my background as a chemist and did a lot of formulations,” Erley said. “We tried different shapes, different solids and gels, and then we came up with a powder form at the end.”
According to Made-up Gossip’s website, the average bottle of liquid soap contains at least 80% water. Erley chose a powder formula to decrease the carbon emissions correlated with water shipment and storage.
“The concept of powdered soap packaged in recyclable aluminum tubes intrigues me,” Debbie Meeks, a 59-year-old Gainesville artist and Made-up Gossip customer said. “It makes sense to reduce shipping and packaging costs by only selling the soap essence, not the water.”
In 2018, the United Nations reported that approximately 8% of global oil production was used to make plastic items, and more than 800 species were harmed by marine debris through ingestion, entanglement, ghost fishing and waste dispersal by rafting.
“Seeing how much plastic is dumped every day and all the animals suffering, it is heartbreaking,'' Sinnreich said. “It happens so fast, we don’t even understand how quickly we’re going to be drowning in plastic.”
Made-up Gossip’s name was coined as a statement to expose the personal care industry’s failure to take accountability for its role in polluting the earth.
According to Made-up Gossip’s website, “many things claimed in the personal care industry are exactly like gossip - they appear to be something completely different than initially believed.”
Sinnreich said Made-up Gossip’s voice is influenced by her and Erley’s personalities. Their Kickstarter campaign video takes a didactic approach by blending comedic innuendos with hard facts about pollution.
“It does take some risk when you take this type of route,” Sinnreich said. “You don't know how it’s going to resonate with people. For us, it was easy because we basically just went with who we are.”
Made-up Gossip’s social media accounts feature witty caricatures, educational infographics and behind-the-scenes videos about the company’s journey.
“We like to work hard, we like humor and we like style,” Sinnreich said. “I think in the future hopefully our voice will become more and more refined as we build the company, but we don’t want to lose our personality. To us, it’s important.”
As Made-up Gossip’s product variety grows, Sinnreich and Erley hope their customers continue to swap other SUP items for reusable and recyclable products.
“The hardest switch is the first one,” Sinnreich said. “We hope that they will love our first product and, as we move forward and develop some new products, they’ll also make the switch.”
Contact Brenna at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BrennaMarieShe1.