If fruits and vegetables are washed with just water, it may not remove all of the pesticides and dirt, according to Melina Marcus and Ali Florsheim.
“You wash your hands before you eat, so why weren’t we washing our fruits and vegetables with more than just water?” Marcus asked.
That’s why the pair created a produce wash to thoroughly clean fruits and vegetables. With colorful retro packaging, the wash is intended to be stored next to the soap on the sink.
Marcus and Florsheim co-founded Mequon-based Rebel Green LLC in 2008 to better market eco-friendly products like the produce wash.
“We thought more people would use natural products if the packaging was more exciting,” Marcus said.
“Natural products need great packaging if people are going to buy them,” Florsheim said. “We want to grab that conventional buyer.”
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Melina Marcus, co-founder[/caption]
Marcus and Florsheim have bootstrapped their business, and Rebel Green has experienced 45 to 60 percent growth each year since it was founded, the pair said.
After it gained enough market share in produce wash to put it in the top two nationally, Rebel Green entered, then exited, the crowded reusable shopping tote market before it settled on its household cleaning line last year.
Both working moms, Marcus’ and Florsheim’s children have allergies, asthma and eczema, so they wanted to avoid synthetic fragrances and offer a natural, transparent ingredient list on the cleaning line.
And this year, Rebel Green added tree-free toilet paper made of bamboo.
“Bamboo is completely renewable. It takes (just) 30 to 40 years for trees to grow back,” Florsheim said.
Now, Rebel Green’s hand soap and dish soap are its top sellers, of a line of 44 SKUs that includes one of the few U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic laundry detergents.
The toilet paper is made in China, and the rest of Rebel Green’s products are made at Pak Technologies Inc. in Milwaukee. The products are sold on Target.com, Amazon.com, and in half the Whole Foods stores in the U.S. They’re also in Outpost Natural Foods, Sendik’s Food Market, Metcalfe’s Market and other local stores.
Founders Melina Marcus and Ali Florsheim
Product Eco-friendly cleaning products
Goal Get products into more stores
Experience Florsheim is a practicing attorney; Marcus was a journalist