PiperWai is a deodorant company that uses clay and charcoal to control odor. A unique product, the PiperWai deodorant offers an innovative solution to a problem that people have been dealing with for a long time. The name, ‘PiperWai’ is a combination of Jess’s dog (Piper) and the Guyanese tribe of Wai Wai.
PiperWai is a natural deodorant, and completely does away with harsh ingredients or chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and aluminum.
Jess Adelstein and Sarah Ribner are the co-founders of PiperWai, and launched the company in March of 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They came up with this idea after coming up short in their search for natural ingredients that did not contain any harsh ingredients like aluminum.
They then decided to make their own deodorant, using activated bamboo charcoal due to its antibacterial properties which can get rid of odor right at the source. In other words, charcoal absorbs the odor instead of blocking it (which is the case with most conventional deodorants). As per Jess, activated charcoal can absorb liquid that weighs hundreds of times more than the substance itself. In addition, charcoal does not stain garments.
For added protection against perspiration and sweat, the company uses bentonite clay; the substance not only serves as an absorbent, but also helps seal in the moisture.
Other ingredients include baking soda, magnesium hydroxide, vitamin E, Shea butter, cocoa butter, along with a carefully formulated combination of 11 essential oils.
After deciding to convert their invention into a business, Jess and Sarah secured a $2,000 loan, which they used to launch a website and purchase raw materials.
In 2015, the duo ran a crowd-funding campaign, and managed to generate $27,000 for a brand change that it wanted to implement.
PiperWai’s products are distributed by over 200 lifestyle retailers throughout the USA, and the company has more than 200,000 customers.
Is PiperWai Still an Active Business?
Yes, PiperWai is still an active business, and one of the leaders in sustainable packaging. In early 2021, PiperWai became the first natural deodorant to use waste plastic from the ocean for its packaging.
How Did the Shark Tank Pitch Go?
Sarah and Jess made their Shark Tank debut during the seventh season of the show. The co-founders were seeking an investment of $50,000 in exchange for a 10% stake in the company – a valuation of $500,000. They started their pitch by talking about conventional deodorants and the toxic ingredients that they often contain – and that PiperWai is a natural and more effective substitute for such products.
Just then, a woman came onto the stage. She had just completed a five-mile run, and was wearing the PiperWai deodorant. Jess and Sarah claimed that the woman’s armpits were not emitting any odor. Lori came up to the stage to verify this, and agreed to the co-founders’ claim. The other Sharks took Lori’s word for it.
Jess then resumes the pitch, explaining the reasons that underarms smell, and how PiperWai strives to establish a neutral pH environment in that region. At that point, the company had generated revenue of approximately $110,000. They told the Sharks that each jar of deodorant costs $2.44 to produce, and sells for $12. Since their research revealed that people prefer deodorant sticks to deodorant paste, PiperWai was also working on a stick version of its deodorants.
Barbara asked about the reasons that they were seeking an investment; the co-founders told her that they will use the money to develop the stick deodorant, and also to scale the business.
Kevin then speaks up, saying that he was struggling to grasp the concept; he could not understand how the company would be able to successfully sell deodorants through the internet, and did not feel that he would get his investment back – he was out.
Robert was out, too, saying that, even if the product works, he does not feel that there is a large enough market for natural deodorants.
Jess chimes in, saying that she receives numerous emails from PiperWai users, telling her that the deodorant has been life-changing from them. Mark wants to know if Jess can back this anecdotal response with some numbers. Jess responded by mentioning customer responses, but was cut short by Mark – he says that if the product is so good and life-changing, they should have a lot more repeat purchases and 5x the sales that they currently have. He also does not think that the owners are self-aware, and bowed out of the deal.
Barbara liked the co-founders and thought they were doing quite well. She decided to make an offer: $50,000 in exchange for 33% equity in PiperWai. Lori, too, said that she had been looking for a natural deodorant brand for quite a while, and wanted to be a part of the PiperWai project. Her offer: $50,000 for 35% equity. Lori also claimed that the girls needed a great deal of help, and that she will not give up on them. Jess and Sara countered both the Sharks with $50,000 for a 25% stake. However, both Lori and Barbara refused, saying that they would have to put in way too much work to make it worth their while. Sarah felt that the Sharks were undermining the co-founders’ ability to put in the hard yards. Jess, once again, asked if a 25% stake worked for either Shark and, miraculously, Barbara agreed, and the deal was completed.
Our Review of PiperWai:
We love the fact that PiperWai is entirely natural. In addition, the charcoal does a way better job of eliminating odors than most other conventional deodorants out there. Initially, you have to be patient with the product (think of it as your body expelling the impact of the conventional deodorants that you had been using up till now); you will start to witness the true PiperWai magic after about a week or two.
Pros of PiperWai:
- Completely natural
- Contains activated charcoal which absorbs the odor (instead of blocking it)
- Contains a wealth of other beneficial ingredients (including vitamin E)
Cons of PiperWai:
- Takes a while to work at full efficiency
- Only available in a single scent
Are There Any Alternatives?
Below are a few other brands that produce natural deodorants:
- All Good
- Agent Nateur
- Crystal Mineral
- Green Tidings
Our Final Thoughts:
PiperWai was one of the first brands to come up with a natural deodorant line. Almost a decade later, the brand continues to be one of the leaders in the world of sustainable production and packaging, and has established a loyal fan-base – both within and beyond the USA.