At Meliora Cleaning Products, doing better is all in the name — literally, as “Meliora” means “better” in Latin. Co-Founders Kate Jakubas and Mike Mayer are on a mission to provide families with the products they need to have clean homes without the exposure to environmentally damaging chemicals and they’re pushing forward with this initiative every single day. Read on to find out more about Kate and Mike and their Chicago, IL-based B Corp.
The story of how Meliora Cleaning Products began: “Kate came up with the idea of Meliora Cleaning Products in the fall of 2012, while she was getting her Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. She was reading an article about how Tide was reducing the amount of 1,4-dioxane in their ‘Free and Clear’ laundry detergent. This struck her as odd, as 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen and irritant, so trace amounts in a ‘Free and Clear’ formulation seemed strange. Thanks to her ‘high-boredom tolerance’ she started reading and studying what rules and regulations were in the cleaning products industry. She learned that there were no requirements about 1,4-dioxane in cleaning products – or even the need to list ANY of the ingredients used in our home cleaning and laundry products. This prompted her to formulate a better laundry option, which eventually became our unscented Laundry Powder. From day 1, we’ve listed every ingredient on the packaging for our products, as well as giving out the recipes on our website. We’ve both always felt that business can be more than a way to make money – you can do something that leaves a positive impact on the community and environment around you. This people- and planet-friendly perspective has been a core focus of our business since before we even know of the B Corp movement! Our mission is simple: to provide families with the information and products they need to have a clean, comfortable home without exposure to toxic and environmentally damaging chemicals.”
Started in the kitchen, now we’re here… “In February 2016, we moved out of our kitchen and into our own production facility in Chicago, IL. Since then, our growth has been over 23% per quarter. Going from a ‘proof of concept’ – which eventually took over our condo – to a fully-functioning production factory without compromising our triple-bottom-line has been a huge success and one we’re very proud of.”
Our daily reminder to use business for good: “We’ve always viewed business as one tool in the toolbox for change. A successful business can make money to keep its doors open and provide for its workers without sacrificing the community and environment around it. The idea of ‘using business as a force for good’ is one that we remind ourselves of everyday – it’s even on the sign hanging over our shipping area.”
How “B The Change” is reflected in our own name: “The word ‘Meliora’ is Latin for ‘better.’ This is more than a tagline on our products; it’s a daily reminder to keep pushing forward. As a small manufacturing business, it’s difficult to make massive changes within our supply chain, or get to our ideal end-state for low-impact products. However, we can incrementally get better. Whether that’s eliminating single-use plastic from our products and shipping process, tracking waste, or paying our employees a living wage in Chicago, we’re always taking small steps towards where we want to be at the end of the journey – landfill-free with well-paid, successful employees and satisfied customers.”
If you want to become a B Corp… “It’s not as hard or as scary as you think it is. We did it VERY early in the process, which probably made it easier for us. We didn’t have external investors (and still don’t) to convince, or long-standing policies to have to rewrite. If you’ve been thoughtful and considerate in your businesses – or realize that’s something you want to do – the B Corp assessment is a great tool to help you shape your business. Not everyone is an expert or perfect in every way. We’re manufacturers, so we have a supply chain – and its impact – to consider in our day-to-day operations. That’s entirely different from a marketing strategy firm, who might work with non-profit organizations, or an investment firm that uses its seat at the table to advocate for more thoughtful ways of doing business. We’re all completely different, but aligned in trying to do things just a little better than we did them yesterday, and we’re all proud to be in the Certified B Corp community.”
How the B Corp triple-bottom-line approach is shaking up how business is done: “The most intriguing thing about the B Corp movement is the fact that it’s highlighting that not everyone is in business purely to make all the money they possibly can. The language which protects business owners who have an interest in a triple-bottom-line approach to business is hugely important for their ability to think about new (or very old) ways of doing business more thoughtfully.
It’s allowing people and organizations with similar ideals, who have money to invest in other businesses, to finally have a way to identify the businesses and ideas that align with their values. Instead of ‘I want as much money from my investment as possible,’ it’s becoming cool to say ‘Yeah, making money is great, but I want to help build something that leaves the planet in a better place than where it would be without this idea.’ The B Corp movement and B Corporations give entrepreneurs, investors, and the awesome people all around the world a chance to see we can do great things with our businesses.”
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About Kate Jakubas & Mike Mayer, Founder and Co-Founder of Meliora Cleaning Products
Kate Jakubas, Founder: Kate first asked the question of “what’s in our cleaning products” while studying for her Masters of Environmental Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in 2012. After winning the Quinlan School of Business’s Sustainable Enterprise Competition in the spring of 2013, Meliora was born! From the beginning, Kate’s vision has been to use business as a tool for change for the better. Using better ingredients and disclosing 100% of them – as well as our recipes! – has been a cornerstone of Meliora Cleaning Products from day 1.
Kate started asking how things worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying Materials Science & Engineering. After graduating, she spent several years in the plumbing products and biking industries, working on material specifications and compliance with increasing regulations around what goes into the products we use every day. She pursued and attained her Six Sigma Black Belt certification in 2015 to make sure our operations are efficient and use a minimum of natural resources. Born and raised here, she’s proud to call Chicago home.
Mike Mayer, Co-Founder, President: Watching his then-girlfriend Kate working on a seemingly innocent school project, Mike was excited to see this seed of an idea grow into something more substantial. Seeing their clothes come out clean after a flag football tournament’s worth of dirt, sweat, and other stuff using the first batch of what would be Meliora Cleaning Products’ Laundry Powder, he agreed with Kate – she might have something here worth sharing!
Mike started deconstructing his toys since before he can remember, which logically led to studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He spent over a decade in New Product Development in areas ranging from office supplies, medical equipment, and plumbing products. He then went on to get his MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, which led him to work in global supply chain strategy in Chicago before coming on to join Kate’s vision of making “Meliora” a household word.
This has been a Fantastic B Corps post, MyCorporation’s salute to the entity that gives back to business and society. Join us biweekly for a glimpse at the entrepreneurs using their small business to “B The Change” in this global movement for good.