Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Steve Shriver of Eco Lips Is Helping To Change Our World

Posted on

Learn to master the financials. I used to think as long as I grow sales, the rest will take care of itself. Well, I was wrong. Running your business based on data from the financials, rather than emotion, is the only way to run your business successfully and sustainably.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Shriver.

Steve Shriver is a serial entrepreneur with five unique businesses: Eco Lips, SOKO Outfitters, The Olympic South Side Theater, Brewhemia, and Bug Soother. Steve is passionate about the entrepreneurial journey and showing how businesses can strike a balance between people, planet, and profits. Catch his latest insights on The Steve Shriver Podcast.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I met my wife, Andrea, she made lip balm as a hobby. I fell in love with her and the lip balm recipe and we started a business. We took it from a kitchen operation using turkey basters to fill the balm, to full automation over the years. I never would have guessed I’d be in the lip balm business but I love every minute of it!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Right out of the gate in 2004, we sold some balm to Rupert of “Rupert’s Deli” in New York. If you’ve seen the David Letterman show, you’ll know that sometimes Dave sends a cameraman to talk to Rupert. Well, he sent one over and Dave noticed a new product on the counter. Dave asked Rupert what it was and Rupert replied “Eco Lips, a new natural chapstick.” He proceeded to hand some out on the street in New York and did a small segment with it. It was amazing publicity for a start-up brand!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

These are tough questions! Funniest…well we were doing a soap-making demonstration for some buyers who flew into town and we did it at my in-laws’ house because they had a very nice kitchen. Coincidentally, Playboy was in town photographing the girls of the “Big 10” and arranged to use a section of the same house for a photo shoot the SAME DAY. Needless to say, that was awkward on so many levels and wasn’t a great experience. I learned that I need to be extra detail-oriented when entertaining customers — and never to bring customers to my in-laws’ house again!

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

We are a certified B Corp and focus on a triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit. We measure the impact of many different areas that relate to this. For instance, our Certified Fair Trade purchases create higher wages for the growers in various parts of the world. We are active in our community and help start-up businesses grow & become sustainable. We also donate money to projects in our community that bring people together outdoors, building individual health and community health.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

During the beginning of the pandemic, we partnered with a local distillery, Cedar Ridge, to manufacture hand sanitizer. We were one of the first in the country to do this. Our goal was to make as much as possible using their alcohol and distribute it for free to the community. We set up a no-contact drive through for people to get their free bottle in a quick and safe way. In one of the cars that pulled up, a woman rolled down her window with tears in her eyes and thanked us for saving her mother’s life. Her mom was in a very vulnerable state of health at that time and without hand sanitizer, her daughter feared the worst for her.

We also supplied local hospitals with sanitizer, which was used to clean surfaces and supplied other government agencies, such as the post office and the local police department. It was exhausting but so fulfilling to know that we made that big of an impact by recognizing an opportunity, collaborating, and pursuing our goals.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Our main goal is related to organic agriculture. We would like to see a world where pesticides and herbicides are NOT the norm. A healthier planet makes healthier people, and healthier people can make a greater positive impact. Three things: support organic farming by purchasing organic products; support politicians who support organic farming; and, take small steps to convert a few of your staple foods to organic.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is doing what needs to be done to create the outcome you want without worrying what other people will think. We recently had an inland hurricane come through Iowa and it devastated our town of Cedar Rapids. Almost every single structure was damaged and 75% of our tree canopy was flattened. The entire city was without power for weeks and some people were without power for several weeks in the hottest month of the year. We all needed food, ice, gas for generators, as well as help moving and cutting trees away from our houses. It was catastrophic.

There were a lot of formal organizations helping the citizens, but it wasn’t enough. I spent 14 hours each day driving up and down the streets of Cedar Rapids in areas of the lowest income, offering coolers, grills, charcoal, ice, food, beverage, and anything else that was needed. I sent people to nearby towns to load-up on supplies and bring them back to town. We would go to apartment buildings and open the back of the truck up to fulfill peoples’ needs. I recall being asked to put my donations through the proper channels and I respectfully disregarded that request.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Learn how to say, “no.” I typically want to help people, so I rarely would decline a lunch or meeting invitation, even though I knew it wouldn’t be beneficial.

It’s okay to outsource. We always thought we needed to do everything in house to get the best result but now we use outside firms for certain functions.

Don’t put your purpose in front of profits. We need to be profitable in order to be of value to our stakeholders. We used to do things simply because it felt like the right thing to do but sacrificed process in the meantime.

Don’t over-staff. When you are growing, it’s easy to add people. It’s terrible, though, when you have to let people go because your sales didn’t go as planned.

Learn to master the financials. I used to think as long as I grow sales, the rest will take care of itself. Well, I was wrong. Running your business based on data from the financials, rather than emotion, is the only way to run your business successfully and sustainably.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. I would like to start a smile movement. Instead of all these serious angry faces walking around the world, what if we all had smiles on our faces? Wouldn’t we behave differently? Wouldn’t we love more, live more, and give more?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” quote? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Enjoy fame while you have it. One day, they will name a road after you and the next day, they will chase you down it on your way out of town. My good friend’s late father, Ron Sundermann, told me that once and it stuck with me.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

I already had a private breakfast with Yvon Chiounard of Patagonia, which was a goal. So, who’s next? Honestly, probably Michelle Obama. I feel like we could have a great conversation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram at: @steveshriver

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Steve Shriver of Eco Lips Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.