PINEAPPLES are brilliant. Not only do they have a sweet and tart and deliciously juicy flesh, but underneath their thick and spiky skin they also harbor a natural cleaning solution that’s just as effective – if not better – than chemical products on the market.
Just ask Peter Wainman, a professional investor in start-up companies, with a background in scientific research, from New York. A Thailand resident since 2006, Peter is Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Equator Pure Nature Co., Ltd. (EPN), which produces, markets and sells natural, hypoallergenic certified, bio-degradable certified, cleaning products under the brand name Pipper Standard® – and all derived from pineapple.
How did the idea for your business come about?
In 2010, I had a severe allergic reaction to laundry products commonly used in Thailand. After these allergic reactions, my family decided to switch all of our laundry care and other home cleaning products to natural cleaning products.
But after looking at commercially available products, we could not find a product that met the standard we wanted to use for our family: (1) natural; (2) professional quality control process, and (3) respected third party certifications for health and the environment.
So we decided to create these products ourselves – Pipper Standard®.
What is your vision?
Our vision is to improve people’s lives with our natural healthy cleaning products, which we hope do two things – one, help decrease rates of allergies and asthma, and two, help reduce contamination of our environment.
Why have you focused on health? What trends are you seeing?
As with many natural products ours are good for the environment, but additionally they are focused on the health segment – our laundry detergents and fabric softeners are third party hypoallergenic certified.
We are seeing allergy and asthma rates explode in the world. In the United States, one in five Americans, or 60 million people, today have allergies or asthma, and allergy rates in US children tripled from the 1960s to 1990s. We see that same trend in Asia; in Thailand in 2013 it was estimated 18 million Thais have allergy symptoms, and that approximately 50 percent of children living in Bangkok have allergies.
We believe the cause of such skyrocketing allergy and asthma rates are environment triggers and particularly environment triggers in the home, hence the tag line in all of our materials:
A Healthy Environment Starts at Home.
What makes your products unique? How do they work?
Pipper Standard® products come from pineapple fruit fermentation; our proprietary fermentation process creates a cleaning liquid containing organic acids, bio-surfactants, natural preservatives and enzymes.
• Powerful natural cleaning
Cleaning comparable to chemical products – an issue historically with natural products is that for something like laundry detergent, they do not clean very well. Our proprietary pineapple fermentation process allows us to clean comparably with chemical products.
• Hypoallergenic certified
To our knowledge, Pipper Standard® is the only laundry detergent and fabric softener brand which is third-party hypoallergenic certified.
• No known allergens
There is an allergen patch test approved by the US FDA which specifies an extensive list of potential allergens. We do not use any of these in our ingredients.
Pipper Standard®’s trademark is registered or pending registration in 46 countries with four global patent applications protecting the technology.
Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from, and how did you go about getting it?
It is not easy to raise capital for a new idea; venture capital is extremely difficult to find. However, I have spent much of my career as an investment professional, including investing into start-up companies, and based on that track record and 20 years of relationships, we have raised capital.
Capital for us comes from Thai investors, such as Khun Sawasdi Horrungruang, global investors based in Europe, and Singapore-based investors.
They have invested in our company as impact investors: looking not just for return on capital, but also for the positive impact we hope to have on society and the environment.
Why choose Thailand as your base?
After the Asian financial crisis in 1997, I was with a firm based in New York that invested into Thailand. From that investment, I grew to know many people in Thailand and fell in love with the country.
For Pipper Standard®, Thailand is the ideal base for our business:
• Our product base is pineapple, a local fruit abundant in Thailand.
• Thailand’s ambient temperature make it ideal for our pineapple fermentation process.
• Our shareholders have been in the farming business in Thailand for decades, and we use some of their existing facilities.
Was your business an instant success?
No. When we started the business, it was purely a research and development project with a goal of creating natural product cleaning comparable to chemical products. My education is from MIT as a scientist – there is a high probability of failure with all R&D processes – and we knew this when we started.
It took us years of R&D to perfect the technology to create Pipper Standard® products.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when establishing your business, and how did you overcome them?
Having been involved with early stage companies since 1995, there are always two challenges. First is financial capital – venture capital funding is extremely difficult to find, and second is human capital – employees are the most important resource to an early stage company.
I have been fortunate to have had some success in early stage companies; for example, in 2001, I led an investment in a company called NextG Networks, which was sold in 2012 for more than USD $1 billion. This track record allowed me to raise venture funding for Pipper Standard®.
Human capital takes enormous time to find, and even today I spend 20 percent of my time recruiting and retaining employees.
Does your background in science mean you’re very much hands on in the testing and development of your products?
Yes, I am very hands-on. I am an inventor on all of our patent applications, and I oversaw all of the R&D in the early years.
At this point, however, the basis of our products is fully developed, and we have excellent scientists who oversee ongoing product modifications.
What has the response to your products been like?
Very positive. The key for us is the first sale, because once people try our products, they tend to re-buy and become long-term customers.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I love the energy and creativity from our employees. We have great people, and we pull together like a family.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My parents who taught me good ethics and values and to care about others.
Best advice you have ever received?
As an entrepreneur, always raise more money than you think you need – things will happen that you did not anticipate.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Two moments: filing our first patent application and seeing the first production batch of our products.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Early in my career, I would stress too much; we should always remember that as bad as today might seem, the sun will rise again tomorrow.
Where do you see your business in 10 years’ time?
Pipper Standard® will be known globally – our products will be sold in all of the AEC countries, plus greater China and the United States.
What advice would you give to any budding entrepreneurs reading this?
Focus on human capital – your partners and critical employees; they are the key to your success.
Finally, when you’re not busy working hard, how do you like to spend your free time?
I love nature and hiking and I scuba-dive throughout the world. And we have a one year old son, and he is the most joy in our lives.