Greetings CICLO readers! This is Melisa and I would like to talk about a wonderful sustainable business owner coming all the way from Canada to visit Japan this month. Her name is Jennifer LeBrun. Jennifer is the founder of ULAT Dryer Balls made of 100% Premium Canadian wool and handmade in the heart of Vancouver and Vancouver Island, B.C. I was introduced to her by Ran from Zero Waste Japan (please read more about her story here). I had the chance to meet Jennifer in Tokyo right before she headed over to Fukuoka for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance conference. This year’s summit theme is titled “Imagination Economy- For a Sustainable Future”, and she took part as a first female Partner Delegate representing Canada. It was very nice meeting another sustainable female business owner trying to run an ethical business in her home country. Please continue reading to learn more about Jennifer’s story and the start of ULAT Dryer Balls.
From loving Christmas gifts to a sustainable start-up
Jennifer’s business was actually something that started out as a hobby. She always enjoyed making her own Christmas gifts for her family and one idea turned out to be wool dryer balls. Having a fibres background, Jennifer made a few prototypes and was able to create and patent a unique and personalized gift. Not only did it make a great stocking stuffer but also it allowed her family to save money! Soon after her discovery, Jennifer and her husband, Koichi met with Linh Truong. In 2011, Linh opened the first Vancouver, B.C. refill shop promoting zero-waste called The Soap Dispensary. From that moment on, ULAT Dryer Balls went retail and sales skyrocketed into the successful venture company it is today.
So, what are wool dryer balls exactly?
I think in Japan and many other countries this dryer ball idea is relatively new. However, in North American countries is it really common to use what are called “dryer sheets” . These “dryer sheets” are used as a fragrant fabric softener for clothes. You pop one or two sheets in your dryer and your clothes are supposed to feel softer and smell great. But, as Jennifer explained to me, most consumers do not know that these “dryer sheets” contain many toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals can permanently leave a coat onto our clothes resulting in skin allergies. Moreover, they are not biodegradable and can damage your garments.
On the other hand, wool dryer balls are the healthy alternative to these “dryer sheets”. Wool dryer balls are a much more sustainable and responsible choice. Energy costs are lowered by reducing drying time by up to 50%. ULAT Dryer Balls are completely natural, hypoallergenic, decrease wrinkles and static which results in a longer clothes lifespan. Jennifer makes her wool dryer balls in Vancouver and Vancouver Island, B.C. made out of 100% Premium Canadian sheep’s wool. She supports local Canadian wool farmers and hires stay-at-home moms willing to earn a bit of extra cash to make these items from the comfort of their own home.
Sourcing locally and ethically is a ULAT Standard
Jennifer, with the support of her loving husband, Koichi, began to work towards building a sustainable and ethical venture that blossomed from her love to take and give back to her community. She believes that if you buy ULAT, you are part of the ULAT benefits. This includes supporting the sheep raised ethically by Canadian farmers, the growth of the local wool industry and finally giving support to the sustainable shops and the stay-at-home moms in Canada. Not only that but you are also saving energy and contributing to an ethically-made natural resources by ULAT Dryer Balls, which Mother Nature would approve.
At ULAT, from start to finish, all parties gain a win-win solution which is rare nowadays but Jennifer’s hard work is evidence that it is possible. Because Jennifer wants to stay true to her business values, there are times when supply cannot meet demand so her customers are asked to be placed on a waiting list until the next batch is ready. However, her customers are willing to wait because they know she stands true to her standards. Jennifer is the creator of the original wool dryer ball and her customers don’t mind supporting her business over the competitors.
What’s next for ULAT?
Jennifer feels incredibly blessed to be able to do what she is doing and knows that her connection to her community is strong. She hopes to continue building this community of sustainable customers from across the world. Jennifer has had many chances to go big and sell at large retailers. However, she knows these retailers will go outside her values, so she had chosen not to go down these routes. Instead, she prefers to sell exclusively to partner retailers, small shops and directly on her online store. ULAT Dryer Balls are sold in Canada, the U.S and are now also in Japan. However, the sales market in Japan is still fresh and needs more awareness about what it means to buy a sustainable product from ULAT.
Where can I get more information about ULAT Wool Dryer Balls?
Please visit the ULAT website to learn more about her products linked down below! Jennifer has gained recognition and received awards from Small Business BC Awards, Futurpreneur Canada, Startup Canada Awards, The David Suzuki Campaign and The Campaign for Wool as well as international newspapers and Canadian magazines! Currently, Jennifer takes orders directly from Japanese customers via her website only. The link is down below! Please check it out!
Finally, I would like to send a special thanks to Ran from Zero Waste Japan for making this connection happen and Jennifer for taking time out of her schedule to meet me! It’s nice to see passionate and hard-working ladies working towards building a more sustainable future! I hope you enjoyed this post. Until next time!