David Jenkins – Marie Ernst™ founder & CEO;
MESO client; Finalist, Athletic & Outdoor In the Running Pitch; Member, Mercatus Collective; Vendor, My People’s Market
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a native Oregonian from a large and close family. I went to Benson High School and the University of Oregon. In 2014 I gave up my job in radio advertising to follow my dream: to develop a product that would enhance people’s lives. I founded Marie Ernst™ inspired by the yin and yang philosophy of its namesakes, my parents Mary and Ernest, who have been happily married for more than 60 years. I design and create everything for Marie Ernst™ including product, logo and packaging.
Marie Ernst™ beauty bars are presented as two halves of a whole. With each bearing unique qualities, they combine to transform into one cohesive unit—stronger together than apart. Our luxury, patent-pending, dual-layer interlocking soap design consists of one exfoliating bar and one emollient bar, providing a sensory experience in scent and texture. All of our products are all-natural, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, cruelty-free, phthalate-free and vegan.
I’m constantly broke, but as an entrepreneur, I get up every morning because I believe in what I do. My goal is to have the number one bar soap in the US.
What have you learned?
It’s extremely hard to bring your vision to life, build a business and become successful without access to capital. In a consumer market ruled by apps and new technology that attract the most media attention and venture capital, I chose to use my own savings and bootstrap my company to launch Marie Ernst™. Every day I take one step forward to make my company successful.
How have you connected to programs and resources supported by Prosper Portland?
I’ve taken advantage of resources funded by Prosper Portland via the Inclusive Business Resource Network as a MESO client and recipient of a mini-micro loan. I’m a part of the Mercatus Collective, participated in My People’s Market and was a finalist in the In the Running Pitch Contest at the 8th Annual Athletic & Outdoor Celebration. My access to these resources has given me the ability to build relationships, receive guidance, and gain introductions to new ways of getting capital.
What is an unexpected pleasure or benefit from the work you’re doing?
I take an enormous sense of pride knowing that our company is contributing to the American economy in a positive way. Marie Ernst™ products are made in the USA, creating manufacturing jobs. I also love being able to give back and help our community. Through our partnership with the Oregon Coalition, Marie Ernst™ donates $2 of every purchase to benefit survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
I also love connecting with customers around the world and take great satisfaction in knowing that we’re solving a problem for others. Few things get me as excited as receiving customer feedback (positive or negative) which helps me improve our product, customer service and overall business.
The long hours I invest and listening to customers to make the best products possible truly doesn’t feel like work because I’m actually having fun.
What does equity mean to you personally?
The word equity to me means the exact definition; the quality of being fair and impartial freedom from bias or favoritism. More specifically it means looking at your surroundings and figuring out how you can give more to your community and economy instead of merely focusing on how much you can take for yourself. I would measure the success of my work by how much I can affect the wellness of my community and enhance other people’s lives.
Our soaps sell from $12 to $24, and that can be a lot for someone like a single mom. But [with my company’s growth]I could hire that same single mom and treat her equitably by paying above average income so she can comfortably provide for herself and her family and have enough money left over to be able to afford a simple luxury like a Marie Ernst™ beauty bar.
My goal is to make a bold statement in the luxury marketplace. We’re currently developing new and improved luxury soap designs, new scents, revamped new logo and luxurious consumer packaging, along with a new look and feel to our website. On some days it can be overwhelming, but when I see a customer purchase our products in another state or across the world, it’s all worth it.