Shark Tank to Feature Philly Natural Deodorant Company

The 20-something co-founders face off against Mark Cuban and the gang next week.

Jess Edelstein (left) and Sarah Ribner. They co-founded PiperWai and will be on an upcoming episode of Shark Tank.

Jess Edelstein (left) and Sarah Ribner. They co-founded PiperWai and will be on an upcoming episode of Shark Tank.

For many, the quest for a natural deodorant that works well and is free of potentially harmful ingredients like aluminum, proves to be quite a challenge — often ending with sweaty, wet-feeling armpits and multiple applications.

But Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner say they’ve invented a better solution. It’s called PiperWai, and it’s made with natural ingredients like coconut oil, rosewater, shea and essential oils. The active ingredient is charcoal, which is super-absorbant and not harmful to sensitive skin, they say. (My friend Adjua Fisher from BeWellPhilly tried it in the dead of summer, and said it works great.)

After less than two years in business, Edelstein and Ribner will be featured on Shark Tank on December 11. Of course, they wouldn’t dish on whether they got a deal with the likes of Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner or Daymond John. But whatever happens, having a 8 million people watching nationwide is a big break for a company that’s still run out of Edelstein’s boyfriend’s condo in South Philly. They’re the only two employees.

Team PiperWai applied for Shark Tank online, created a promo video and presented to judges at the NAACP conference in Philly. By September they were off to Los Angeles to shoot the episode.

For Edelstein, 27 and Ribner, 26, it’s been quite a journey. They started hanging out in the fourth grade.

“Our first play date was a lemonade stand at the park near Sarah’s house, so we like to say we’ve been business partners since elementary school,” said Edelstein who hails from Lower Merion. Ribner is from Mount Airy.

After college, Edelstein was fiddling around in the kitchen and created the PiperWai formula. Soon, the two women were making the product by hand — using pastry piping bags to get the mixture into 300 jars at a time. Then they scaled production by moving to a co-packer in Conshohocken, raised more than $27,000 on an Indiegogo campaign and got the product into 35 specialty retailers across the country. Now Edelstein “anticipates being on Whole Foods shelves within the next couple of months” and said she’s been in discussions with other major retailers (though she declined to say which ones.)

Are they ready for a potential Shark Tank bump? Edelstein and Ribner are throwing a live-viewing party at the Bourse but plan to be tethered to their cell phones and monitoring social media closely. They also redesigned their website so it doesn’t crash with too much traffic.

One thing I was immediately curious about: Why do I have to apply the deodorant with my fingers?

“Some people might think that sticking their fingers into their armpits to apply deodorant is different but once they see how effective PiperWai is, they’re like I don’t care,” said Edelstein, who noted that they’re working on a stick form. “My boyfriend uses it and he was really hesitant at first because he has hairy armpits and was worried about sticking his fingers under his arms. But you get used to it within a day of using it.”

Although it’s widely debated whether aluminum based deodorants are even bad for you, Edelstein said why take a chance?

“If there is an effective, natural alternative, why even bother with the potentially toxic kind?” she said. “Consumers aren’t willing to give up the effectiveness of something that works for someting that’s good for you. With PiperWai, you don’t have to because it works and it’s good for you.”

Although the product isn’t patentable, Ribner said it’s most important to establish a brand presence to become successful in the cosmetic industry anyway.

“If any competitor wants to come in and create a similar product,” she said. “They can’t take away the customer base we’ve already built and the passion we’ve built around the product, along with our passion and customer service.”

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