Natural Product Line Fresh Monster Run By Moms
A line of affordable, toxin-free bath products for kids launched by co-founders, immigrants Irena Todd and Jean Sim, earns recognition
Irena Todd came to the U.S. as a teenager after working as an interpreter for the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia. She put herself through college at the University of California-Berkeley and earned an MBA at the University of Michigan in 2007.
“I had wanted to start a company for as long as I could remember,” Todd says. “But I felt like I had to get the training first.”
She worked as a management consultant for Deloitte and then moved to Unilever, where she met eventual Fresh Monster co-founder Jean Sim – an immigrant from South Korea – when the two women worked on the team that launched AXE Hair. The product line became a $100 million business. In one another, they found a kindred spirit. Both were ambitious, hard-working, driven, adaptable – and entrepreneurial.
“We’ve both got fire in our bellies,” Todd, 39, says.
Todd moved to Denver with her family and became a brand strategist with Boulder’s Sterling-Rice Group. By 2013, the pair – both mothers – had settled on developing a natural product line in the children’s hair-care space.
“We wanted safe products for our kids, and everything was either really expensive, made for babies or not natural,” Todd says.
They submitted a video for their “very early-stage business” and applied to the Telluride Venture Accelerator, leaving their jobs and moving their young families to southwest Colorado.
“There, I really learned about the power of community,” Todd says. The duo settled on Fresh Monster for the name of their business, to celebrate the quirks and uniqueness of kids. At the demo day concluding the accelerator program, the new company pulled in $700,000 in investment dollars, exceeding the founders’ goals.
“It put us in a position to go running from there,” Todd says. For the next year, they set to work on crafting the formula for their made in America hair-care line that excluded the “nasties,” Todd says, including toxins, sulfates, phthalates, dyes, synthetic fragrances, BPA, gluten, soy or parabens. Still, “We expected performance,” Todd says. “It needed to foam and leave hair soft and shiny.”
Two years later, Fresh Monster products are now sold in more than 2,000 U.S. stores, growth achieved by co-founders who live in different states with a part-time staff of six employees, all working moms. The non-traditional and flexible workforce has been crucial to the company’s success.
“Our philosophy is, we’re moms,” Todd says, “and we’re making it happen.”