Most entrepreneurial ventures are born of necessity. Sometimes they aim to fill a void in the market or they manifest out of inspiration, finding a better way than what’s been done before. For Ira Green, owner of Free Brands Inc. personal care company, it was a little bit of both.
Having three friends diagnosed with breast cancer within a year and a half of each other sounded the alarm. “What I realized was that you get to an age people are getting married, divorced,” she says. “People are having kids, but then they’re getting sick. I don’t remember my friends’ moms getting sick.”
Her friends’ ages ranged from 34 to 42 years old at the time of detection. Being a parent of three daughters, Green did not like what she was seeing, and this became a catalyst in her work. Despite pursuing different courses of treatment, these three women agreed on one change: a switch to natural body-care products, specifically antiperspirants and deodorants.
While the science is still out regarding a direct link between chemicals in cosmetics and breast cancer, it’s no secret that America isn’t exactly making strides in its research. The United States has banned or restricted only 11 chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects, while our neighbors in the European Union have outlawed 1,328 as of 2013. Green was no longer willing to take the risk.
“What people don’t realize is that antiperspirant is actually considered a drug by the FDA, so we as women shave our armpits, make it nice and clean, open up those pores and put a drug right in there,” Green says. The rate of breast cancer is currently one in eight women—an increase since her mother’s time. Green acknowledges that it is probably linked to several factors, but she feels adamant that changing habits makes a difference.
This is why she went from owning her own financial planning firm to diving into the trenches of the beauty industry. After a “stinky year and a half” searching for a natural deodorant that actually worked and didn’t reek of patchouli, she came across a friend who was making it herself at home. This led Green to tinker with her own version, which she eventually shared with friends, who then passed it on to their friends. The positive response gave Green the encouragement to sell the product.
Freedom Stick deodorant officially launched in May and is available online at Amazon and in-house at Saj Natural Beauty in Downtown Summerlin, SkinBar in Henderson, Dr. Julio Garcia’s medical clinic and Four Seasons Las Vegas’ spa. Not only is Green passionate about her line of natural deodorant—she’s constantly testing out essential oils and other natural ingredients to perfect the product—she’s just as zealous educating people about the benefits of going toxin-free. “Women, the thing we don’t realize is our breasts are waste dumps for our whole body, so when we use antiperspirant and we clog everything up, it’s got to go somewhere,” she says.
Living a health-conscious life isn’t exactly new for Green. She grew up in the Ukraine before her family relocated—“I’m Jewish, and being Jewish in the Ukraine at the time was not the most popular thing to be”—to Italy and eventually settled in Seattle, all destinations that led to an organic way of living. “If I got sick, my mom made chicken soup. Pink eye? It was hot tea bags. We didn’t eat anything out of boxes.”
This is the way of life she continues to champion. With all three friends now healthy and cancer-free, Green is more motivated than ever. She has plans to expand the line to other products, and dreams of eventually manufacturing locally. “I would love for us to have a little place Downtown so that we could say we made it here. Deodorants from the desert? If it works here, it works everywhere.”