Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster, founders of Plaine Products

Founded in 2017 by sisters Lindsey McCoy and Alison Webster, Plaine Products is on a mission to eliminate single-use plastic from the bathroom. The company offers a line of toxin-free personal care products that come in aluminum bottles that can be sent back and refilled time after time. All of their products are vegan, non-GMO, cruelty-free, biodegradable, color-safe and free of parabens, sulfates and toxins.

We spoke to CEO Lindsey McCoy about Plaine Products.

How did you get started in this area?

McCoy: My background is in nonprofit management. I was living in the Bahamas. My husband is from there and he was running environmental education programs and nonprofits there. In his work, he kept running into plastic all over the place–on the beaches and in the water. So we started carrying reusable water bottles and the reusable shopping bags to contribute a little bit less to that.

When did you think of the business idea for Plaine Products?

McCoy: I couldn’t find a solution to all of the plastic bottles in my shower, a good way to dispose of all that. Around that same time, we were talking about moving back to the U.S. My dad had been a small business owner all my life so it didn’t seem crazy to start a business based on this premise.

I called my sister who was in Cincinnati at the time and asked if she wanted to figure this out with me. I thought of it as a business opportunity that would let us do good and make money.

How did the company start out?

McCoy: We literally bootstrapped it and worked in the garage with three products to start with. The concept started out as direct-to-consumer e-commerce. You’d order a shampoo, we’d send it to you with a pump, and then when you’re running low, we send you a refill bottle with a return label. We wash, refill, and reuse it.

How’s the company doing?

McCoy: We have grown from those three products to 17 SKUs now and saw about $2 million in business last year. We weren’t taking much of a salary when we were getting started, but we’ve now grown to having about 10 full-time employees and 20 people who are contractors working with us part time. We’ve grown slowly and have been able to manage that growth.

Was being in Cincinnati an advantage for you guys?

McCoy: I think the best thing about being in Cincinnati as an e-commerce business is that it’s a great place to ship and receive from. It’s just the perfect location. And we’ve also been able to take advantage of the manufacturing in the region. Our bottles are made in Youngstown, which is not too far away.

With the current focus on sustainability, you guys were in the right place, right time period for this idea.

McCoy: As we were growing, sustainability came into the news more. Also, there’s a lot going on in Cincinnati with sustainability. Some of the breweries here are doing some interesting stuff. We’re talking to a distillery right now about washing their bottles for them and maybe trying to expand the reuse portion of it. So yes, Cincinnati has been a very supportive place.