THE PHILLY-BORN PiperWai brand doesn't look like drugstore deodorants and antiperspirants. Packaged in a teal-wrapped glass jar, the soft grey solid seems - and smells - more like a fancy candle than a morning hygiene standby that absorbs sweat and eliminates odor. But, judging from the product's 800-jars-a-day sales, that's what it does. Two West Mount Airy besties created PiperWai, named after a family dog and a tribe in Guyana, as an alternative to aluminum- and paraben-laden big-name brands.
Then, they took their proprietary blend of activated charcoal powder, organic coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils to Shark Tank, where smarty-pants investor Barbara Corcoran took one whiff - and took a leap.
Today, after an extended, post-show supply-and-demand hiccup, founders Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner have attained sweet-smelling stardom. Here, the pals - Edelstein lives in South Philly, Ribner's now in NYC - dish with writer Lauren McCutcheon about the success of their product that's strong enough for a woman, but made for a man, too.
Q It's been a hot, sweaty summer. Have you all been busy?
Ribner: We always experience higher sales in summer.
Edelstein: We've had customers tell us they've struggled with body odor their entire lives, and have tried everything, and all of a sudden, they use PiperWai, and it's changed their lives. Our customers run 10Ks, have kids, work in really sweaty conditions. . .
Q Why is it different?
Edelstein: We don't use aluminum, parabens, or synthetic fragrances, which can give people headaches and just cover up the smell.
Ribner: If you can find an alternative that's just as effective, why not avoid those potentially toxic chemicals?
Q Maybe because PiperWai costs $11.99 a jar? Drugstore deod is way cheaper.
Edelstein: It's not that we're marking up our product. It's that our ingredients cost more. PiperWai lasts three months with daily use.
Q And you apply it . . . with your fingers?
Ribner: Yes. It's also moisturizing, and it's actually really nice to rub it back into your hands after you use it.
Edelstein: We had one guy email us and said before he used PiperWai, he'd always used stick deodorant. The first time he applied PiperWai, he found a tumor under his arm. Now he's in treatment for it. It's an unforeseen outcome, but it's a pretty cool one.
Ribner: We're working on a stick applicator to be released at the end of the year.
Q You struggled to fill orders post Shark Tank. Have you caught up?
Ribner: We finally got the backorder under control, as of a month ago.
We've also grown 4,000 percent in six months. Now, we're at $4 million in revenue. That's the Shark Tank effect for you.
Q Do you consider yourselves deodorant celebrities?
Ribner: Ha. Not really, but people do recognize us when we're together, especially in New York.
Q How is success treating you?
Edelstein: It's such a satisfying feeling to support yourself and other people with something we created from scratch in our kitchen in Fishtown.
Q Anything that stinks about Philly?
Edelstein: Trash day. Trash collection in my neighborhood is kind of a mess because they do it during rush hour, when people are going to work.