Interview with Peter Witonsky, CEO of Sun & Earth - Part II

10/13/17

Peter Witonsky

Click here for Part IPart III

A line of natural, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products

Peter Witonsky is the president of Sun & Earth, a natural cleaning products company based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. From laundry detergent to kitchen wipes to hand and dish soap, Sun & Earth offers products that are non-toxic, biodegradable, certified kosher, and free from animal testing. The company’s lines are available for purchase on its site, as well as through major retailers such as Amazon, Jet, and soap.com. Peter and his wife Donna bought Sun & Earth in January 2017. Prior to purchasing the company, Peter served in leadership positions at companies such as RGI Infomatics, Asynchrony, and iSirona.


EDWIN WARFIELD: What differentiates the company and your leadership in terms of corporate culture?

PETER WITONSKY: The culture of the company is very much about the team. We all have each others’ backs. It’s not large enough to be confusing, it’s not large enough to have fiefdoms yet, but what we do is as we cover each other, if Joseph goes out and is making a sale to Parsley and Sage here in Philadelphia, someone else knows what’s going on at the back of the house and someone else then picks up that responsibility. So, very much we have each others’ backs in this culture.

Q. What’s your vision for the brand’s future?

A. I see us growing of course, so the company and the brand need to expand. We believe we can grow the company tenfold in the next five years. We believe that we are actually at a tipping point where the natural space is really beginning to become commonplace. We see store after store moving to natural sets. You see lots of stores creating these 8-foot- and 12-foot-wide sections and row-wide sections. Their planograms now have natural sets in them; it’s not just the Proctor & Gambles, the Unilevers of the world. They are actually reaching out and trying to get to that greener population themselves.

Q. What do you see as your competitive advantages?

A. My history will tell you this as well: small companies have a much greater flexibility. For instance, we sold 750-some-odd cases of our laundry detergent, and in the factory itself we hung our coupons on each and every bottle before we put them in the boxes, before they went out to the store. I don’t know how a large company can accomplish that, but I have the ability to make a handshake or contractual deal with you, and I have the ability to fulfill that within my factory, which I find to be very unique. Other people don’t do that. Lots of people don’t realize that Sun & Earth is both the manufacturer and the distributor of the product. That is highly unique in our world. Most people have co-packers that fill for them. We are actually building the product as you order it that day. Of course, we try to do our spends and get everything in order.

In the competitive landscape, we are going against both large, well-known brands that are worldwide, and we’re going against, of course, our natural competitors as well. The large brands, the Cloroxes, the Unilevers, the SC Johnsons, et cetera, have all purchased large natural companies and they’re reaping those benefits. We’re competing against the Seventh Generations, the Mrs. Meyer’ses, and then we’re also competing against similar-sized companies to us who have good regional impacts. The job is to get your brand out there, to get the name out there, and tell people why you’re different—tell people why the local manufacturer, the made in America, the 100% vegan, the kosher for Passover year-round—why that’s special, why that’s different. It’s a long haul. You have to keep knocking down that door there is no doubt about it. Just putting that “kosher for Passover year-round” symbol doesn’t mean that anyone is going to turn your bottle around and look at it when they’re making the laundry choice. It does mean if they turn the bottle around and look at it, that you are unique, but you have to be able to tell people that story over and over again.

Connect with Peter on LinkedIn

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Edwin Warfield, CEO of citybizlist, conducts the CEO Interviews.

If you're interested in reaching CEOs, please contact edwin.warfield@citybizlist.com

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