On December 13, a group of 25 YPN members gathered to hear the story of Kari Warberg Block, inventor, CEO, and world-recognized entrepreneur. Kari and her company Earthkind have skyrocketed to become a huge player in the pest and rodent removal business. Kari’s vision of a natural solution to this problem has catapulted her into a successful entrepreneur expanding the already massive $2B retail industry and created a huge disruption in the predominantly used “poison” products arena.
Kari’s history has some definite irony and humor involved. Kari father was an entymologist (bug doctor). Growing up on the farm, their family like many others had a consistent problem with mice getting in vehicles, machinery, etc. and creating havoc by chewing up upholstery and chewing through electrical lines. This was all very costly. She knew there had to be a solution out there. Fast-forward to a date with her then boyfriend that didn’t go according to plan. A mouse ran up her leg as she was attempting to maneuver a truck. On the fly, she sprayed the only thing she had nearby – her perfume. To her amazement, a couple other mice that were hiding nearby scurried away. That seemed to be her “aha” moment.
After that, she began experimenting with different variables. She tried different scents. She would spray pinecones and wood chips and place them in the cabs of tractors and trucks and see what worked and what didn’t. It was a lot of trial and error until she met a scientist at BSC and together they applied for their first patent. She began to distribute her product at local implements and within a year, she had a business!
Fresh Cab, one of her products, is now a $50M dollar brand. She has been able to sustain a remarkable 45% annual growth. The EPA nearly shut down Earthkind before it ever got a chance to blossom due to many regulations and politics. Ultimately, she persevered and her tenacity along with a strong network of individuals helped her overcome these obstacles and many more.
Some of Kari’s keys to success include learning early that if you take away “pain”, it will help you succeed. Anytime people can avoid any level of pain, to themselves or to others, they are more apt to do it. It’s psychological. She also learned very early about how to effectively target market. She utilized search engine optimization, and wrote up numerous articles and blogs like “How do I get rid of mice without using poison?”
Kari offered 3 lessons learned from her experiences at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the Ernst & Young Global Entrepreneur Conference. In Rio, she had an opportunity to meet, interact, and observe the best of the best Olympic athletes including Michael Phelps and Simon Biles.
- Have a benchmark. Having a benchmark gets you out of bed at 4:00am. It’s your fuel to keep you motivated. When asked what motivates Michael Phelps, his response was to beat his last time. He is always trying to outdo himself. He’s not concerned what others think, only fixated on his own routine and his own confidence in his abilities.
- Commit to a better you. This is an everyday mental battle Kari discussed. Confidence is key, but humility as well. Also with more success, this attracts more enemies and many times very powerful enemies who want to “squash you like a bug”, no pun intended. Kari added that taking $200M out of competitors pockets can create a few enemies rather quickly.
- Seek out networks that support your goals. She added that you become the 5 people you hang around most. Surround yourself with the right people who can make you a better you and make you successful.
There is so much more to this story that makes it difficult to summarize including: her ongoing research and development, more stories from the 2016 Olympic Games, her interactions with Damon John and President Obama at the World Entrepreneur Conference, her contributions to several media outlets as a contributing writer, and her role as Advisor for the White House on business and policy.
We truly enjoyed Kari’s chat with us and on behalf of the Bismarck-Mandan Young Professional’s Network, we thank you! Please visit us again. We wish you the best of luck on your continued ventures.