SAM+LEO — A Company Devoted to Clean Products and Loved by the Gen Z

SAM+LEO — A Company Devoted to Clean Products and Loved by the Gen Z

SAM+LEO is devoted to ungendered, clean products in environmentally friendly packaging for Gen Z. We are committed to sourcing the highest-quality ingredients, most environmentally friendly packaging possible, and listening to what Gen Z wants.

The essence of SAM+LEO is social impact and community-building. We are building a cadre of thought leaders and organizations that work in gender education and awareness. Providing a community and voice for Gen Z is the foundation of SAM+LEO. When profitable, SAM+LEO will share a percentage of profits with aligned organizations. 

SAM+LEO addresses the issue that Gen Z does not have quality body care. There is a market gap in clean products formulated for Generation Z (ages 11 to 21), specifically deodorant. There are baby products and adult products but no clean Gen Z products. The beauty and wellness industry is notorious for being concerned about the ingredients, but not the packaging. The available products do not come in environmentally friendly packaging.

SAM+LEO solves this problem by offering clean products that: target Gen Z preferences (i.e., smell, effectiveness, ingredients); reducing emissions and waste in landfills by using only environmentally friendly packaging and promoting gender awareness.

“SAM+LEO is not just a new product line with proprietary formulations. We are creating a movement, community, and voice for Gen Z.,” says SAM+LEO founder Dara Erck.

“We studied what Gen Z cares about and knew that we could develop effective products, in environmentally friendly packaging, with the ethos of kindness only, inclusivity, and authenticity.” Dara managed large-scale global health projects for more than 20 years that involved massive drug and vaccine supply chains. She understands the importance of social impact and its link to our buying power.

The SAM+LEO deodorant comes in a container that is made from 100% PCR. PCR plastics are the recycled materials from other plastics and PET bottles. These materials are recycled into other packaging materials through community recycling programs. Reprocessing plastics is of the utmost importance as it uses less fossil fuels and less energy.

The all-natural, vegan ingredients contain a unique blend of products that serve to reduce odor in natural ways with a trade-marked grayclay™ technology.  SAM+LEO also developed its own proprietary natural fragrance that is free from parabens, phthalates, ethyl alcohol, dyes, endocrine disruptors, or other harsh chemicals. 

Key specifications of SAM+LEO deodorant:

  • Target Gen Z preferences (i.e., smell, effectiveness, ingredients)
  • Reduces emissions and waste in landfills by using only environmentally friendly packaging and clean ingredients
  • Promotes gender awareness, destigmatizes sex education, and provides access to gender resources
  • Free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, ethyl alcohol, dyes, SLS, phenoxyethanol, benzalkonium chloride, formaldehyde, triclosan, lanolin, or endocrine disruptors
  • 100% vegan, 100% recyclable, 100% cruelty-free
  • No baking soda
  • No essential oils
  • Naturally antibacterial and antifungal
  • Full of antioxidants

SAM+LEO was founded due to a lack of available clean products for Gen Z. While shopping for toiletries for her son for sleepaway camp, founder Dara Erck realized that there was a huge gap in the market. She found many very “girly” products, as well as many “macho” products, but nothing in between. She spent a couple of years sitting with the idea and asking friends if they had a similar experience. When the answers were all a resounding “YES,” she decided to further explore the idea. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, Dara found she had more time to devote to this project and SAM+LEO was born.

It has taken Dara a while to own the title of entrepreneur and founder. She is a global health strategy specialist with a career dedicated to R&D solutions for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and ebola. Dara spent much of their career as a consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Global Health R&D Advocacy. She worked with the foundation to advocate for increased spending for global health R&D as well as to promote innovative financing for product development. She also served as a Senior Advisor to Made By Dyslexia, a nonprofit launched by Richard Branson to bring awareness and support to the 1 out of 10 children affected by dyslexia.

In addition to working in global health, Dara is passionate about government reform and democratization. She has been an election supervisor with the Organization for Security and Cooperation since 1997 in Armenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine.

Dara holds a Master’s of International Finance and Business from Columbia University in New York and a Bachelor of Arts in International Economics and Politics from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

The business and market for Gen Z face many challenges:

First, sourcing truly environmentally friendly materials. In Dara’s research, she came across individual wipe sachets that claim they are recyclable. When she tried to find their supplier in the U.S. and globally, she came to a dead end. Eventually, she found a material specialist in California who inspected and reverse-engineered the packaging to understand the material. It turns out that the package has three layers. Each layer is recyclable but the sachet itself is not.

Authenticity and transparency are fundamental to Dara’s guiding principles but also of high-ranking importance to Gen Z.

A second challenge is creating a new market category for ungendered products. The aisles of most big stores are gendered – there is an aisle for men and a separate aisle for women. At the same time, many women state that they prefer to use men’s deodorants. 

A third challenge is the supply chain. Everything from raw materials to production to shipping is taking much longer than pre-Covid. The freight costs are prohibitively high. As a small startup, we are vying for some of the same ingredients as much larger companies. 

An additional challenge is understanding who makes up the buying power of Gen Z. For the younger Gen Z (ages 11 to roughly 15), it is likely that parents are making decisions about purchasing body care products. For ages 16-21, Gen Z is more likely to make their own decisions. Therefore, a dual marketing approach is needed: one to the parents (usually Gen X) and one to the older Gen Z. 

However, with those challenges come countless opportunities. SAM+LEO is a game-changer. We are the first to consider Gen Z alongside its beliefs and values. Why do products need to be gendered? We are also flexible and nimble. We can take time to listen to the various voices of Gen Z and consider the products they are looking for through their teen years into their early 20s.

Since SAM+LEO is meant for all genders, that includes nonbinary and transgender. While society is more accepting than even 10 years ago, we are far from being inclusive and supportive of nontraditional genders. The numbers are worrisome: 52% of all transgender and nonbinary US young people contemplated killing themselves in 2020. More than half thought it would be better to be dead, rather than trying to live with rejection, isolation, loneliness, bullying, and being targeted by politicians and activists pushing anti-trans legislation.

Ennis, Dawn. “‘Terrible Time For Trans Youth:’ New Survey Spotlights Suicide Attempts — And Hope.” Forbes. May 19, 2021

SAM+LEO’s messaging highlights inclusivity, authenticity and individuality. Forbes also stated, “When pronouns were respected by all of the people trans and nonbinary youth lived with, they reported they attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived. That’s a reduction of 50%.” Every SAM+LEO deodorant comes with a sticker sheet that includes fun images as well as pronouns to personalize the container.

SAM+LEO recommends other businesses to recognize Gen Z in their business decisions and planning, including social media messaging, package design and sustainability. It is important to consider that globally, Gen Z had over $200 billion in buying power in 2018. Moreover, they’ve influenced an additional $600 billion in spending by their parents. And Gen Z’s combined income by 2030 will be $33 trillion (surpassing Millenial’s income by 2031). Obviously, these statistics cannot be ignored. Businesses may need to shift to realign with the rising buying power and preferences of Gen Z.

Barbara Santini

Barbara is a freelance writer and a sex and relationships adviser at Dimepiece LA and Peaches and Screams. Barbara is involved in various educational initiatives aimed at making sex advice more accessible to everyone and breaking stigmas around sex across various cultural communities. In her spare time, Barbara enjoys trawling through vintage markets in Brick Lane, exploring new places, painting and reading.

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