Ethical Ecommerce Interviews: CORPUS on the Natural Revolution

We spoke to Jean-Pierre Mastey, founder of CORPUS Naturals. With nearly two decades of experience in skincare, he’s harnessed the latest advancements in natural chemistry to create fully natural deodorants.

What was the inspiration for starting CORPUS?

When I was preparing for the arrival of my first child, I began obsessing over the safety of the ingredients in the products in our home: and I discovered that many products that claim to be “natural” or made with “natural ingredients” still contain many potential harmful synthetic substances (especially anything with fragrance). I wanted to do it better.

How did you go about setting up the business?

I have a lot of experience in the personal care sector: I was the owner of Baxter of California for over a decade. In the mid-2000s we made several futile attempts to create natural formulations, but we gave up since we just couldn’t get it right. But since then, the major ingredient suppliers have poured resources into establishing safe, effective, natural alternatives, which made CORPUS possible.

But making a natural product did have its unique challenges. Many chemists and suppliers have their own standards of what constitutes a safe ingredient, but I was after something safe and fully natural: which meant I was met with some resistance.

How have you grown the business?

Before anything else, we wanted to create an exceptionally designed product. The weight, the proportions, the texture: all should please all the senses, elicit happiness.

This philosophy guided our decisions about growing the brand: because our aesthetic is so strong, we knew that Instagram would be key for us. So we focused on growing a community there—by educating people on relevant issues without talking down to them—and collecting email addresses from that. We spend a lot of time planning out the content, and create the post designs in-house on a weekly basis.

This is still our primary engagement tool: if you do what’s right for your business, simple strategies can be so successful.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

When you set such high standards for yourself, it means you can only partner with literally a handful of other companies. But if you’re not influenced solely by profits, challenges like this can look more like solutions.

So we partner with other small, family-run businesses based in the States. These relationships give us full transparency in the manufacturing process, and lessen our environmental impact.

Tell us about the tech you use.

We use Shopify: I love the platform. I love it so much that I invested in the company after using it for a few months!

It’s so simple and intuitive that everyone in the company uses it. All developers want to work on it, and the app store is full of great plugins that even a novice can implement without help.

What are the most impactful ethical practices a business can put in place?

I’d say the most impactful thing a business can do is operate transparently. I’m not talking about sharing your secret sauce with competitors: I mean giving customers the answers, even when they’re not asking. The map is available for those who care to follow it: Patagonia is a great example.

What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting out in ecommerce?

Do your research: ask the right people the right questions. There’s no advantage in rushing to market if you don’t know what you want to achieve in the long run.

What do you think the future will look like: for ecommerce and for CORPUS?

Over the past decade, the barrier to entry into business has been lowered significantly, and capital has been easily accessible for many startups. The result, in my view, has been an excess of companies that should never have existed: I think the coming recession will flush many of them out. But the collateral damage is what worries me. Many companies will suffer as a result.

We’ve been handling this period very well. Sales are actually up, and we’ve spent a lot of time strategising on the future of the brand. Our number one goal is moving away from plastic, and we’re making a lot of progress on it.

Tell us about a piece of art that has inspired you!

I had just one image with me at my first creative brief, which embodied the feeling I wanted to create with CORPUS. It’s this, from the Irving Penn book FLOWERS:

This is another interview in our series speaking to ethical online entrepreneurs: we hope they’ll be helpful and inspirational for anyone trying to find their way in business. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!