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A madness to their Method

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The two 27-year-olds who’ve built Method into the world’s largest green cleaning brand have had to endure plenty of setbacks in short order. So far, they’ve muddled through.

Eric Ryan, the marketing guy, and Adam Lowry, the chemical engineer, ginned up their first cleaning sprays early in 2001 from ingredients such as coconut oil and corn.

Almost immediately, they ran into flak:

Their first official financing, for $1 million, was supposed to come on Sept. 11, 2001. By the time they got the cash two months later, they had $16 in the bank and owed $300,000.

At first, Target didn’t like the brand. It took a new senior buyer to see that even though Method was moving less volume than the big names, it was profitable.

So, the young men won over Target, but their first bottles of dish soap, shaped like little bowling pins, were leaking all over the place after customers unscrewed the tops for a whiff. More crisis intervention and a redesign followed.

Now Ryan and Lowry are dealing with scaling issues and strain on their friendship as they’ve exploded to 130 products in 8,000 stores.

Given all these setbacks, Ryan says, “We’ve created an organization that is good at changing.”

Their secret? The two are willing to challenge each other, and they don’t mind being copied because their idea is to lead. When they launched a triple-concentrated detergent that would generate less packaging, weight and shipping charges than standard brands, practically no one else was doing that. Now almost all detergents are concentrated.

— Adapted from “Soap Stars,” Margaret Heffernan, Reader’s Digest.

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