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Hidden Gems: Meet Lily Tse of Think Dirty

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lily Tse.

Hi Lily, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I created the Think Dirty mobile app in 2012 to help consumers learn about the ingredients in beauty products with a simple product scan. When I first started, which was over nine years ago, the advocacy was done by non-profit groups like environmental organizations. The way they spread awareness of particularly harmful ingredients was with paper wallet cards, but whenever I got one of those cards, I would always lose it. At that time, I think the iPhone 3S or something similar was out, and since we had the technology, I wondered why this couldn’t be an app.

My mom is a breast cancer survivor, so I am very health conscious. I realized the chemistry and toxicology of beauty product ingredients are not widely known. It’s hard to understand what the chemical names on a label means. I thought, “There has to be an easier way to understand what’s in the products we are putting on our skin.”

Think Dirty is very easy to use — you just need to point your phone to the bar code, scan, learn the ingredients, and find out whether the product is rated good or bad for long-term health. The app also gives you alternative options to purchase. Today, we have over 500,000 products in the database.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Many studies have shown that a reason women founders don’t get funding is because of how the questions are being asked and how they have to answer. People care about your relationship status, whether you’re married, if you have kids, a family… all of those things are taken into consideration to determine if you’re capable or not. As a woman, you need to be aware of the type of question you’ll be asked — and be ready to change the direction of the conversation at your earliest opportunity.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Think Dirty is the #1 beauty ingredients app. It connects ingredient-conscious beauty shoppers to natural beauty brands. Our platform engages both consumers and brands to making healthier and socially responsible choices when it comes to ingredients safety and healthy environment. Close to 5M consumers use Think Dirty to shop for better personal and beauty products for their health and the environment. Currently, we have over 500K products and our app hits just over 30M scans and it has been used by users in over 33 countries.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy of conscious capitalism. Think Dirty is a business built to care about 3Ps: People, Planet and Profit. My passion for consumer advocacy comes out of 13 years of working in advertising and marketing. I never realized the environmental impact cosmetics had on our health until my family was touched by cancer, and I watched Annie Leonard’s “Story of Cosmetics,” which examined the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products. It was a huge challenge for me to find safer alternatives to use personally; although many products are labeled “all-natural” or “organic,” there is little transparency in labeling cosmetics. There was also no real tool out there for consumers to find information easily. With my background in design and marketing, I wanted to develop and create something for others as well as myself.

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