Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Joshua Onysko

Joshua Onysko
Founder and owner
Pangea Organics
Boulder, Colo.
Age: 31

In 2001, Joshua Onysko founded Pangea Organics, initially selling homemade soap from his garage. Fewer than seven years later, the company is the largest cold-pressed organic soap manufacturer in the country, with a growth rate of more than 600 percent during the past two years, and an international brand with a presence in 17 countries.

But for Onysko, the real value of the business is its commitment to sustainability. That starts with his product line's ingredients, and it extends to how he runs the business on a day-to-day basis. All his employees receive full medical benefits, a public- transportation pass and a minimum starting wage of $12.50 an hour as part of Onysko's commitment to providing a living wage for each employee. Employees are paid to work in an organic greenhouse and garden, which in turn provides fruits and vegetables for them seven months out of the year.

Sustainability extends to his suppliers as well. These are mostly small farmers, many of them women, who cultivate a quarter-million acres in 53 countries. " Women grow 87 percent of the world's food but own only 1 percent of the land," Onysko says. " We provide microfinancing to women in developing countries to finance the growing of our ingredients."

Onysko didn't set out to found a skin care company; he just wanted to change the world. " My whole life was spawned from being a hippie," he says. He first dropped out of school as a young teen to pursue acting, then left school for good at 16. In his early 20s, days before leaving for India on a one-way ticket, Onysko made a batch of homemade soap to rave reviews from friends. The rest is history.

Soap is the medium, but the message is deeper than that. " Lotions and soaps are great," Onysko says. " But what we're really selling is the future. If we don't have sustainability on a social, economic and environmental level, then we don't have a future."

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