Josh Neumann of Kind Lips: “By reminding people to speak kind words after applying our product, they can inspire real change and make the world a better place”
I believe we are making a positive impact on society in a number of ways! … We’re reaching individuals right where they are and providing them with a small reminder their words are powerful. It takes only one compliment to change the entire direction of a person’s day. By reminding people to speak kind words after applying our product, they can inspire real change and make the world a better place.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Neumann.
Josh is the creator and founder of Kind Lips, an all-natural, organic lip balm with a mission to make the world a kinder place. Before starting the company, Josh was a successful realtor, but he felt he had a greater calling. He longed to bring more compassion and kindness into both his community and society as a whole. So, Josh combined his passion with his mission and created a small reminder that inspires kindness, one tube at a time.
Thank you for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Prior to launching Kind Lips, I was a realtor for nearly a decade. I really enjoyed it and was successful at it. Yet after several years, I started feeling uninspired by it. I felt a passion and a need to make a difference on a larger scale and decided it was time for a career change. So I started with the one thing I had been obsessed with since I was a child — finding the perfect lip balm. I spent several Friday and Saturday nights over months researching and testing the right combinations of only the best ingredients in my kitchen. And in 2017, Kind Lips was born.
But I didn’t just want to create an all-natural, organic lip balm that simply hydrates lips; I wanted to create a lip balm that would remind people to speak kind words every time they use it. Studies show positive and negative words can affect our physical and mental health. Imagine what a difference we could make in our own lives and in the lives of others if we speak and spread kindness every day. This is the foundation for the Kind Lips message and the movement I’m hoping the company continues to inspire.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
After I decided to launch a lip balm company, I originally intended to name the brand, Blessed Lips. I called to tell my mother — one of my biggest champions and supporters — about it, and during that brief call, she told me that I’d be great at whatever I chose to do and that she had to go because she had dinner on the table (I, of course, was not overly encouraged by that response).
The very next morning at 6 a.m. on the nose, my phone rang, and it was my mother. It was very strange for her to call that early. She told me that she had the most vivid dream and had been up for the past three hours because she hadn’t been able to fall back asleep. She dreamt that I was 5-years-old and my sister was 7-years-old, and we had gotten into an argument, during which I said some very mean things to her. After saying those mean words, my mom punished me by making me write, “The law of kindness is on my lips”. She said she was standing over my shoulder in the dream, and every time I wrote the words “kind” and “lips”, they flew off the page and hit her in the face. At that moment during our call, the hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I knew the name of the company was supposed to be Kind Lips and not Blessed Lips. I changed it, and it’s all thanks to my mom!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was so excited because we had our first packaging printed, and it had just arrived at the Kind Lips world headquarters, a.k.a my house. I ripped open the box and marveled at how amazing it looked. Orders began coming in, and we were shipping the product out.
About three months later, I hired a new employee. As she was becoming familiar with all aspects of the company, she noted that there were multiple spelling errors on the packaging! I was mortified, but I made the decision to keep using them until they were all gone. That lesson taught me to always have at least three sets of eyes review all printed materials moving forward.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
I believe we are making a positive impact on society in a number of ways! First and foremost, we’re reaching individuals right where they are and providing them with a small reminder their words are powerful. It takes only one compliment to change the entire direction of a person’s day. By reminding people to speak kind words after applying our product, they can inspire real change and make the world a better place.
Secondly, we’re proud to support organizations that spread kindness. From donating 20% of our profits to anti-bullying organizations, partnering with groups for special kindness campaigns and working with suicide prevention and mental health organizations, Kind Lips is dedicated to helping make our communities and schools kinder places. For example, a school in New Richmond, Wisconsin was recently inspired to incorporate one of our kindness challenges, so students and teachers wrote and spoke messages of kindness and encouragement to each other over several weeks. After instituting the campaign, reported incidents of bullying and harassment decreased by nearly 44%. Kids, in particular, learn bullying behaviors as early as kindergarten, so it’s important that we teach them about kindness from an early age. Kind Lips is a great tool to start the conversation in the classroom and at home.
Thirdly, we want to make people’s lips healthier too! Kind Lips is not only a reminder to be kind, but it’s also kind for lips. We created a formula that truly protects and moisturizes people’s lips so that they can use less lip balm.
Can you tell me a story about a particular individual who was impacted by your cause?
A little over a year after beginning the business, I received an email from a woman letting me know she had purchased Kind Lips online and wanted to set up a phone call with me. I had no idea what she wanted to discuss, but I said yes to the call. A few days later, we spoke, and she began telling me how she found out about Kind Lips and how much she enjoyed the quality of the product. She then began telling me the story of how she has been married for 34 years and, unfortunately, the last 31 of them had not been good at all. I could tell she was becoming very emotional sharing this with me, and I encouraged her that it was ok.
She went on to tell me her husband was a truck driver and that he was in the habit of not saying very kind things to her. She knew he was an avid lip balm user and decided to swap out his old lip balm for Kind Lips. She also left a card in his semi, which described the intention of the product.
She said for the next two weeks nothing changed, and she continued to receive texts from him that were not kind. She said by the third week, he refrained from sending any mean messages at all, and by the fourth week of seeing and using the product every day, he actually sent her a compliment! By the end of her story, I could hear through the phone that her tears of sadness had turned to a smile. She told me that her marriage is the best it’s been in over 30 years. From that wife who told us the lip balm saved her marriage to kids who say they’re seeing less bullying in their schools, the Kind Lips mission is working! And we’re just getting started.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Firstly, treat others the way they would like to be treated. The more respectful and compassionate we are of others, the greater the opportunity to spread kindness. Next, speak kind words! Words have real power, and a kind word can make someone’s day. Lastly, go out of your way to do one nice act every day. This can be as simple as holding the door open for someone or picking up garbage off the street. These small actions can have a tremendous impact on ourselves, others, and our society as a whole.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I was always told that I needed to learn how to follow before I could learn to lead. For me, leadership is the responsibility of putting my employee’s needs above mine, but not above the organization’s. I’m creating an environment that allows each employee to thrive as an individual while knowing that no individual is greater than the team. I love asking our team what I may do to help them, as a whole and individually, and truly listening to what they say. I feel we have a safe space where everyone’s thoughts, opinions, and ideas are valued.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
When I started Kind Lips, I went into it with a very open mind and little expectations. Because of that, I’m grateful to say I haven’t had many “I should have known that” moments. The wisdom I would share would be:
- Be patient.
No matter how hard you work and how great your team is, it always takes longer than you think it should, whether it’s the sales process, manufacturing, etc. Prior to Kind Lips receiving its first big break with a purchase order from Regis Corp. for 3500 of its locations, we were in just 70. We quickly ordered product and packaging but didn’t have the budget to have the product put into the packaging. So, my family and I did it ourselves over the course of three weeks. It took longer than I had hoped, but it taught me to be patient in every aspect of my business.
2. Perfection is the devil.
As I started formulating the product and designing the labels and packaging, I could never reach, what I felt, was perfection in anything. One day, after months of frustration, a friend asked me if I had an iPhone. I replied “yes,” then she asked me which version. I said a 7, and she said, “If they continue to improve the iPhone and release new versions, why can you just do the best you can for now and know that the product and packaging will continue to improve and evolve with time?” At that moment, she helped me realize that I had the ability to move forward with what I had and feel good about. Don’t let perfection immobilize you.
3. Find a mentor.
I admit I’m stubborn and tried to figure out a lot of things on my own when I first launched Kind Lips. It wasn’t easy, and I learned a lot of things through trial and error. It was only when I kicked my ego to the curb and began reaching out to other people who had started their own businesses for advice that I was able to accomplish much more in less time. A good mentor can help you grow as an entrepreneur and provide you with much-needed advice and feedback that you might not be able to find anywhere else.
4. Follow your gut.
While it’s good to ask for other people’s opinions and advice, I also learned that you still have to follow your gut. For instance, no one knows my product and my brand better than me. Even though I knew what I wanted to do and what I wanted Kind Lips to be, I would still ask people for their opinions about how they saw the company and decisions I had to make. As I listened to more and more people, I noticed the branding and the direction of the company began to shift away from what I originally desired them to be. I started to feel as if we were straying from our authenticity. Opinions can be useful but keep a journal to remind you of why you started your company and where you want it to go. This will help you stay as authentic as you can to your brand and help you follow your gut.
5. Learn to lead.
Employees can help you be successful. They’re also a big responsibility! Good employees help facilitate the work and can often possess skill sets that you may not have. Yet, having employees means I’ve had to learn a lot about managing payroll, benefits, workloads, and even their unique personalities. I’ve learned all of these things on the fly on top of growing the business. I’d encourage any entrepreneur to read and learn as much as you can about how to lead the team you have and the team you want to have.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would love for everyone to associate putting lip balm on with giving someone a compliment. It doesn’t even have to be Kind Lips that they’re using! If every time you put lip balm on, you gave a stranger walking down the sidewalk a genuine compliment or called your best friend and let him or her know how much you appreciate them, I believe that positive energy would have an unbelievably positive impact on the culture of our world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
For me, I think about the phrase “Mind, Body, and Soul” on a daily basis. It challenges me to be a better person and to develop myself in each of the categories on a daily basis. If I do one more than the other two, my life seems to fall out of balance. I do my best to read, workout, and pray/meditate on a daily basis. All three of those actions and areas are equally important to my happiness.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.
I’d love to have breakfast with Oprah. I feel like she oozes wisdom, and I would leave that meeting being more intelligent and kind just by being in her presence.
How can our readers follow you on social media?