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PSS Winter '12

Business and Heart: Hand in Hand

by Sarah Tompkins ’10

William Glaab and Courtney Apple

William Glaab '06 and Courtney Apple '08

After three years of brainstorming, it was in an airport – waiting to board a plane bound for Argentina – that it finally clicked. Social entrepreneurs Courtney Apple ’08 and William Glaab ’06 stumbled across the organization Clean the World in a magazine article. The not-for-profit agency seeks to provide children in impoverished countries with a much needed staple of everyday life – soap.

“It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” explains Apple. “For some time, we had wanted to start a business that could thrive while also giving back to the community.”

“We wanted to create a product that could affect a life in a really significant way,” says Glaab.

Each year, more than five million people in impoverished countries die of respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. Many of those deaths, Apple and Glaab say, could be prevented through proper hygiene. With the simple act of washing hands, deaths could be reduced by 45 percent.

“Courtney and I saw these startling statistics and a light bulb went off in our heads,” says Glaab.

Their solution was to establish a company, Hand in Hand Soap, that manufactures and distributes a lightly scented and luxurious soap that is 100 percent eco-friendly, biodegradable and sustainable. Most importantly, for each bar purchased, Hand in Hand donates a bar of soap to those in need.

The business has been profitable; they have sold their sustainable suds to thousands of caring consumers. In addition to supporting disease prevention, their customers enjoy knowing that each bar is free from palm oil, is cruelty free, and has been certified by Fair Trade USA. And, for each bar purchased, profits are used to save 50 feet of rainforest in Southeast Asia.

The couple proudly reports that in February, using the services of Clean the World, Hand in Hand Soap will make its first delivery to Haiti. Additionally, their product has been getting attention from major retailers throughout the nation, and has been featured in numerous magazines including InStyle, Philadelphia Magazine and Daily Candy, as well as countless blogs.

With the resoundingly positive attention Hand in Hand Soap has received, the couple plans to expand their product line.

“Our goal is to create more sets of soaps in the immediate future. We’re keeping the soap our No. 1 concentration, but there is so much room to grow. The sky’s the limit,” says Glaab.