RHS Alumnus Creates Plastic Free Beauty Brand to Help Save the Planet
Earth Day was founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues. Throughout the district today, many of our schools are participating in activities to help celebrate its 50th anniversary and discuss the importance of environmental conservation. As part of this celebration, Randolph Township Schools is proud to recognize RHS alumnus Kate Assaraf who is making a difference in protecting the environment. Kate has co-founded a plastic free beauty brand called NOAP (Nurture Our Amazing Planet) in her efforts to reduce and eliminate plastic waste.
Kate graduated from Randolph in 2001 and has fond memories of her childhood experience. As a student, she participated in youth theater programs at Brundage Park Playhouse and volunteered in their summer teaching camps. She describes school as being her “happy place” and is still proud of the recognition she received by her senior class. Kate was voted “Best Personality” and “Most Unique.” Her most memorable experiences were the activities she participated in at school. “I hosted the Mr. RHS Male Beauty Pageant and it was so fun seeing everyone’s hidden talents. I also remember decorating the halls for Spirit Week and thinking it was so amazing how people come together and totally transform a space with mostly paper and their imaginations – and a dash of competition.” While at Randolph, she also appreciated the creative opportunities she had in the classroom citing Mr. Hannon’s woodshop class and Mrs. Rupprecht’s creative writing course as two of her favorite examples.
Although Kate has left Randolph and has moved on to achieve tremendous success, she says that she will always make time for her hometown and loves everything about Randolph and her experience. “Randolph gave me a high standard for friendship and comedy. Even as an adult, the funniest people I know are all from Randolph. I have lived all over the place: Los Angeles, NYC, London, and Paris – NO ONE is as funny as the people I grew up with. Randolph gave me my best friend Becky Miller, my memories of my mom who lived there until she passed away, and the best memories of what high school was like before cell phones.” During this uncertain time, she has empathy and compassion for our current senior class but has confidence that they will use this situation as an opportunity to develop something extraordinary. “I often think of the seniors – missing all the stuff like Prom, Senior Week, and going in caravans down to Seaside Heights to celebrate. I feel for these kids who are missing a major milestone, but if the 07869 is anything like I remember it, there will be kids at home that will be cooking up something amazing that will transform the future. Look at Payal Kadakia of Class Pass, and Russel D'Souza of SeatGeek. I was lucky to call both of these people friends, and see them turn into amazing leaders. Randolph creates giants.” Kate suggests that all students keep a journal so they will be able to look back on all of the magical moments that they experience during their time in school.
When Kate graduated from Randolph, she went to Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia but left shortly after to study Economics and Math at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She advised that seniors shouldn’t worry if they choose a school and later decide that somewhere else is a better fit. For her, choosing a different university was a better choice for her career path. While in college, she started off as an Art major before switching to Economics and Math. She’s glad that more girls are studying STEM majors as she was usually one of the only women in her classes in the early 2000’s. In college, Kate also discovered her love of trail running and joined the cross country team which she now regrets not participating in at Randolph.
After graduating from college, Kate went on to work on brand partnerships for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry including the Walt Disney Company and the Kardashians. She believes her success comes from being willing to try new things and encourages others not to be afraid of starting and trying something they have never done before. In her eyes, it is never too late to start a new project or learn a new skill. From joining the cross country team in college, learning to surf at 28, or taking up skateboarding at 35; Kate has spent most of her life challenging herself. Now as a proud mother of two young boys, she believes that continuing to lead by example is incredibly important and this is especially true for her environmental activism.
Kate was at a restaurant in New York City in 2016 when she overheard a conversation that plastic wasn’t recyclable. Given her passion for the environment, she decided to do some research in disbelief. She was horrified to learn that this was true. According to peer reviewed journal Science Advances, about 91% of the earth’s plastic is not recycled. In frustration, she decided that she wanted to be a part of the change. Kate teamed up with a colleague and friend in the beauty business, Millie Rodriguez, to develop a sustainable line of soap products free of plastic.
We asked Kate a few questions about NOAP to help us better understand her product and her business model.
What kinds of ingredients are used to make NOAP?
“We used high end shampoo & conditioner that we loved as a baseline and worked backwards--removing what we knew was unnecessary and keeping the ingredients key to performance. It's actually more useful to know what is not included in our bars: We are sulfate free, paraben free, silicone free, dye and mica free, plant based and vegan.”
What scents does NOAP come in and how did you choose them?
“The joke I always make about eco-friendly products is: Would you like lavender or lavender? I went with the Perfumer Robertet in New Jersey to develop sophisticated fragrances that met Credo's clean beauty standards that would really differentiate us from the other eco-friendly brands out there. Our fragrances are: Mimosa Amber, Creamy Coconut & Tonka, Wild Sage, Sea Salt & Neroli, Centifolia Rose, Cassis, and Magnolia. The idea was to sell them in stores and give them fragrances that would cause someone to pick up the box and bring it to their nose. With paper packaging, the fragrance comes through.”
What do people say is the best part of the product? Which scent is their favorite?
“People say that the best part is the performance of the conditioner. We really worked hard to make a conditioner bar that works. It is also something that is easy to travel with and is designed to protect hair after swimming in the ocean, lakes or chlorinated water. People are very funny about fragrance – our shampoo only comes in Unfragranced & Wild Sage, Sea Salt & Neroli – which to me smells like the wood of the boardwalk when you first approach the beach. It's a mixed bag with the others – people always assume they would want the coconut because it's the only real familiar note, but are surprised to love the Mimosa & Amber for its freshness. I love them all, but the Centifolia Rose, Cassis, & Magnolia for me is just so beautiful. It smells like walking through my mother's garden.”
What was the inspiration for the packaging?
“In house, we were calling it modern-retro. I wanted someone to look at the logo and see the word "Soap" first, then let it sink in that the box actually said NOAP. We choose colors that were part modern - part nostalgic so it didn't feel like we were trying too hard to capture a phony lifestyle; but instead bringing the past into the future. I wanted to capture that wistful emotion of 70’s summer camp and old Olympics posters, and modernize it.”
What was the hardest aspect of the product or brand development phase?
“Capturing that aesthetic. We have about 40 different iterations that just didn't feel right. Even the logo for a while was just NOAP with a line through the O (think Ghostbusters). I wanted the brand to be playful because the current eco-friendly landscape is so "hoity toity" – and as I mentioned before, the funniest people are from Randolph – I wanted to make a brand that my friends would buy if they saw it in a store. The top of the box has a serious looking warning that says: May cause Environmentalism, Awareness, and Changes in Behavior. That is my favorite part.”
What does this business mean to you personally?
“This is a plastic awareness company dressed as a personal care product company. I see plastic blindness around me all the time, and the only cure is awareness. Once you learn about the plastic crisis, it's hard to not change. I hope to convert non-bar shampoo & conditioner users into believers.”
What lessons have you learned from this experience?
“Find a partner who does what you can't. I am not organized. My partner Millie is. She is the type of person that keeps a train moving and makes sure the details are right, whereas I am easily derailed. If I imagine her brain it's organized in spreadsheets, whereas mine looks like a garage full of tools that are never put away.”
What are you most hopeful for as it relates to NOAP? What are your next steps?
“I am most hopeful to change the messaging for next wave of eco-friendly products. You can't preach people into change--you have to give them a better alternative. A little humor is more fun than alarmism.”
What are some tips that can help others take care of the environment?
“Get yourself outside and go see for yourself. Go do a beach cleanup and make it a point to pick up that garbage you saw on the side of the road. I always thought the plastic straw was a "symbol" for making a small change in plastic pollution. It wasn’t until I got my own hands dirty and did a winter beach cleanup myself did I see that the straw isn't a metaphor, it's a real life problem.”
How can we all best celebrate Earth Day?
“Maybe start a tradition that you stick to. This year it can be as simple as planting something or baking bread from scratch (if we aren't all banana-breaded out right now).”
Anything else you would like to add?
“Seriously though, start that journal. Your kids will ask you about this time one day.”
Kate’s NOAP brand is not available for purchase just yet. As today is Earth Day, she had initially planned for a launch in commemoration of the occasion. Given international challenges with product development as a result of COVID-19, the release of NOAP is delayed for a short period of time. However, we have complete and full confidence that her brand and product will be highly successful once this situation has passed. If you would like to learn more about Kate’s product and the experience she has had launching her brand during COVID-19, she was recently featured in Allure where she describes her company’s struggles in detail. It’s an amazing article that we highly encourage everyone to read.