Stuart Landesberg, the co-founder and CEO of environment-friendly home product company Grove Collaborative, took a leap of faith when he hired Alex Crane.
Crane had recently moved to San Francisco from New York City to work with payments startup Square, and had no experience when it came to chemical formulation. "We brought her in because she really has a deep passion for understanding what the ingredients are that we use on our skin and in our homes, and because she cares deeply about our impact on the environment," Landesberg says in a new Inc. video.
Grove Collaborative originally sold its products only to third-party brands. Landesberg saw the potential for the company to produce its own line of products, and brought Crane in to make it happen. Crane started as a project manager, handling all components of the brand's direct-to-consumer side. She did everything from overseeing the formulation of the products, Landesberg recalls, to writing the copy on the product containers.
Today, Grove Collaborative-brand products account for half of the company's business. Crane now leads a team that includes top natural chemists and product experts. She's also become extremely well-versed in the technical aspects of her job, gaining a deep understanding of which compounds are best for the environment, and how different ingredients interact with each other. Her trajectory has taught Landesberg that people don't need a specific degree or training in order to grow into a role.
"I think there can be a perception in fields like formulation that if you don't have a PhD in chemistry, you can't be a major contributor to innovation," he says. "But brilliance, when applied to a problem, has a great way of making traction."