Ruthie’s Favorite Words

February 19th, 2017

by Mary Duggan

ruthie mary annie kitchen

Annie and I were crying through tears as this picture was taken. Our final moments with Ruthie in her kitchen, moments before her move to Florida.

If you’ve been following along with the story behind our little business for awhile now, then you probably remember reading about our dear friend and neighbor, Ruth McNeill-Opyt.

We grew up in a big old corner farmhouse on one end of a long block in a tree-lined historic district on the South Side of Chicago. Ruthie lived in her tidy little dollhouse Georgian at the other end of that same long street. The very street where we, as sisters, still live and work to this day. Ruthie raised her 3 children at one end of the block; our mom raised her eleven at the other end. And while their lives did not cross often, they both held each other in very high esteem. Ruthie, a Protestant, used to say that she upheld one end of the block while our mother, a Catholic, upheld the other. Each of them referenced the other as always waving and having such a wonderful smile as they zipped past each other in cars filled with kids. A passing that lasted for decades.

When Clare was a little girl, she used to stop at Ruthie’s Read the rest of this entry »

Aloha, President Obama!

January 16th, 2017

 

Chicago, January 15, 2017.  We have decided to share with you a note that we, as business women, wrote to PRESIDENT OBAMA.

 

Dear President Obama:

I know it’s more than a bit audacious for 3 home-based, natural-deodorant-making sisters on the South Side of Chicago, to compare the modest achievements of their 8-year-old business to the historic 8-year presidency of Barack Obama, but with all due respect, here goes:

  • President Obama, like you, we are grounded in the South Side, in its people, its problems, its crime, its culture, its cadences, and its resilience.
  • Your roots are in community organizing in the neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side. And from those humble and honest roots you worked your heart out and earned the privileges and responsibilities of the highest job in the nation – that of being our President and the Leader of the Free World.
  • The Duggan Sisters pivoted from a home-based healing center, to manufacturers of natural deodorant that has sold in every state in the Union, to every branch of the U.S. Military, and 25+ foreign nations. We did it by joining forces, living simply and collectively above the shop, pooling all of our financial resources, and working hours that ruined our social life and damn near our actual lives. We’ve advanced from selling our lifestinks deodorant in farmers markets to launching our brand in health food stores, medical clinics, spas and prestigious department stores. We’ve developed from one simple can of deodorant to 25 SKUs.
  • Perhaps most importantly,  have joined you in making a very real commitment to addressing climate change head-on and preserving as much planetary beauty and health as possible.
  • Your milestones are enormous and the future thanks you. Ours are more modest; but, we’re proud nonetheless. Because our lifestinks deodorant is sold in a refillable stainless steel decanter (not a traditional plastic stick or roll-on) we have, during the last eight years, eliminated the creation, use and disposal of 509,547 deodorant containers! That is carbon foot printing that we and our customers can be immensely proud of – a real and measurable gift to the planet.

 

Burr Ridge Farmers Market, Summer 2009

Burr Ridge Farmers Market, Summer 2009

It is not, sir, that we compare ourselves to you; it is that we were inspired by you. And when the chips were down, really down, we were more than once saved by you.

  • When a major chain of stores recruited us and then bullied and betrayed us, we lost, overnight, not only the bulk of our business but almost our home, as well.
  • Fortunately, you had put in place the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and so with tremendous amounts of due diligence and not a few tears we saved our home and held on to our business, as well.
  • We learned what we know about wellness from addressing and finally conquering very real and scary health issues of our own. That expertise became our business; but when our sister Annie stumbled on the stairs one bitter winter evening, on her way ironically to a charity event, she broke her leg, foot and ankle. Because she was not insured she was able to get only the most rudimentary, painful and horrible of care. All that we knew of preventive medicine and the responsible and healthy lifestyle we led mattered little after that terrible fall. What mattered is that we were not insured. The jeopardy we were living in and our sister’s suffering haunts us still.
  • But now, despite very serious pre-existing conditions, paired with our very meager entrepreneurial incomes, we’ve been insured for almost 3 years. Thank you, President Obama for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – a cherished, critical, imperfect and indispensable part of our lives, and the lives of 20 million other Americans. There because OBAMACARED!
As I said, we got our start in the farmers markets, standing for hours outside, often in the worst possible weather. But shoulder-to-shoulder and tent-to-tent with farmers, cheesemakers, and nuns who baked bread, we launched our brand. We didn’t know or care if we were addressing Democrats and Republicans. We just wanted to get folks excited about taking responsibility for their own health with the switch to natural deodorant being a critical first step.
Bloomingdale's Launch, NYC, Spring 2016

Bloomingdale’s Launch, NYC, Spring 2016

 

Everywhere we turned people were discouraged: losing jobs, homes and confidence in themselves. And so we preached a bit too as we sold our deodorant, reminding anyone that stepped under our tent, that we were all Americans, all in this together and all going to come through this deep recession intact. We tried to infuse them with the deep and real enthusiasm we felt from your historic Presidency. We were inspired  to make and take to market the finest deodorant in the world. And we wanted them to take some of that enthusiasm home with them into their own lives and challenges. Every day we would tell whomever would listen, that we were in alignment for success because we’d entered the B.O. business at the very same time as a man bearing the initials B.O. had become President of the United States.  Our stars were in alignment! Miracles were happening! And we were a part of a great rebirth. Americans are such good people that they even chuckled and said okay, as we hooked our modest dream to one of the biggest ever American success stories – your Presidency.

Eight years later, Mr. President, more than a bit banged up, and definitely a lot more grey, we still believe in your message and your mission. You’ve withstood bitter and unfair criticism; but more importantly you have won the world’s highest accolades and maintained your grace under fire. We’ve won a few accolades, as well. Taken a Best in Show or gotten a shiny piece of press coverage. But the praise that we heard, on many occasions, that matters the most to us is this: at the end of listening patiently to our sales pitch about lymphatic wellness, chemical overload, and the importance of natural deodorant in maintaining a vigorous immune system, men and women from all over this country have smiled at us and said, and I quote, “You girls are really something. Does the President know about you girls yet? And what you’re up to? He’ll be so proud when he does!”

When life gives you lemons, make...

When life gives you lemons, make…

 

And that comment, Mr. President, heard repeatedly, does indeed place us historically right where we are so proud to be – among the legion of weary and worried Americans who picked themselves up and dusted themselves off and followed your lead into a new era for our nation. So today, President Obama, I say Mahalo to you, for all you have done for our nation and all you have done for our small family and business. With respect and gratitude I look forward to watching your influence in the years ahead, as a citizen of this great and beautiful nation. And I hope and pray that out of the corner of your eye you will see a little deodorant company, built by 3 sisters on the South Side of Chicago, who will never ever give up on our audacious dream of creating a world class product that we can offer to heal both people and planet. Our motto remains: From The City That Works Comes A Natural Deodorant That Actually Works. Not exactly Chicago: The City That Gave Us A President; but it works for us.

 

So from 3 fellow Chicagoans, and 3 fans forever, Mr. President, we say Aloha to you and your beautiful family. We’ve got some stores in Hawaii selling our products so we know that Aloha means love. And that Mr. President is what we extend to all of you. Aloha and Mahalo. Love, respect, and gratitude.

 

The Duggan Sisters

 

Mary, Annie and Clare

 


Read the rest of this entry »

Dissing DEET Part Two: Keep your sunblock separate.

July 22nd, 2016

 

Peanut butter and jelly, Fred and Ginger, tea and sympathy – okay, some things go really well together. Bug repellent and sun block? Not so smart. We know it sounds convenient and maybe more comfortable when you’re fighting the summer stickies; but really – don’t do it.

 

For critically different reasons, the CDC and the Sisters both say keep ’em separate. In essence, the CDC’s advice against combination products is actually advice against DEET, and here’s why.

 

no-deet

 

The CDC is opposed to combination products because they are recommending the use of bug repellent products containing DEET. They know that DEET is dangerous so they want it applied rarely (once or max twice a day) and sparingly (e.g. never on the face) – the complete opposite of sunblock which calls for heavy application and frequent reapplication and for sure, it needs to go on your face.

 

The CDC and other reputable scientists are very concerned that when using a DEET-based combination product the DEET interacts with the sunblock formulation, making the DEET even more toxic at the same time that it reduces the effectiveness of the sunblock! See what we mean about it sounds great; but it really isn’t.

 

stings 5 on rock in woods - 1

 

WHY WE’RE DIFFERENT

 

We designed our bug repellent to be highly effective without the inclusion of DEET. We opted instead for a botanical formulation powered by catnip oil – scientifically tested and proven 10X more effective than DEET. Our products are wildly effective, clean and safe for everyone; but we still say – keep sunblock and bug repellent separate. For very different reasons.

 

APPLICATION AND PENETRATION

 

REASON No. 1 – APPLICATION:

 

Sunblock needs to be applied only to skin that will be exposed to sunlight. Not so bug with repellent. We all know from experience that bugs bite through clothing – so full coverage means not just exposed skin – it means ALL skin. Don’t make me tell you the sad story of our neighbor who forgot to apply bug repellent to his bum and then ventured into an outhouse … oh yeah, I am not telling you that story. Wipe the image from your mind while you’re at it.

 

Lifestings worn under clothing offers optimum protection. We recommend applying lifestings lotion everywhere following your shower; then layering on the water-based spray at the critical “points of entry” like collars, cuffs and ankles when you are outdoors.

 

Full coverage application is one of the many ways in which we differ from and outshine DEET products. That’s right. Per the CDC, never put DEET on under clothing. What’s up with that? Trying to minimize exposure to toxins is what’s up.

 

Lifestings is the only layer-on bug repellent in the industry; because we take bug bite prevention seriously. Lifestings spray makes layering and quick touch-up extra easy. So, when you’ve been gardening and sweating for hours or when evening light brings out even more mosquitos – some of them carrying diseases – reapply generously. Lotion in the morning. Spray for the rest of the day.

 

REASON No. 2 – PENETRATION:

 

To perform effectively, bug repellent needs to sit on top of the skin – while sunblock needs to penetrate the skin to provide protection. Combining them might sound really convenient; but, they are products at cross purposes if you try to cut corners with combining.

 

SUNBLOCK TIP: We prefer old school zinc formula sunblocks over the newer nano technologies. But whatever your preference – get covered, use plenty, and keep reapplying. Any skin that’s exposed needs sunblock and plenty of it.

 

So remember: fish and chips, cake and coffee, spaghetti and meatballs – great. But bug repellent and your sunblock together – not your best bet.
Slather safely and separately and say yes to the joys of summer!

 

Want to learn more? Check out what other experts are saying: 

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Mary Duggan

About the author: Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters – creators of lifestings® DEET-free bug repellent and lifestinks® – the natural deodorant that actually works. 

Spend a few minutes exploring duggansisters.com and experience the sisters’ spirited approach to wellness; discover their award-winning natural products; and read their stories of victory against the odds. Connect with the Duggan Sisters today!

Dissing DEET is easy and important.

July 8th, 2016

by Mary Duggan

ZIKA has everyone scared. And hopefully/probably heeding advice from the CDC. Most certainly women who are pregnant, women who might get pregnant, parents of kids and anyone who is in any way immune compromised. (My personal at-risk category.)

Michael Beach, deputy incident manager for the CDC’s Zika response team, advises:

“If you are going outside, wear mosquito repellent. It needs to be the same as putting on sunscreen or brushing your teeth.”

Great advice, I think. Because the Aedes aegypti means business. In fact, additional CDC directives even advise wearing bug repellent indoors all day long because this mosquito is as likely to be hanging out underneath your bed as in your yard. So saying yes to hours and hours of wearing bug repellent is our new reality. And important for protecting the health of you, your unborn child or your children.

But not if your bug repellent contains DEET. Not when healthy alternatives exist. And not when those alternatives are even more effective than DEET. Read the rest of this entry »

Enough With the Pink, Let’s Think

October 7th, 2014

By Mary Duggan

Just when I thought the Pink Campaign couldn’t get any worse, it has. Here in Chicago, Advocate Health Care has created a 16-foot tall, 1500 pound, hot pink underwire bra sculpture and they are taking it, and their “Stories of the Girls” campaign, on the road for the month of October. Brace yourself, it may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you. If it comes to my neighborhood I will be there to take a selfie with THE BRA and then I will share it with you. I will be in the forefront making a negative hand gesture (no, not that finger) – a thumbs down actually – and posting it to my facebook page. Thumbs down Advocate. I refuse to take the bait. You are not warming my heart; but you are most certainly making my blood boil.

bra chicago

The “Get a Mammogram Every Year” squad will be there to counsel you when you go to see the bra.

Here it is October and like so many women I have my hands full Read the rest of this entry »

An End of Summer Launch

August 22nd, 2014

By Mary Duggan

Mary Duggan

Today is our summer intern Talie’s last day with the Sisters and Clare is baking a low-sugar/gluten-free coconut and almond cake to mark the occasion. Oh yeah, our Talie is a lucky girl. We do things up big here at the deodorant factory.

Almond Cake with berries

If I remember college at all, I know about six weeks into dorm food Talie will be remembering this healthy treat fondly.

Talie has been a tremendous help to us and has balanced the fine art of packages out the door, with data bank updates and Quick Books input. No matter the strange summer weather, she has carried sunshine in the door each and every morning with her sweet and gentle nature. She is the product of what used to be known as “good home training.” Does anyone even call it that anymore? Those intangibles of yes, please and no, thank you and so much more. She is opinionated and well-spoken and a credit to the superb school she has attended. It’s no surprise that Sarah Lawrence has snagged her for their graduating class of 2018. Read the rest of this entry »

We Need Your Help to Survive

August 21st, 2014
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Chicago, August 21st, 2014
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Dear Loyal Lifestinks Customers,

We have searched our souls. And studied our spreadsheets. And we have made a necessary and long-anticipated correction to sustain our business. We have changed a problem with our refill bag that we have lived with for five years and can’t live with any longer. We need your understanding and support.

Here’s the problem. Our refill bag says it’s a 12-month refill. In fact, it’s an 18-month refill. We realized our miscalculation ages ago – a novice misstep as we transitioned from Farmers Markets to store shelves.  Unfortunately, repairing it required thousands of dollars we simply have not had.  But, we can’t sit on this price disparity any longer. Not if we expect to remain in business.

Plastic tablecloth. Homemade labels. Parking lot of the bank. Summer 2006. Humble beginnings. Great big dreams.

Here’s our best solution. Our lifestinks decanter holds a 9-month fill. It costs $27 or $3/month to get started. Our new refill bag is now a 9-month refill and costs $18 or $2/month to use on a go-forward basis.  We believe that to be a phenomenal price point for this important product. A simple review of the math as you stand in any store, or review any online site, will confirm what we are – a very reasonably priced product – unique in the marketplace but priced to compete.

You have embraced our revolutionary product for many reasons. For some, it is the non-staining factor, for others it is health concerns, for everyone, we hope, it simply works better than all the others. Whatever your reasons, we appreciate your support. Chemical deodorants cost dimes to make – ours cost dollars. But we believe you are fully aware of the differences and value our ability to stay the course.

We hope that you will continue to support our brand and show our retail partners that you understand our dilemma. We never set out to be a bargain basement deodorant. We set out to create the finest deodorant on the planet; and the healthiest deodorant on the planet. And the only environmentally sound refillable deodorant that protects both you and the planet. We are refillable; but without this change we are not sustainable.

The critical change that we have made also addresses another very real threat to our sustainability – product piracy. Folks early on identified what a steal our refill program has been and so they have stolen from us. Pirating is the industry-speak for the problem; not a pretty word for not a pretty practice. How so?

Bargain hunters have bypassed our decanter entirely and dumped our refill into their own receptacles. This has created untold customer service problems for us as a brand. Imagine when someone puts our ultra pure product, which cannot be exposed to light, into glass salt and pepper shakers. Yes, the product and our brand reputation are both damaged. The same goes for low-grade sugar shakers that are aluminum – not stainless steel – again, product contamination and brand degradation not to mention very real health consequences.

Please know that we have altered just this one part of our brand – our first and only price change in five years. All other price and portion structures remain the same. But in making this critical change we have guaranteed our brand’s integrity and future. So please, stop in and visit our retail partners, both brick and mortar, and online, and show them you understand. These folks are in the front line each and every day helping us to pioneer this very young brand. Knowing that they have your approval and support for the changes we have made will go a long, long way.

We trust in your understanding and we ask for your support. We have worked hard to gain your trust and we will continue to work hard to retain it.  The best we have to offer the marketplace and the planet is the ongoing production and sale of lifestinks deodorant, lifestings bug repellent, and the full line of Duggan Sister products. Our commitment remains what it has always been: Healthy People, Healthy Products, and a Healthy Planet.

Thank you.

The Duggan Sisters
Mary, Annie and Clare

 

I like SKINNY POP so much I called and told ’em so!

August 21st, 2014

By Mary Duggan

Mary Duggan

I know you are sick to tears hearing about my new anti-inflammatory diet. But please, bear with me. This is not a tale of me having to let go of my beloved snack – popcorn – but just for awhile. This is a simple and heartfelt congratulations to a fellow Chicagoland start-up.

But first, in addition to sharing with you that I have a leaky gut, I also have to confess another trait- I have a jealous heart. I watch all the rapid-fire growth and big investors and IPOs happening daily in the tech community here and I think, what are we doing wrong with our tortoise of an enterprise? It’s true, I covet their collective success. And I begrudge their youth and all the press they get. I resent their communal digs in the Merchandise Mart and I know its wrong to do so. My sisters always tell me so. But I am not jealous of Skinny Pop.

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune reported the big news that Skinny Pop, creators of the amazing healthy alternative to Chicago’s famed Garrett’s Popcorn, has garnered big investment bucks. Already in more than 25,000 locations, this can only mean big growth for this special organization. But why you are reading about this in a Duggan Sister blog post? Because the Sisters love enchanting businesses and Skinny Pop has so enchanted us. Here’s the brief back story. Read the rest of this entry »

On Losing My Mind and Losing Robin

August 20th, 2014

Mary DugganBy Mary Duggan

Robin William’s death from suicide was announced the morning following my big brain meltdown. One of the dearest hearts and most amazing brains had come undone and the loss left me shaking my fist at the talking heads and the grieving friends and colleagues. It is not, I raged, that suicide needs to be viewed with compassion because it is an expression of mental illness. It is because, I screamed to my tiny little forum of two sisters, it is the final and fatal expression of a sick brain improperly treated by a medical community that just doesn’t get it. It is a brain disease – not a mental illness – and it will continue until we move beyond the psychotropic inadequacies of the pharmaceutical industry and re-connect our brains to our bodies and feed them. Read the rest of this entry »

I Almost Failed Boot Camp

August 19th, 2014

Mary DugganBy Mary Duggan

I was 48 hours from the Grand Finale of our Summer Boot Camp – the rigorous Candida Cleanse Diet that had been the centerpiece of our summer experience. Yet I was anything but looking forward to the easing up of the very real discipline we’d adhered to for the last 90 days.

I was not eagerly anticipating what treat would cycle back into our restricted food lives; maybe Clare would approve apricots or peaches being added to our small daily portion of blueberries. Maybe we could really splurge with a gluten-free hard cider. Maybe we could go completely nuts and enjoy some bean soup! I wasn’t the least bit excited about swallowing fewer yeast-and-parasite-killing pills, drinking fewer than the requisite 7 cups of Red Clover and Pau d’Arco tea daily, or finally being able to whiten my tea-stained teeth. I wasn’t proud that each sister was down a clothing size, that we had adhered closely and successfully to a rigorous discipline, or collectively dropped some sixty pounds. Instead I was so deep into one of the scariest brain meltdowns I have ever experienced that all I could do was hold on to the walls of the pit I had fallen into and watch as my sisters reached deep down to pull me out.

blog prayer emoticon

Is this really how we ask for prayer in our brave new world? Yep.

I was in too much pain to pray for a remedy. So Clare reached out in my stead and requested prayers from facebook family and friends for “a very special intention” – ME. I finally had the good sense as Day 3 of the meltdown loomed ahead of me to crawl into a bed, do my umpteenth round of self-healing Reiki and surrender – while Clare’s prayer warriors prayed for her “special intention” who BTW was feeling anything but special. Unlike my slimmer, healthier, happier sisters, all I could think was that the cleanse had wrecked me. Despite my absolute best efforts, I had failed boot camp. Read the rest of this entry »