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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founder: Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks of ECOS

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks of ECOS

As President & CEO, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks is continuing her father’s legacy of making safe and natural cleaning products. ECOS is a pioneering brand that crafts plant-powered laundry detergents, hand soaps, dish soaps, and more. Founded by Van Vlahakis more than 50 years ago, ECOS is the first manufacturer to receive a Platinum-level WELL Building certification, and all of its products are 100% carbon and water-neutral. 

Rather than relying on harmful and harsh chemicals, ECOS uses vinegar and other biodegradable ingredients to create formulas that are safe for both people, pets, and the planet. 

Recently, we caught up with Kelly to learn more about her family’s mission and hear her advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

1. Why did you start ECOS?

Our family started the company in 1967 to create cleaning products that are safer for people, pets, and the planet. I became president and CEO in 2014 and am honored to lead our woman-owned company as we further our commitment to green chemistry and climate-positive manufacturing. It’s critically important that consumers have access to affordable, plant-powered laundry detergents and household cleaners, as they play a powerful role in our wellness journey and the future of our planet.

Ecos detergent lineup

2. What obstacles did you face along the way?

When I called on customers and spoke with consumers over 20 years ago, I was faced with an audience that didn’t believe in the effectiveness of green cleaners or the need for them in the marketplace. Today, I’m so thrilled to partner with retailers like Bristol Farms to bring our innovative green cleaners to consumers around the world.

3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Create products that solve some of the greatest problems that we face and pursue a purpose-driven life. Every day that you wake up, you have the chance to be inspired and driven by making the world a better place.

Ecos dish soap

4. What’s on the horizon for ECOS?

All four of our U.S. sustainable manufacturing facilities are certified Organic and LEED Zero Energy, LEED Zero Carbon, and LEED Zero Waste. Our Illinois facility is the first certified Platinum WELL Building in the country, and our facilities in California, Washington, and New Jersey are in the process of achieving the same designation. Additionally, we are expanding our ECOS line of liquidless, plastic-free cleaners, while innovating powerful and enzymatic stain-fighting formulas.

5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

My work is my life’s passion. Every morning I’m motivated by the desire to safeguard the health of my daughter, families everywhere, and our beautiful shared planet. Finding work/life balance as the president and CEO of a company is never easy, but work/life integration can be extremely fulfilling. I look for opportunities to involve my family in the work that we do, and I calendar time for exercise and recharging in nature. 

Meet the Founder