Interview with Peter Witonsky, CEO of Sun & Earth - Part I

10/11/17

Peter Witonsky

Click here for Part IIPart III

A line of natural, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products

Peter Witonsky is the president of Sun & Earth, a natural cleaning products company based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. From laundry detergent to kitchen wipes to hand and dish soap, Sun & Earth offers products that are non-toxic, biodegradable, certified kosher, and free from animal testing. The company’s lines are available for purchase on its site, as well as through major retailers such as Amazon, Jet, and soap.com. Peter and his wife Donna bought Sun & Earth in January 2017. Prior to purchasing the company, Peter served in leadership positions at companies such as RGI Infomatics, Asynchrony, and iSirona.


JEFF MACK: How did you initially find and get connected to the company?

PETER WITONSKY: My wife and I were very excited, looking for a product that we could take that has a sustainable, environmentally appropriate footprint. As we were looking in our myriad of places we stumbled across Sun & Earth, which we hadn't seen before. It turns out Sun & Earth is local to us, out of King of Prussia. We contacted the then-owner and started a conversation, and very quickly fell in love with the company and the products, and very quickly came to a number that both sides agreed upon. As we took it over, we were figuring out how to relaunch it under our name and our brand and, of course, fell in love with Sun & Earth the brand. The company has been around since 1988, so it is a well-established, well-respected brand in the market.

Q. How is Sun & Earth different in the marketplace?

A. What’s special about Sun & Earth is, one, it has a local, USA-made manufacturing feel to it, so again, not only do we sell the product, but we manufacture the product out of King of Prussia. What's unique about the product is the product is in the natural line of household cleanings and laundry detergents—so no phosphates, no dyes, no bad things that go with it. When you listen to the phone calls and messages we receive, when you read the emails and even the letters that we actually receive in our facility, it’s people talking about how our products don't affect their asthma, their child's asthma. Our products are the one product that the autistic children in one community can use. It doesn't create any itching, any twitching—anything like that. When you read, listen, and discuss with people what's so special about it, you all of a sudden get a feel on how unique natural products are. When you compare something like a Sun & Earth laundry detergent to a large national brand, you’re going to find that our laundry detergent actually washes off of your clothing, whereas the large national brands leave brighteners in them, and those brighteners can adversely affect your skin. They can create rashes, they can create itches. We don't do that. And the more that you touch a consumer who reiterates that story to you, the more we fell in love and continue to fall in love with the product.

Q. Tell us about you and your wife’s business relationship. How do you manage things from an ownership and partnership perspective?

A. Well, one, it’s important to have a much smarter partner than yourself. That's always a good place to start. Within the business itself, Donna is running sales and marketing. I’m sort of a jack-of-all-trades guy. My background of healthcare IT does not necessarily equate to what we’re doing today. It does, however, equate on the financial side, and so I get to look at numbers differently than Donna does. But Donna has that touch point to the brokers, to the distributors, and to the stores that really gives us a true expression of what people are feeling and seeing within our product. I bring to the table part of that cold-heartedness that business needs to say something is affordable or something isn't affordable. Together we mesh and we let each other's strengths move forward.

We’ve been married for 20-plus years. We had been talking, as I'm sure many couples do, our whole time, about what we could do together, as I'm sure many others have done. You idealize moments and talk about what you can do, what you want to do, what your aspirations are. And we’ve always had aspirations towards environmentally smarter, charity. It turns out, of course, when you put those things together you still need to actually make money before you get to the positive charity portions of what you can accomplish, but this fits well within the goal of our thoughts and dreams from 25 years ago. And it's nice to have the ability to actually pick up a product and try to bring that quarter-century-long thought to life.

Connect with Peter on LinkedIn

Sponsored by:

ABOUT NEWMARK KNIGHT FRANK

Newmark Knight Frank (NKF) is one of the world's leading commercial real estate advisory firms. Together with London-based partner Knight Frank and independently-owned offices, NKF's 14,100 professionals operate from more than 400 offices in established and emerging property markets on six continents.

With roots dating back to 1929, NKF's strong foundation makes it one of the most trusted names in commercial real estate. NKF's full-service platform comprises BGC's real estate services segment, offering commercial real estate tenants, landlords, investors and developers a wide range of services including leasing; capital markets services, including investment sales, debt placement, appraisal, and valuation services; commercial mortgage brokerage services; as well as corporate advisory services, consulting, project and development management, and property and corporate facilities management services. For further information, visit www.ngkf.com.

NKF is a part of BGC Partners, Inc., a leading global brokerage company servicing the financial and real estate markets. BGC's common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol (NASDAQ: BGCP). BGC also has an outstanding bond issuance of Senior Notes due June 15, 2042, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol (NYSE: BGCA). BGC Partners is led by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer  Howard W. Lutnick. For more information, please visit www.bgcpartners.com.

Edwin Warfield, CEO of citybizlist, conducts the CEO Interviews.

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