Females Who Inspire Us: Hailee Heironimus of The Naked Pantry Co.

I (Megan) had the distinct privilege of meeting the amazing Hailee and getting a one-on-one tour of The Naked Pantry Co. bus just before Thanksgiving after connecting through Instagram initially. So, without further adieu, let's give Hailee a warm welcome! 

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Hailee is the brain trust behind The Naked Pantry Co. She's a super mom of four and a forward-thinking entrepreneur. She sought to bring change to her community to benefit not only the health of her own family, but the health of yours too! Hailee learned about the coined “zero-waste” movement earlier in 2021; this resonated so deeply with her, she went on the hunt for a place to shop so she too could lead a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. A few Google searches later it was clear South Carolina did not have the resources necessary to make this happen. Thus, the vision for this innovative business was born: making healthy, local foods more accessible to communities and neighborhoods who otherwise would not have access. Hailee spends her free time educating the community on recycling practices, sustainability swaps, minimalist lifestyles and being a mom in business!

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Who are some women who inspire you daily, personally or professionally? Rachael Miller, the owner/founder of Cora Ball, a laundry ball created to minimize unseen microfibers (including plastic) which go down the drains of our washers and into our oceans and waterways. I am incredibly influenced and inspired by her notion to better our environment and plastic pollution. Bea Johnson, a world renowned “zero waster”, Ted Talk speaker and minimalist, she is knowledgeable and knows exactly what is the most important for the future of our planet for her children. She is a major contributor to my business model and the importance to bringing a zero-waste influence to South Carolina. J.K. Rowling, as a small child I was mesmerized by her books, reading every page from front to back and sometimes more than once. As an adult she resembles so much of where I come from, who I am presently, and where I see my future. She came from very little, in-fact as poor as you could be without being homeless and became a self-made billionaire. Only proving that a great idea and the motivation to pursue it can really bring change to your life. 

Who has (have) been the most influential woman (women) in your life, in becoming the person you are today, helping you discover and pursue your passions?

As someone with a very small circle, my answer is in-fact cliché! My grandmother, Vicki who was my best friend growing up, she inspired me to always want more out of my life and to do it with dignity. I only wish she was still here to see how far I’ve come.  My mother, Brandee, who gave me the free will to become anyone I wanted. From my spirituality to my rebellious attitude, I was never confined to living my parents’ dreams or aspirations. My incredible mother-in-law, Denise, (yes ladies there are good MILs out there!). If there’s anyone in my back corner cheering me on, it’s her. She sees my growth and potential before I do, listens to my pitfalls, and pushes me to keep going. 

If you could sit between any two women (dead or alive) on an international (long haul) flight, who would it be? Why?

Anne Frank. She was dealt so many trials and tribulations and I would just like to hear from her how she overcame and stayed strong. She has given history such a lesson in passion, love, hope, emotions, desire, fear, and strength and for being such a young woman. I just know we’d have an incredible conversation. She also said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I relate so much to this statement; I rushed at the idea of being the change for our community and being an impact to the world. I didn’t wait to be the change and that makes Anne Frank so much more inspiring to me.

Sylvia Earle, Times First Hero of the Planet in 1998. She launched a movement to protect our oceans and increased public awareness on why marine life and our waterways play such a huge part in our lives. I could only imagine what she’d think about my business plan and all the incredible plans we’d make together. I was the only person from my high school chosen for a SC Aquarium internship and I have always been so passionate about keep our waters clean and free of harmful chemicals, educating others on the long term affects is part of my ethos.    

What are your favorite affirmations to share with women?

“I don’t chase, I attract.

What belongs to me will simply find me.

I am fully in control of my reality.

I speak my dreams into existence.

I find myself in a state of perpetual happiness.

The universe works for me and with me.”

Is there anything that you wish/hope will be different for your girls growing up than it was for you?

Absolutely! There’s so much I hope to be different for them. Though my parents did their very best, I came from very little; I can’t say I ever wanted for anything, but I didn’t have the luxuries most kids my age did. I want my girls to live in abundance but not materialistically… mentally, spiritually, physically. I want them to see how hard I worked to live my dreams out and shoot for anything they feel will fulfill them no matter what others say about their dreams. To know that I instilled the confidence in them to really push the boundaries of “acceptable”, create/pursue/do the unconventional, or just simply be only their true authentic selves; would be a win for me as their mother! 

What has been your proudest moment personally or professionally?

When the Naked Pantry Co was dreamt up, I spent hours working on a crowd funding business pitch video. When I finally completed it, I played it for everyone I knew to get a reaction and really see the response for such change. Though my campaign raised not one single cent, the reaction of my children was such a proud moment for me, they went on to tell everyone they knew about plastic pollution, how it affects our ecosystem, how we can fix it and that THEIR mom (and bonus mom) was going to create the perfect business to be the change. At this point it was just a thought, an idea but they saw the need and the reality for this kind of business. It was at that moment I knew I could not give up on this dream, their reaction embodied everything I imagined my business would.

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What has been your most challenging moment personally or professionally and how did you overcome that challenge?

 Definitely funding! After several crowd funding campaigns that completely failed, the lack of credit to obtain a large enough bank loan for a start up (especially a start up no one in South Carolina had the confidence in-because well it was different and unknown of how it could even work.) I did not think I would ever find an investor, grant, loan… however, I was scrolling SC business programs and ran across South Carolina Loan Funds Feeding Innovation Program. I applied with only slight hope of being accepted. A few months later I received an email that I got into their 10-week program! I spent 10-weeks learning about business structure and healthy food businesses and how they relate to our state; and in September 2021 I presented my business plan and video business pitch that went on to me being awarded the first-place capital seed grant of $30,000. At very few points in this journey did I feel I would actually be here today, let alone bring home enough cash flow to get it off the ground. Yet here I am telling you how we got to this point. It’s remarkable really.

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What does wellness mean to you? And why is it important to you? Wellness to me means being aware of oneself and making choices towards a healthy life. The process for growth of change. Being well is being balanced and being balanced is necessary to live a fulfilled life. I believe how you get there is different for everyone but you must find balance in your emotional state, financial stability, spirituality, occupational status both present and future, intellectual growth, environmental impact, physical being, and social skills to truly be well.

What does your typical daily wellness routine look like? I’m far from a routine-based person, I am spontaneous and different than most. Recently however this has looked like taking self-care time for me: reading books the motivate me, smudging my home to release negative energies, diving into the world of finance and marketing to grow my business, and really being confident in who I am and what I believe in.

What drove you to become an entrepreneur? Do you see The Naked Pantry Co. as your only entrepreneurial endeavor or do you have plans/goals to be a serial entrepreneur? For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to work for myself. I didn’t take orders for others well. I have had numerous ideas over the years, but none have ever been as impactful as The Naked Pantry Co. I know that I want to expand, and that the community wants a real brick and mortar to shop at their own leisure and I agree, so I’ll be launching a crowd funding campaign to make that happen. Don’t worry though, the bus isn’t going anywhere. It’s the stable and face of our business and you’ll continue to see it at pop up events for a long time. We will also expand our delivery services to reach more people in our communities, same concept more wheels to get there! I’m currently working on a product line that will be placed in all of our locations present and future made in house, this product line will of course be “refill” style and include items like facial cleansers and toners, cleaning products, products to make your own cleaning products, soaps, lotions and so much more!

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If your life was a movie, who would play you? Why? I thought about this question for a couple weeks and I don’t think there is anyone who could play me better than myself. When I look for a good movie I think raw emotion, a great story line, and unexpected twists and turns and I’m the only one who’s lived this life. Who else to know the raw emotions and twists and turns of my life than me?

You can catch Hailee online on Instagram & Facebook: @thenakedpantryco. 

You can join her for her first virtual workshop: Debunking Recycling Myths on January 29th at 6 PM. She is also speaking at the Green Drinks Charleston Relaunch by The Sustainability Institute at Commonhouse Aleworks on February 7th from 5-7 PM. 

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