10 Remarkable O.C. Women

Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks

Earth Steward & Business Leader

The 38-year-old CEO took over Earth Friendly Products two years agoKellyVH031 from her father, company founder Van Vlahakis, after he died. Vlahakis-Hanks, who had worked in all facets of the business, has become a careful steward of her father’s vision. But she has made her own mark, too. Why five production facilities to make the company’s natural cleaning products? “When I deliver to the distribution centers of my local retail partners, I’m right there in their backyards. It enables us to stay carbon-neutral, and I can cross shipping off my list of costs.” Why source and manufacture all products in-house? “I’m able to oversee the whole process, talk to our green chemists every morning. … It’s more fun.” Why raise your employees’ minimum wage to $17 an hour? “We’ve seen an increase in productivity since the (wage) increase, and we benefit from greater employee commitment.” The cumulative effect of all of these choices: “We’re no more expensive than the big brands, and we really shouldn’t be.” This puts Earth Friendly Products on more store shelves, including at Walmart and Costco. Next year will be its 50th anniversary. “I miss my father tremendously. But you know what the beauty is? He really lives on (here). As we grow, I feel his presence with me.”