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Why Dr. Bronner’s took Dirt Don’t Hurt Under its Wing

(From l. to r., Lisa Bronner of Dr. Bronner's, and Maritza Murray, Kaya Murray and Sativa Murray, the three founders of Dirt Don't Hurt, at Natural Products Expo West 2023)

It is literally a dream come true for a young natural products company — to be mentored by one of the industry’s iconic brands.

Yet, this is precisely the fortunate position that San Diego-based Dirt Don’t Hurt found itself in when Dr. Bronner’s chose the start-up to be the first-ever company that it would take under its wing.

“We were absolutely ecstatic when we got the phone call telling us that we were selected,” said Kaya Murray, who along with her two sisters, Sativa and Maritza, launched the oral health and body care wellness company. “It really felt like a full-circle moment because Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap has been in our household forever, and this is the only soap our father will use.”

While it’s not uncommon for large companies to make investments in young brands, usually done through their venture capital arm, it is highly unusual for a very established CPG company to mentor a start-up in the same industry and to also take no equity in return. It may very well be unprecedented.

This, however, is in complete alignment with how Dr. Bronner’s operates, as it donates an astonishing 40% of its annual profits to environmental, animal rights and other causes.

“Social justice is core to our mission as a company,” said David Bronner, cosmic engagement officer (CEO) at Dr. Bronner’s. “When the Black Lives Matter movement came to the fore of public discourse again in 2020, following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, we looked for ways we could step up and formalize our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, generally, and racial justice work, specifically. That year, we committed $1 million over ten years to the Movement for Black Lives and founded a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce co-chaired by two Black female leaders at our company, Bertine Kabellis and La-Rene Malcolm.”

“After a deep assessment of where we could strengthen our racial justice and equity initiatives, we also set out to create a mentorship program for emerging companies who share our ethos, along with being owned and led by people of color. As a fellow San Diego-based body care brand, Dirt Don’t Hurt is an outstanding company to partner with in this effort, and we’re inspired by their work and eager to see them continue to flourish.”

Dirt Don


Founded in 2017, Dirt Don’t Hurt had already been on the market for several years, having launched its flagship charcoal dental tooth powder and subsequently releasing other new SKUs, including its skin and body care products.

It started to build a core following by selling online, at select festivals and street fairs in Southern California, and in Whole Foods Market stores in Northern California. However, once the formal relationship with Dr. Bronner’s began in 2022, Dirt Don’t Hurt was positioned to take its business to the next level.

The one-year mentorship program initially consisted of regular meetings with Les Szabo and Alissa Hauser, director and project manager, respectively, of the company’s Constructive Capital department, in addition to a variety of different company leaders who lent a hand when needed. During these sessions, they would go over strategy, progress and goals.

In particular, there were two key objectives for Dirt Don’t Hurt.

First, to jumpstart the company’s financial growth by increasing its sales channels. This meant not only assisting in the re-launch of Dirt Don’t Hurt’s Amazon store but also opening doors to distributors, brokers and retailers. The sales team from Dr. Bronner’s, led by director Marc De Rosa and senior manager Gina Coccari, played a critical role in getting the brand accepted into the UNFI Marketplace and worked with the three founders on all aspects of building the sales organization and perfecting every detail in the process.

Second, to create and implement upgraded operations systems and procedures. This entailed installing much greater controls in all areas of the company, including tightening the accounting and bookkeeping functions, improving inventory management and strengthening its media outreach capabilities.

Even though the formal one-year mentorship is now over, they still meet to have quarterly check-ins.

“We are so incredibly thankful and grateful for the entire team at Dr. Bronner’s,” put forth Maritza Murray. “The guidance we received helped us focus on long-term goals, and we learned a great deal about what it takes to cultivate a relationship with an account and how to implement tighter controls with our finances. We feel really blessed for the opportunity to learn so much from one of our absolute favorite companies!”

Dr. Bronner’s is also hopeful that other large and established brands will consider implementing a similar mentorship program.

“For the natural products industry to continue to grow and thrive, not only do we need founders of all backgrounds, but we also need the intellectual capital that so many of us have built up over the decades to be shared freely and inclusively. When we leverage this knowledge base to expedite and facilitate the success of others, our collective community will become that much stronger,” said Michael Bronner, president of the company.

dirt don(From l. to r., Maritza Murray, Kaya Murray and Sativa Murray)

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With gratitude,

Max Goldberg, Founder

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