Kirsten Quigley has always loved the outdoors. Early in her career, when she worked for an international conservation organization, she was particularly drawn to their practical approach to environmental issues. When she started raising her children — and packing 20 lunches a week for her kids — she realized there was a need for a more environmentally friendly replacement for plastic baggies. Melding her business knowledge and environmental background, our Quigley created LunchSkins, and over the past 10 years, the product has replaced hundreds of millions of plastic baggies. She tells Fairygodboss about how she's overcome her biggest career challenges and offers some career advice we should all be following.
Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
My passion for the environment goes back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved being outdoors exploring the woods and trails around my home and later around the world. I also come from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners so I grew up exposed to the risks, rewards and daily challenges of managing a business.
In my 20s, I worked for an international conservation organization and valued their practical, collaborative and effective approach to environmental issues (perfect mix of science meets business). Later while raising my young family, I saw how much waste we generated and didn’t see any good options in the marketplace for a replacement for plastic baggies. LunchSkins evolved out of my own need as I was packing 20 lunches a week for my kids – it was an opportunity to create a better, smarter and stylish alternative to disposable plastic baggies.
From the beginning, I knew it had to be easy, affordable and fun so people would make it part of their daily routine and ultimately, this small change would lead to a much bigger positive impact on our environment. It’s pretty incredible to think that over the course of 10 years LunchSkins’ fans have replaced hundreds of millions of plastic baggies and supported our give-back program to keep plastic pollution out of our oceans.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
Raising kids that want to spend time together and that value similar things. All four of our kids have different personalities and strengths, but they share a sense of purpose and passion for issues that matter to them. And lately, they’ve been seeking each other out for advice or to plan little adventures together.
At first, it made me feel left out, but then I realized how important and special those shared experiences are for them to forge bonds and learn to rely on each other, sort out problems, laugh at mishaps…all without a parent around. Oddly enough, what used to be more of a parent/child relationship has shifted recently and l find myself reaching out to them for insight or feedback. I love their fresh perspective, honesty and compassion.
What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
I always tell people that the idea is the easy part. Building a quality product, getting it to market, and scaling production profitably is the real challenge.
From the beginning, we knew we wanted to create something that was accessible and affordable for families for everyday use. This hinged on wide distribution. Building those distribution partners with key grocery stores was a big hurdle.
Our new Recyclable LunchSkins were designed to disrupt the plastic food storage aisle (ie. Ziploc baggies) and just launched in Target grocery, Whole Foods, and the Container Store this summer. We’re working on expanding our shelf presence to more retailers every day!
Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?
Hands down, my mom. She started her own successful business, managed our family of five plus my grandmother and great-grandmother who both lived in our home (on and off) for 15 years….and she did it all with a positive outlook and a sense of humor. I don’t recall ever hearing her complain.
What do you do when you're not working?
If I’m not shuttling one of my kids around or on the sidelines cheering them on, then I sneak off to work in my garden (in the summertime), or make comfort food (hearty soup in the fall/winter). I love to travel so dreaming about places that are off-the-beaten path is also one of my favorite things to do.
If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?
I’d love to spend time with Maya Angelou. Her life story is pretty incredible. She seemed humble, resilient and inspiring. And she had such a rich and soothing voice, I could listen to her all day. I try to live her words, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What is your karaoke song?
It’s cliché but "Sweet Caroline" is such a crowd pleaser it’s hard to pass up. Also, a loud crowd would drown out my off-key voice. In the car, I love belting out "Wagon Wheel" by Darius Rucker or "Wide Open Spaces" by Dixie Chicks (favorite line: "She needs room to make her big mistakes.")
What is your favorite movie?
For a fun romantic comedy, I get a kick out of The Proposal (and Betty White dancing around the bonfire). But my favorite oldie is probably The Sound of Music.
What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
I love the combination of family, friends, food/wine so I’d probably have a bunch of lively, rowdy dinner parties where chefs came in to cook.
If time were not an issue, I’d travel around the world with my husband and kids. I’m a big fan of experiences more than material things and enjoy getting a bit out of my comfort zone. For me, a lot of my personal growth and enjoyment comes from interacting with new places, environments, languages, and cultures.
What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
There is no substitute for hard work and persistence. It always takes longer than you think to build something worthwhile, despite how easily success may come initially or how comfortable things seem at the time. There will be failures, big and small, along the way.
Learn from the setbacks, change quickly, stay positive and keep going. It’s hard to hear negative feedback but important to listen (to your team, your customers, and yourself) and resist the urge to be defensive. Believe in yourself, surround yourself with doers and positive thinkers, and march onward! Grit and perseverance win every time.
Why do you love where you work?
I love our sense of purpose. We believe in our mission to build a smart, affordable and sustainable product that helps reduce plastic pollution, gives-back to the community, and supports a healthier planet. Our team is small but mighty and I love the commitment, creative thinking, and sense of humor that flows on the best of days.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.