By STACEY ANDERSON
Name Zoe Mesnik-Greene
Now Lives Splits her time between an on-campus apartment at the University of Washington in Seattle and her cousin’s two-bedroom apartment in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
Claim to Fame Ms. Mesnik-Greene is the founder of Lasting Smiles, an eco-friendly lip-balm company that raises funds for cleft-palate lip surgery for children in developing countries. She started the company in 2013, as a 19-year-old sophomore at Washington. “I was perusing the internet in my dorm room, and I saw a video about children born with cleft conditions,” she said. “I was so moved by the issue, I must have watched the video 10 times. I wanted to help, and that’s when it dawned on me: the connection between cleft lips and lip care.”
Big Break She developed her lip-balm formula in her dorm room with the help of YouTube tutorials, experimenting with fair-trade shea butter and coconut oil. “That’s the beauty of the internet: It levels the playing field,” she said. “I did set off the smoke alarm a few times, though.” She approached a buyer at Whole Foods at a farming event in Seattle, pitching her on the spot, and soon Whole Foods began carrying her line.
Latest Project Target started carrying Lasting Smiles in its 1,800 stores in March. “I connected with someone at Target on LinkedIn,” she said. “The next thing you know, I was flying across the country for a 30-minute meeting with their buyer.” Lasting Smiles donates 25 percent of its proceeds to cleft-palate surgeries in Peru, India and Burkina Faso, and has funded 200 operations to date.
Next Thing Ms. Mesnik-Greene is excited for her final year at Washington, where she studies environmental sciences and communications. “As long as I graduate in the next year, I’m good,” she said. “I’m taking a little time off right now, for sanity purposes, because this is more than a full-time job.”
Highflier Before she became a lip-care entrepreneur, she was a junior Olympic gymnast and pole-vaulter. “When I was 1½, my mom found me on top of the refrigerator,” she said, laughing. “I grew up falling, getting back up and doing things a million times until perfection.”