Earth-Kind CEO speaks at WKU

Aaron Mudd

Kari Warberg Block, the executive of Earth-Kind, came to WKU Wednesday night to discuss her business and give advice to students that desire becoming successful entrepreneurs. Block spoke as the first guess for the Department of Communication’s Executive in Residence, a program designed to bring business leaders to WKU.

“If I can make the earth a kinder place that’s something I can really hang my hat on and feel good about when I take my last breath,” Block said.  

Sam Ford, a WKU alum who consults with Block, asked Block questions about her background and how she started Earth-Kind. After the interview, called “Building a better Mouse Trap: Entrepreneurship and the Importance of Community,” Block took questions from the audience.

Nick Gilyard, a senior, asked Block how she came up with the name for her potpourri-like rodent repellant Fresh Cab.

“To me it wasn’t as much about the mice it was keeping the tractor cabs fresh,” she said.

Block then explained how Fresh Cab works.

“It emits a scent that rodents find offensive,” she said. “Rodents can’t see very far, and their sense of smell is about 2,000 times stronger than that of a person.”

Block began experimenting with scents after rodents caused damage on her farm. After consulting with a rodent scientist, she got a grant and started developing her product. One of the ingredients she first tried were pinecones she picked up off the ground.

“Well, we pretty much ran out of pinecones in the entire county,” she said.

However, she hit a snag when the Environmental Protection Agency asked her to get a pesticide license. The process of obtaining the license would cost take three years and cost her millions of dollars.

“My sales at the time were $70,000, maybe,” she said.

Block kept trying, and in 2007 it was finally legal for sale.

“I know I’m here for a purpose,” she said.

Helping her employees is also her passion.

“To me being a leader is about helping people grow,” she said. “I wanna coach my people to be winners.”

Block spoke about the role handicapped people play in her business.

“Over half of our workforce is mentally handicapped,” said Block. “We built our manufacturing systems around the handicapped.”

Richard Goodall, the manager of operations and production at Tamarlane Industries Inc., came to hear about Block’s work with handicapped individuals.

“We work with physically and mentally challenged adults to prepare them for competitive employment,” Goodall said.

Many of her handicapped employees have become financially independent.

In her advice to students, Block encouraged thinking big, being outgoing and the importance of networks. Block also hopes to be a role model for women like her.

“Women need to be more visible and more bolder,” she said.

Helen Sterk works as the department head for the Department of Communication. Sterk estimated that 50 people attended the event.

Sterk said that she appreciated what Block had to say.

“She faced pretty significant obstacles,” she said. “I really respect that.”

Gilyard said that he thought what Block said was insightful.

“It definitely makes me think about looking at your passions and how you can turn them into a career,” Gilyard said.