Living Zesty: Mission Viejo Woman Transforms Artificial Turf Into Doormats

By Nathan Percy
The Orange County Register

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) When her sister had artificial turf installed at her San Juan Capistrano home, entrepreneur Alison Hans came up with an idea. A simple, practical, eco-friendly product that can be used by people and pets!

The Orange County Register

Alison Hans considers herself an entrepreneur, not someone meant to work for a company.

After providing home schooling until high school for her two children, the Mission Viejo resident applied for jobs at various grocery and retail companies. She wasn’t completely sure how to answer certain questions, citing an example of a few after she applied to Trader Joe’s.

“Do you remember solving a problem with a customer? What was the problem? How did you solve it?”

“I don’t have this career thing that’s on a trajectory,” Hans said. “I’ve always thought, well, what could I sell? But I had a family to raise, so I didn’t have time to do it.”

But she knew she was good at selling, and when her sister had artificial turf installed at her San Juan Capistrano home, Hans came up with an idea. A simple, practical, eco-friendly idea.

She realized she could take leftover pieces of artificial turf and turn them into circular doormats.

Her at-home company, Living Zesty, aims to add “zest to life, one eco-friendly product at a time,” her website says. The mats, which measure 33 inches in diameter, sell for $40.

“It’s frustrating because you spend all this time and do all this stuff and nothing’s happening, no one gets it,” she said of her previous ideas. “So it’s nice to get a positive response. This is sort of the career after my mommy career.”

The mats are easy to spray clean and can be used as doormats or potty-training mats for animals, Hans said. She joked that the recent storms have been bad for business, because people may reconsider keeping their grass lawns.

The door mats also reduce the amount of waste from unused artificial turf by repurposing it, she said.

The turf comes from two contractors, who cut out large pieces when installing the synthetic material in front and back yards to account for planters and other equipment.

About a year ago, Hans and her husband, Eric, traveled to Encinitas. In a shop, they found a green doormat they thought would be perfect at their home.

But it wasn’t quite the right shade of green and was too small, Alison Hans recalled.

Not long after, Eric’s sister, Antje Campbell, had artificial turf put in at her house to save water.

That sparked the idea for Living Zesty: With artificial turf leftovers, Hans could make the doormat as large as she wanted, and the brighter green was a much better fit with the house, she said.

“My husband thought they would have some extras and so we picked some up, put it into a circle and thought, yeah, we like this,” she said. “It wore well and it kept stuff out of the house.”

Hans did a quick Google search and came up with local turf installers, including Mission Viejo-based Cal Astro Turf and contractor Anil Dias Bandaranaike. After a brief conversation, Hans had a supplier willing to donate.

“It’s a good idea. She is making use of the scrap we cannot use and it’s not cost effective to me,” Bandaranaike said.
“I could try to sell (the extra pieces), but I thought this was a better use for them.”

After Hans made the first mat, her entrepreneur side kicked in. She posted the mat on Facebook to generate interest and within four hours had requests from 11 people who wanted to buy one.

After installations, Bandaranaike leaves extra pieces outside and sends a text message to Hans for pickup, usually about once a week. Hans works in her garage to cut the mats, using a box cutter and a round, wood plank made by Eric.

For shipping purposes, she rolls the mats and ties them with a biodegradable material. Each mat comes with the name of her company, plus a tag informing the consumer which company supplied the material.

“I’m such a sucker for packaging and the details in that,” Hans said.

Originally from Canada, Hans worked at a bank before the birth of her two children.

While home schooling her children she attempted two entrepreneurial projects.

One idea came when she realized her daughter had difficulty memorizing Bible verses. She created Memory Icons, a digital project that helps children memorize Bible verses by using icons with words. But the project didn’t catch on.

Her Living Zesty project gained steam when she was featured Jan. 30 on the “How I Built This” podcast with Guy Raz, produced by National Public Radio.

Hans said the podcast must have had a lot of listeners on the East Coast — she’s shipped mats to Maine, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida.

Hans said she is trying to leave her mark in conservation and repurposing, reducing artificial turf waste by creating the multipurpose mats.

At least now, she could answer those questions from interviewers.

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