How I Created My Handcrafted Natural Soaps, Lotions And Lip Balms Products That Now Generate $10K/Month

Dr. Garima Jain
Founder, Raganaturals LLC
$10K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
Raganaturals LLC
from Boston, MA, USA
started April 2017
$10,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
264
followers
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Start A Natural Beauty Product Business

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi guys, My name is Dr. Garima Jain and I am the founder of RaGaNaturals. Our skincare brand is focused on back to basics. We figured out that not everyone needs personal care products full of fancy names. Most of us actually look for lotions and creams that just moisturize and give our skin a nutritional boost from natural ingredients. We formulate and craft personal care products such as lotions, creams, lip balms, and soaps, etc., in a way that they are free from unnecessary chemicals, very natural, for the whole family, and very effective.

Our flagship product is Soothing Body Cream. It is a thick, white cream that just magically absorbs in the skin. It keeps the skin well moisturized and hydrated for 24 hrs, even in cold winter months. That is one of the first products we ever launched and till date we are very proud of it.

Apart from that, we also offer Lotions, Creams, Lip Balms, Soaps, and Shaving Soaps.

Every product has its unique features and needs and they complement each other. In the beginning, I was very focused on formulating and trying various essential oil blends for my creams. My understanding was that people look for fragrance in bath and body products. Don't we read that all the time in business bulletins? But Boy I was so wrong, I later realized that people buy fragrance because people are sold fragrance by bigger companies.

Commercially, even fragrance-free products have fragrance in them to make it fragrance-free. Weird right? So the first thing I did was to start sending surveys to as many people as possible. I wanted to understand, what do people want? What gap can we fill? What do they like or dislike in their current skincare?

To my surprise, people were very critical of fragrances and I figured out a huge demand for fragrance-free skincare. Those surveys helped me narrow down my ideal customer which was parents with young kids and young professionals. However, soon after launch, we have observed a good customer base in other age groups as well.

how-i-created-my-handcrafted-natural-soaps-lotions-and-lip-balms-products-that-now-generate-5k-month

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I have a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and I only had two passions - science and living a chemical-free lifestyle. Now you must be wondering: “What’s the connection here between Biotechnology and Lotions?” This connection came to fruition after I had my first child. He had no issues except a very common one “very dry skin”. I tried many creams and lotions available in the market and tried to rule out allergies, but nothing was working on him except steroid creams.

Our mistakes are just reminders to make better decisions. I made quite a lot. I spent too much time before launch trying to perfect everything from packaging to labels, etc. I think it just wasted lots of invaluable time.

One day while looking for new creams for him to try, I started reading the ingredients and to my surprise, most of the creams had around 30 different ingredients which were almost similar. I couldn’t justify myself using so many chemicals on a small baby. Yes, this was the actual moment of enlightenment for the inner scientist of a Mom. I then started to read and understand the science behind bath and body products and start creating my own from scratch using basic and essential ingredients.

I am a trained microbiologist and understand the importance of following good manufacturing practices. My cream gave instant relief to my son, that was a very proud mommy moment.

Later, I gave the same cream to other friends who had dry skin issues and they all loved it. This was enough motivation to start my own personal care line, RaGa Naturals – minimalistic, using only the finest natural ingredients & handcrafted with love.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When I first started formulating skincare products, I remember downloading tons of books, articles, and borrowing books from the library about cosmetic formulation. I also converted one of our rooms to a laboratory and no one was allowed to enter that room except me. I purchased varieties of oils, butter, and other ingredients. Prepared crazy charts and excel sheets based on various properties they have. It was really difficult to decide what ingredient to use and how much. Remember, I was then formulating for my son and he had very sensitive skin?

After a lot of literature survey, I finalized upon 3 different types of oils and Mango Butter, to begin with. I wanted to keep things very simple. To minimize the number of ingredients and to formulate substantial moisturizing cream. After a few hits and trials, we found our first product. Soothing cream v1. Then after multiple iterations, I found something that worked magically for my son, and then I never changed it.

When we start a new business selling a product, what we don't realize is that finalizing the product is just the first part of the problem. My life after that was on the phone for the next few months, just talking to different people. Our other challenge was to finalize a lab that could manufacture our product using our recipe and formula, maintaining our standards of ingredients. Then packaging was not easy either. We had to order tons of samples before selecting our beautiful amber bottles with these cute black pumps.

how-i-created-my-handcrafted-natural-soaps-lotions-and-lip-balms-products-that-now-generate-5k-month
Old vs New photos - (Pic Credit: Exposure by Rachael)

how-i-created-my-handcrafted-natural-soaps-lotions-and-lip-balms-products-that-now-generate-5k-month
Old Picture of product line vs New Pictures (Pic credit: Exposure by Rachael)

Our mistakes are just reminders to make better decisions. I made quite a lot. I spent too much time before launch trying to perfect everything from packaging to labels, etc. I think it just wasted lots of invaluable time.

Describe the process of launching the business.

When I was happy with the products that I had formulated and was satisfied with the packaging, then the next step was obviously to launch. I hired some exceptional freelancers to work on a website. We still use the same website with some minor modifications now and then.

Then came the most dreaded task of getting the word out. As I have mentioned over and over, my word of mouth marketing was very successful in the initial days. I made contact with like-minded folks and gave them samples to try out. They loved the product and the idea behind it and didn't mind sharing it with their wider community.

I also did pop up stands at local events and that also was very successful. I am a true believer in connecting to customers. I know if I can get an opportunity to talk to my client I can sell them my idea. Plus, it's always fun to discuss what I am passionate about.

Initial financing all came from our savings. Thankfully my husband had a stable income and later on, we made sure our business is financing itself.

The biggest lesson that I learned during the whole process of launching is that It's good to start as soon as possible than to wait for everything to be perfect. Business is an iterative process and you make endless cosmetic improvements as you move ahead. So waiting for things to be perfect wastes a lot of time. However, one should never compromise on the product and values.

The second lesson is the effective use of social media. I am a very social media-shy person. That might not be a good trait to have when you have to promote your business and especially for me, since I was self-branding it. So, I will highly recommend leaving your inhibitions behind. Don't let any constraints slow you down.

how-i-created-my-handcrafted-natural-soaps-lotions-and-lip-balms-products-that-now-generate-5k-month

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

After the launch, I implemented one strategy at a time to see what's working and what's not working. My first strategy was word of mouth. Believe it or not, if your product is good and your customer likes them, then they can be the biggest influencer. Later we ran Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Instagram influencer marketing, Email/newsletters, etc. It is always a hit or miss with different strategies.

Some strategies that work for some businesses might not always be successful with yours so you have to be very cautious and careful. As a startup, we always have a shortage of money and time and we don't want to spoil it by spending on non-working strategies. For me, Instagram influencers were a huge hit. I tried to connect with mommy influencers on Instagram and requested them to use my product and promote it only if they are happy with it.

Later, we launched on Amazon, which is our current focus. It’s entirely a new ballgame. Here we don't have the luxury to directly connect with the customer but we now do so by carefully optimizing our sponsored ads campaigns and also by writing comments, wherever necessary to let our customers know that we are a real business that exists in Boston.

Amazon has a huge competition but it also has a huge base of motivated buyers. Every brand there still has a place to fill, to make people’s life easier. It all depends upon how well you write your product description, how well you put pictures there, and how well you show your brand. Your clients will always find you if you invite them.

We sell a very staple bath and body products. It’s really like food. If you like to eat rice you would buy rice every month. Similarly, if you use lotions and creams and soaps, you have to buy them every time. Until you make a big blunder in quality or customer service, clients who look for natural products and are aware of quality will come back to you (at least that’s what I believe). We are so lucky and happy to have lots of repeat customers at Amazon and I take a great sense of pride to tell you about it.

We give utmost priority to customer satisfaction and go above and beyond to address customers’ concerns. Don’t we all like it if someone, even from behind an email address, show a little empathy to us and be nice? As a business, I also want my clients to feel very special, as it makes me feel special too.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

American households are increasingly getting more aware of using clean, free of toxins, and chemical-free skincare. I feel we are on the right path. We have incredible skincare products, which are made using minimal ingredients and are very natural. If we could improve our visibility in the right direction, then we can also increase our sales.

Recently, we have partnered with an incredibly smart digital marketing team and have started to observe a better return on our ad spend.

For operations at Amazon, I am relying on Fulfilment by Amazon, where most of our product is stored and shipped from Amazon warehouses. That takes a lot of operations effort off my plate. However, we ship website orders yourself.

Once I stabilize our business operations in North America, then I would plan and go about expanding in Canada and Europe. But it is very important to first figure out logistics in your home country.

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Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Our mistakes are just reminders to make better decisions. I made quite a lot. I spent too much time before launch trying to perfect everything from packaging to labels, etc. I think it just wasted lots of invaluable time. Also, I was pregnant with my second child at that time so it affected my launch date substantially. Well !! There are always pros and cons of perfectionism.

Then, like any start-up, I too had limited funds so I tried to do most of the things by myself. I knew since the beginning that digital marketing is not my thing but I still took a bit long to outsource it. That is anyways a valuable thing to learn because I can now close the loose ends easily with my experience.

In the beginning, I was too focused on my product and I took the marketing angle lightly. Well, now I know customers never come to you, you have to go to customers. An idea doesn't make money. It is always the execution.

Being an entrepreneur means you are the formulator, quality control, buyer, sales executive, customer care executive, cleaner, dishwasher, packaging machine. So basically the main skill is to manage your tasks. That's what our mistakes teach us. Overall, RaGaNaturals has made me a better person and gave meaning to my life which I am very thankful.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For website hosting, I am still using Wix. Primarily, because I understand how that works and I also find it’s very easy to make changes on that platform.

For emails and newsletters, Mailchimp is my favorite. For graphic design and Instagram ads, I love working with Canva. It is one of the best investments I have made. However, I also have some exceptional graphic designers in my contacts. For all the complicated tasks eg. Label design etc. I ask for their help. Again, it all comes down to relationships and making a team of people you can trust.

For some minor works, I have also used Fiverr and Upwork. You can find a lot of good talent there but reaching the right person/team is a little bit time-consuming.

Last but not the least, never underestimate the power of a phone. I took some courses on product photography and it really helped me to improve my photography skills for Instagram and Facebook. Check out the body cream in the snow pic I recently clicked.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

My favorite books are Traction, Duct Tape Marketing, Lean Startup, etc. However, I also like to read a lot of scientific journals and am very picky about my sources of information. But I think that’s a part of Ph.D. training.

For getting updated information about cosmetic fields, I have subscribed to cosmetic toiletries. I love reading various books and our public library is a huge resource for that. If I like a book, then I buy it.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

I can say from my experience, that if you have a passion for your product and if you feel you can fill a gap in the market then you have to start. There is no right or wrong time to start your business.

A very important thing in business is how you sell or connect to your target audience. So go all out and talk to as many people as possible. Listen to their perspectives and keep improvising your next steps. Success is an ever-evolving process. Be ready to work hard to achieve it.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

If you are the one excited and passionate about the benefits of living a natural lifestyle. Then you are very much welcomed to be a part of our team. I always look forward to people who can help us in digital marketing, creatives, social media, blogs, etc.

Where can we go to learn more?

Please check out our website or our Amazon page.

You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Dr. Garima Jain   Founder of Raganaturals LLC
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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