How I Started A $92K/Month Sustainable Moisturizer Brand
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I’m Kismet Andrews, Founder/Formulator of LoLo Body Care. LoLo Body Care makes all types of head-to-toe eco luscious moisturizers.
Our flagship products are the trademarked Lo-Lo Barwhich is a solid head-to-toe moisturizer available in a plethora of memory-making scents, in four sizes, two different application methods, TSA compliant, absorbs into the skin quickly leaving no residue and lasts through multiple hand washings; Our Face Pudding available in three formulas, Beautiful, in three sizes, and O’ For Feet Sakefor those longing for baby bottom soft feet, two sizes and two scents.
Sales last month reached $96,000 and our goal is to increase sales this year by 50%.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My Grandmother taught me to make Face Cream when I was about thirteen. While I enjoyed the time we spent together, moisturizer was not something I used and while it was wasted on youth, the impact of women lining up outside her front door was not; it’s one of the things I remember most.
Fast forward to the ’80s, and you’ll find me working for a large medical center. I had a creative side and was asked by the Administration to decorate two medical facilities for the holidays. When I inquired about funds to make this holiday magic happen, I was told to “have a bake sale.” Baking cookies is not my thing so I reformulated my Grandmother's face cream into solid moisturizing bars - which by the way, were just beginning to show up in the marketplace.
Making them at night in my kitchen, I sold them during my lunch hour at a table strategically positioned between the front door and the cafeteria and on weekends at Medical Center sponsored events. I pulled a volunteer team together to help decorate and sell, and each year we raised enough money to fund the raw ingredients and decorations.
Beautifully decorated trees and magical scenes were raffled off to delighted hospital staff and visitors and after four or five years a new executive team was hired and the decorations came to an end.
When the decorations and product sales ended, people contacted me privately to purchase products. Every time I thought, “this is my last batch”, I would get a ton of orders. The writing was on the wall.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After studying midwifery in my twenties I knew some of the ingredients in my Grandmother recipe we're not going to work for most skin types. In addition, I have always traveled and was always looking for a product that was travel-friendly, multiuse, and took up little room in my backpack. A solid moisturizer fits the bill.
To make the cut, each ingredient chosen from my Grandmother's recipe had to meet specific criteria: benefits to the skin, did it play well with others, safe for all skin types, how did it feel on the skin, absorption rate, etc. I spent a year's worth of hours studying, mixing, and testing to reach perfection.
Right from the start, it was important to me to support local businesses and to be able to purchase smaller bulk sizes with the ability to scale up. I didn’t have to go far! R&D can get expensive so purchasing locally, more often, and in smaller quantities helped ease the R&D financial “ouch”. I also took this time to get to know the employees and owners of these businesses and asked a ton of questions. I still have a relationship with these businesses because of their continued high-quality standards, customer service, and trust.
Another consideration prior to launching was having liability insurance so I joined the Indie Beauty Network. Working alone can be so isolating and in addition to great insurance, Indie provided a connection to other business owners along with education.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching my business was not a conscious decision; it started as a fundraiser and basically, I was left with a business. While I loved my Patient Relations/Ethics position, it was killing me. My personal physician painted two scenarios: stroke or heart attack. She suggested I take three months off; I negotiated for a week. It was during this week that I reflected on dying, more specifically, dying with regret and I certainly didn’t want that. I had never given LoLo Body Care 100% and it’s what she deserved.
Read business books, take classes, sign up for Score or Small Business Administration. Take one idea per month and test it out.
It just so happened that during this transition, I purchased a house that had a built-in darkroom; ideal for a pour room. The attached bedroom became my office, another became storage for raw ingredients and yet another became the fulfillment center. This lasted about a year and due to a 265% growth rate, we moved into an industrial space in town. A few more moves and we are settled in 2065 s.f.
Now that the entrepreneurial hat was on my head, I felt like I only had the right to sport it if I had a business plan so I downloaded a template from the internet and went to work filling in the blanks. It was sheer frustration because as I completed sections, I would surpass them the next day and out of that exercise came some beneficial insights.
I blended my love for travel and need for sustainability so my strategy was to sell directly to retail customers at events and pitch our products to small boutiques in the area which now had a built-in customer base. To close the loop, I would encourage customers to support their local economies while reducing their carbon footprint.
At my first local event, I picked up three wholesale customers. These were easy because they were local and I hand-delivered. My first long-distance wholesale account was The Westin in Kauai (still our customer) and I remember being hit hard with my first major challenge. There I sat on the floor crying because I didn’t know how to pack the box to ensure pristine product delivery.
When it came to wholesale I wanted to support the small boutiques who supported us. Not selling to big box stores This may have cost us in the long run, on the other hand, it allowed us to learn directly from customers that use the product, marketing, and advertising.
After a few years, we began to vend at Trade Shows. While Trade Shows got us on the radar, they were not money makers and I still continued to pick up far more wholesale accounts at retail shows where store owners would watch customers' enthusiasm for the product.
I used my novice coding skills to build a small website on GoDaddy and ordered a desktop version of Quickbooks to track expenses and inventory while taking QB classes at the local community college.
Every dime we made was put back into the business to keep the engine moving. There were a few personal loans to the business that was necessary due to crazy growth periods along with credit card debt and a business line of credit.
- 2005: Started as a fundraiser for Southwest Washington Medical Center, Vancouver, WA. Production in the home kitchen.
- 2006: Bar-Maids, LLC is formed. Production moved to 125 sf darkroom in a new house, shipping, fulfillment, and storage are take up bedrooms. Started vending at local retail events.
- 2007: Hire sales rep. First (and longest) wholesale customer: The Westin, Kauai, began at trade shows. Move production to 1500 s.f. industrial space.
- 2009: Hire two employees, creates employee handbook, competencies for roles and functions.
- 2010: Trademark: Lo-Lo.
- 2011: Trademark: Face Pudding; MAP for wholesale customers.
- 2012: Fires two employees and hires two new ones; all employees pass the WA State Food Handler test.
- 2013: Becomes an S Corp; Institutes Good Manufacturing Practices; begins writing two books, one about events the other about creating competencies and using a software program to incorporate them. Moves into 1000 s.f. downtown retail space.
- 2014: Lands first Contract Manufacturing client; moves website from GoDaddy to Shopify losing thousands of product reviews; creates first themed box special.
- 2016: Co-authors & self-publishes book: The Art of Schlepping.
- 2018: Hired business consultant to rebrand.
- 2019: Moves from downtown location (300 retail, 700 manufacturing) to rural location (100 sf retail and 2000 s.f. industrial space) Name changed to LoLo Body Care; began working with SCORE & Social Media consultants, accepted into 10KSB; Rebrand launch scheduled for Black Friday, 2019
- Supports: Kiva, Heifer International; Yarn Crawls, Fund-raisers, students
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our number one method of attracting customers is through customer referrals. Customers share our products with friends, family, and coworkers all the time. At events, customers do the majority of sharing their experiences and products with others. We also happen to sell in a niche market where hardcore sales aren’t the norm. In addition, we listen to what a customer is saying and not saying and ask questions. Based on the answers, you may find us suggesting they don’t purchase our product because perhaps they have a drawer full and our products don’t sit at the bottom of the bathroom drawers! Though we encourage them to seek us out once they’ve tossed or used up their stash.
Each practice, process, or product has to be sustainable, then it has to increase efficiency, reduce expenses, or increase revenue. If it doesn’t, we go back to the drawing board.
We also created a review (pre-stamped) postcard written in the form of a mad lib which is included in every order. This connected us with our customers in an old-fashioned and personal way. We have thousands and use these for quality improvement, customer service, new products, and social media posts.
A few years ago we switched from GoDaddy to Shopify and noticed a spike in sales due to a much more intuitive web experience. Leaving GoDaddy also meant leaving thousands of product reviews because they were not exportable. We recently switched to Klayvio and began using the app Judge. Me where requests for reviews are automatic. This is a sweet marriage.
We have sponsored Podcasters in specific niche markets. It started organically and continues this way. We are happy to sponsor those that genuinely love our product and promote it. We also generously give products to fundraisers.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We just went through a major up brand. We changed our name from Bar-Maids to LoLo Body Care, our logo, look, and packaging. This year we are creating a marketing strategy and being more targeted with our messages; utilizing Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and working with Influencers.
People: LoLo Body Care goes beyond making exceptional moisturizers - we're changing the conversation. As customer's voice frustration about diminishing natural resources and guilt over ever-mounting environmental waste, we're moving the conversation beyond the surface and going deeper into the impact our choices make.
By moving beyond the idea of waste and talking about creating a healthy future through innovation and inspiration we can create processes, products, and packaging that are regenerative and circular, instead of destructive and linear. The result is that customers participate in simple ways - unconsciously to create a healthy future.
People are at the heart of everything we do at LoLo Body Care and improving the lives of people only happens when we become better stewards of our planet and continue to develop products made from the best possible combination of quality ingredients and innovative technology.
Planet: Sustainable practices and packaging are demanded by Millenials and Boomers alike as people are as concerned about the health of the planet as they are about personal health. LoLo Body Care, a brand built on eco-friendly values, continues to “clean up our act” with innovative products and processes that are respectful to both people and the planet.
Product: Moving to more sustainable packaging such as crushed rock and 100% biodegradable components along with bundling products provides for an energizing and diverse perspective on self-care that incorporates interactive social campaigns such as a Sustainability Loyalty Program, exciting collaborations with innovative recycling platforms and more while staying true to the brand’s DNA of “We say it’s handcrafted, but it really comes from the heart.”
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Each practice, process, or product has to be sustainable, then it has to increase efficiency, reduce expenses, or increase revenue. If it doesn’t, we go back to the drawing board.
Quit being the mechanic. Learn to fly the plane. Better yet, be the influencer and hire mechanics and pilots.
My dad was a corporate man and I always used to say to him, “Dad, no one on their deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time at the office.” After being in the 10KSB program, I think entrepreneurs do.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Shopify: the best place to have an eCommerce site; amazing customer support
- Judge.Me: review app; works well with Shopify
- Infinite Options by ShopPad: Allows us to have multiple choices for products
- Smile: Rewards and Loyalty: Runs our rewards and loyalty program.
- Store Locator by Store Mapper: Allows customers to locate a store locally.
- Wholesale Club: makes online ordering for wholesale customers a breeze.
- Events Calendar: web calendar so customers can view our event schedule.
- Quickbooks Bridge: Shopify orders are automatically downloaded into Quickbooks.
- Quickbooks: Comprehensive. Produces reports on demand; favored by Accountants.
- Soap Maker Plus: Tracks raw inventory beautifully and easily.
- Price-O-Matic:* *Product launches and pricing are easier and faster.
- Klaviyo: makes personalized marketing a breeze through data-driven decision making; works well with Shopify and apps.
- BrainStorm/Ideas: OneNote
- Passion Planner: increases productivity by organizing your life to focus on goals
- Evernote: ideas and notes are shared; meeting notes, policies/procedures, etc
- Dropbox: file storage
- Endicia: shipping software
- Hootsuite & Tailwind: social media posts scheduler
- Sprucely Designed: Web design and troubleshooting
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
- Traveling the world: There are expressions in other languages we don’t have in English and different ways of looking at the world which has given me a deep appreciation for differences and understanding; helps with marketing and customer service.
- Gratitude & Kindness: Sprinkle that shit everywhere and watch what happens.
- The 10KSB program. It was intensive, exhausting, and the timing was perfect. INVALUABLE!
- SCORE: From consultants to an online webinar; they provide resources, suggestions, and mentorship.
- Masterminds: connecting with others, sharing keeps you grounded and running like your hair’s on fire.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Dr. Seuss: life has ups and downs and so do businesses.
Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill: examines the psychological power of thought and the brain in the process of furthering your career for both monetary and personal satisfaction.
Kindness Revolution, Ed Horrell: aims to give people an experience of what kindness, compassion, and wellbeing could be like, and a glimpse into how things could be different for everyone, including those who are most often excluded.
Made to Stick, Chis Health and Dan Heath: explains what makes an idea or concept memorable or interesting.
[everything] by Seth Goodin
The Master Key System, Charles F. Haanel: one of the finest studies in personal power, metaphysics, and prosperity consciousness that exists.
Profit First, Mike Michalowicz: run and profit from your business in a counterintuitive way.
Brave Enough, Cheryl Strayed: a mini instruction manual for the soul and a good swift kick in the pants.
The Ten Demandments, Kelly Mooney with Laura Bergheim: how to transform your organization from product or service to customer-driven.
Mass Influence, The Habits of the Highly Influential, Teresa de Grosbois: teaches you strategy and steps to grow influence
Lovemarks: the future beyond brands, Kevin Roberts: a marketing concept that is intended to replace the idea of brands.
Love Thy Customers, Kevin Roberts: create delight, prevent dissatisfaction and please your hardest-to-please customers.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
- Hire the best accountant you can find. Interview and make sure they understand exactly what your process is and what you are wanting to accomplish. If they don’t ask you questions fully understand your process, find someone else.
- Mastermind. Connect with people whose dreams are bigger than yours and who are positive. Then give back and mentor others.
- Read business books, take classes, sign up for Score or Small Business Administration. Take one idea per month and test it out.
- Constantly ask and journal, “What if”.
- What you produce is a result of your dreams and self-imposed limitations.
- Some of my friends paint old guitars, others work on rare cars, another has perfected the mushroom quiche. I make moisturizers that use scent to connect you to a memory where a story unfolds. My belief is that business is an art form; a flowing, creative endeavor.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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