Karen and Tom Benjamin
Co-founders of Mountain Ocean Ltd., Boulder, Colo. Tom Benjamin and wife, Karen, founded Mountain Ocean in 1971.
Years in the naturals business: 33
What was the trigger event for starting the company? ?The need for natural body care products that were effective in the high, dry Rocky Mountain climate. When we started making our products, there weren?t many people making them and most were based in California and the East Coast, which are basically pretty humid climates. When there?s not a lot of moisture in the air, you really need a different kind of product. This original idea resulted in products that are extremely effective in all climates and the harsh environments encountered by those involved in an active, outdoor lifestyle,? Tom says.
What is your personal mission statement for running your company? Provide the highest quality, most effective products using high percentages of natural active ingredients.
What is your proudest accomplishment in natural care? Mother?s Special Blend, a skin-toning oil that helps prevent stretch marks. ?It?s a simple product that works really well. It?s a totally all-natural product because it?s oil-based, so it doesn?t need to have a preservative. It?s also a good representation of our other products. Part of our philosophy is that you?ve got to put enough natural active ingredients in a product to make them worthwhile, and a lot of [companies] don?t do that.?
Has there been a time when you thought the company wouldn?t make it, that you were too ahead of your time? No.
The natural personal care products industry is growing extremely quickly. Do you have any concerns about how it?s growing? No.
What personal care products do you use when no one?s looking? ?Our own.?
Who is your favorite competitor? Nature?s Gate.
President, Escondido, Calif.-based Dr. Bronner?s Magic Soaps. Worked as a mental health counselor for a couple of years before joining the family business in 1997.
Years in the biz: Seven
Mission: ?My granddad?s primary mission was that we must overcome the trivial differences that divide us and realize our transcendent unity. Our mission today is threefold: one, to produce the best-quality soaps possible; two, to share our profits with our workers and the Earth; and three, to adopt ever-more just and sustainable materials and methods.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?Keeping hemp oil flowing in the marketplace, certifying our soaps as organic under the National Organic Program and developing 100 percent post-consumer recycled cylinder bottles for our liquid soaps.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?My granddad ran the company as a nonprofit religious organization for 40 years, before losing in court to the [Internal Revenue Service] in the late ?80s. That was worrisome until my dad stepped in and straightened everything out and got the company back to profitability as a progressive, for-profit corporation.?
Growth concerns: ?We?ve been concerned for some time about the organic label claims of conventional body washes and shampoos. One of our current focuses is ensuring that the ?natural? personal care industry adopts a meaningful set of organic regulations.?
What you use: ?Various lubricants ... but I make them myself.?
Favorite competitor: ?As comrades in arms battling the [Drug Enforcement Agency] over hemp, we?re tight with Sun Dog and Merry Hempsters. Our favorite competitor historically has been Aubrey?s.?
Steven Byckiewicz and Robert McLeod
McLeod is co-founder and president; Byckiewicz is co-founder and vice president, Kiss My Face. Longtime vegetarians MacLeod and Byckiewicz founded Gardiner, N.Y.-based Kiss My Face on a 200-acre organic farm in New York?s Hudson River Valley. They sold their first product, olive oil soap, out of the back of their van.
Years in the biz: 23
Trigger event: ?We were both vegetarians and mainly shopped natural foods stores,? McLeod says. ?There really wasn?t much in our category at that time, and certainly nothing we felt displayed much appeal. I came up with the name hoping nobody would forget it after they?d heard it once. About then we came up with our mantra, ?Natural doesn?t have to be beige.??
Mission: ?We try to guide Kiss My Face in the manner we aspire to run our lives—with honesty, humor and style. Naturally, at the end of the day we?d like a profit, but never at the expense of our products, planet, employees or values.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?That we?ve managed to bring something special and of great value to the marketplace; that we?ve built an ever-growing organization full of incredibly talented people who are a joy to be around every day.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?We didn?t think we?d make it at least once a week for the first three years. You?re always rolling the dice when you?re an underfunded, overenthusiastic young company.?
Growth concerns: ?I am concerned that the really large companies will come in and water down the concept of organic now that many of us are seriously developing and defining it. I am concerned that with the buyout of every single large competitor, the challenge to an independent will be far more daunting.?
What you use: ?I love our Upper Management hair gel. We don?t sell that much of it, so not very many people have shared my discovery—yet.?
Favorite competitor: ?We have so many great competitors now. Didn?t always! There is great truth in the fact that a fine competitor can increase your own business.?
Tom and Kate Chappell
Tom is co-founder, president and chief executive officer; Kate is co-founder and vice president. In 1968, the Chappells left Philadelphia for rural Kennebunk, Maine, to ?move back to the land.? Unable to find natural personal care products for themselves and their children, they decided to create and sell their own, founding Tom?s of Maine in 1970, using a $5,000 loan from a friend.
Years in the biz: 35
Trigger event: ?We were concerned about the pollution in our lakes, rivers and lands, and didn?t like the idea of artificial or animal ingredients in the personal care products we used. When we had a hard time finding products that fit with our values, we decided to make them ourselves,? Tom says.
Mission: ?The Tom?s of Maine destiny is to become the trusted partner in natural care among consumers with whom we share common values. We?re guided by one simple notion: Doing what is right for our customers, employees, communities and environment is the most innovative way to build a profitable, sustainable business.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?We make excellent, wonderful, effective products. I say that out of humility because I?m always amazed at the answers the natural world provides.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?Honestly, no. Maybe that?s just the entrepreneur in me. I do think that all of us involved in this new model are ahead of the curve. Socially responsible, environmentally sensitive business will be the norm in 100 years.?
Growth concerns: ?The growth in natural care is wonderful. Companies need to stay focused on serving consumers with effective products and building open, honest relationships. The ones that do will do well. Those that don?t, won?t.?
Favorite competitor: ?I don?t spend time thinking about my competitors. I focus on my own company?s mission and making it a success. That?s where innovation and creativity grow—not when you spend your time trying to copy what others are doing.?
P. K. Davé
President of Albany, N.Y.-based Nature?s Formulary, which he founded in 1991 (as Nature Care Products Co.) with the goal of introducing Ayurveda—a health care system that combines body care, herbs, exercise, yoga and diet—to the American public. In 1998, the name of the company was changed to Nature?s Formulary.
Years in the biz: 13
Trigger event: ?The time was right in 1991 to bring Ayurveda to the natural products industry. Americans are looking for a way to take control of their own health care, using an integrative approach and one that does not rely on miracle body potions, magic pills or fad diets.?
Mission: ?To offer products based on Ayurveda; they don?t just have to be good, they have to be better. Mediocrity is not an option.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?To see and hear how our products get our customers as excited about them as we are, and to be amazed when, like us, they see how wonderful treatments devised centuries ago improve the health of body, mind and soul.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?Yes, early in our existence, when very few people were familiar with Ayurveda. We spent more of our resources speaking about Ayurveda than we did speaking about our products. Now we hear from so many inquiring about our products because they have fallen in love with Ayurveda.?
Growth concerns: ?Not at all. As long as quality is maintained at a high level and product claims are truthful, not exaggerated. A wide choice is good for the customer.?
What you use: Nature?s Formulary Warming Massage Oil; Divya Soothing Body Oil; Nature?s Formulary Sandalwood/Turmeric Soap.
Favorite competitor: ?All of them! We have a great mutual admiration within the Ayurvedic category.?
Mark A. Egide and Stacey Kelly-Egide
Co-founded Petaluma, Calif.-based Avalon Natural Products in 1989.
Years in the biz: 25
Trigger event: The Egides say that Mark?s success at building and selling the personal care company Carme presented the perfect opportunity to start a new business with Stacey, who had just sold her natural foods stores. ?We wanted to build something for ourselves,? they say.
Mission: ?To develop high-quality natural and organic personal care products for caring consumers within the vegetarian ethic.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?To have been a part of the incredible boom in natural and personal care products in the last 20 years, and to have taken Avalon from a start-up company in 1989 to the largest personal care manufacturer in the industry in 2004.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?When we developed The San Francisco Soap Co. in the ?90s, we produced over 1 million gift sets each holiday. The growth was so strong, we had to borrow from every relative we knew, and some employees, just to stay afloat.?
Growth concerns: ?We need to quickly establish standards for the terms organic and made with organic in personal care. We founded and funded the first organization to establish these standards in 1999, the Personal Care Task Force, now a subcommittee of the Organic Trade Association.?
What you use: ?Only the best products on the market: Avalon Organics and Alba Botanica.?
Favorite competitor: ?Weleda, Astara and Decleor are a few.?
James Hahn and Diana Kaye
Co-founders of Terressentials. In 1996, Kaye and Hahn started a natural products mail-order company, based out of a former sheep farm in Middletown, Md.
Years in the biz: 13
Trigger event: ?We started as a mail-order catalog selling natural products, but we found it hard to find products that met our standards: organic products without synthetics, artificial colors and detergents. So we decided to make our own,? they say.
Mission: ?Education, education, education. We?ve spent 15 years of our lives reading research, interpreting it and translating it for our customers. The majority of people, once they?re educated, can?t go back.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?Raising awareness about the nature of personal care products and what they?re really doing to people?s bodies. Teaching the public that it really does make a difference what you?re washing your hair with or rubbing into your skin. We don?t use any ingredients that aren?t on the national organic list. We have more than 100 products that we make using simple, edible foods.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?We?ve never been to a point where we thought that, but we are consistently aware that because of what we make, things are far more difficult for us. When so-called natural products retail for $3 a bottle and our organic product is $12, and when a customer walks into a store and the clerk says both products are natural and organic, which one is the customer going to choose??
Growth concerns: ?We?re concerned about the U.S. Department of Agriculture?s double standard with organic food and organic personal products. The word organic is being totally degraded. If it?s really organic, it should be called organic. If it?s being made with synthetic products—well, maybe they can call it natural. That word?s already been stolen.?
What you use: ?Our own.?
Chief executive officer, Aubrey Organics. A phytochemist and herbalist, Hampton founded Tampa, Fla.-based Aubrey Organics in 1967. He?s also the founder of Organica, an arts and environmental publication with 70,000 readers nationwide.
Years in the biz: 37
Trigger event: ?I was in a car accident in the mid-1960s. George Oshawa [a founder of macrobiotics] suggested I include wild ginger in my bath product to help with neck stiffness from the accident, and I did. It was very helpful.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?My introduction of grapefruit seed extract as a natural cosmetic preservative. It had never been used in personal care before.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?There were times when it was difficult to educate the public about label reading because many companies would put natural on their bottles but still include the same old chemicals. This still happens today.?
Growth concerns: ?I think the growth is good. The public is much more discerning than it was when I started, and the market is there to support the growth.?
What you use: ?I use [Aubrey?s] Eucalyptus Spa Bath, Rosa Mosqueta Bath Gel and Relax-R-Bath, because I still have a stiff neck and it fixes it up. I don?t use any products with synthetic chemicals, and I don?t approve of the animal testing that brings them about.?
Favorite competitor: ?Dr. Bronner. We sent each other products over the years and we got to know each other over the phone, though we never really met.?
International sales and marketing director and founder of Bristol, England-based Natracare, which she began in 1989. Years in the biz: 15
Trigger event: ?Mostly an angry response to the knowledge that conventional feminine hygiene products?poisoned the environment with dioxins, and?despite protests, [manufacturers] refused to change.?
Mission: Hewson founded Natracare in 1989 because she wanted to develop the perfect feminine hygiene product for women who are chemically sensitive and have health and environmental concerns. Proudest accomplishment: ?Developing the very first fully certified organic, 100 percent cotton tampons and full range of natural pads in the world.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?I have never thought that the company could not make it. I am an environmentalist and, by nature, never give in to negativity or disappointment.?
Growth concerns: ?I am concerned about the potential for companies to bend the rules and cut corners in a rush to get their products to market. Consumers need to be educated, and that takes time.??
What you use: ?I only ever use organic and near-natural personal care products. What would be the point of using anything else? I would only be cheating myself!?
Favorite competitor: Gladrags.
President and founder of Recycline. In 1996, four years after graduating from Babson College?s MBA program, Hudson founded Somerville, Mass.-based Recycline to provide high-quality recycled products to consumers.
Years in the biz: Seven
Trigger event: ?Four things: My desire to start my own business; my belief that consumers? interest in environment-friendly products was growing; my belief in the ability to conserve resources through recycling and the need to promote the necessary demand component of companies using recycled materials in products; and an idea for the first product—a toothbrush.?
Mission: ?To see Recycline [become] a successful, profitable company, and to reward those who have backed us by making our company and our products as environmentally friendly and successful as possible.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?Delivering a product made primarily from recycled materials into a category that had no such offering.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?In the early days, I would be very concerned about the reaction of buyers to our product. Then, quite recently, we ran into a cash crunch and a crucial fund-raising time that made me, management and our board go through some thorough questioning about our model and our strategies for growth. Fortunately, we just completed a significant financing in which our existing shareholders stepped forward and expressed a strong show of support.?
Growth concerns: ?Our main concern is what product categories we should be focusing on for new product development.?
What you use: Bath salts.
Favorite competitor: Radius. ?They have always had the No. 1 selling toothbrush [in the naturals channel] (until this past winter, when Preserve grabbed it) and Kevin, the founder and president, has always been a true gentleman, honest and respectful, when it comes to talking trade.?
Susan West Kurz
President, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care, which has its U.S. headquarters in Hatfield, Mass.
Years in the biz: 25
Mission: ?To provide principles, practices and products for the health of the human community and the environment.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?My proudest accomplishment is having recognized the intrinsic qualities of our product line: purity, therapy and luxury. We have remained true to the end user, and have overcome a presumption in the industry that a single market focus is key. This approach was unheard of five years ago, and we are now being recognized for our success with it.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?I never felt that the company wouldn?t make it. From the first moment that I began to represent DHSC [products] and share them with others in 1978, the company has continued to grow. I stopped feeling badly about being a forerunner when I turned 50. I feel blessed to be part of the Dr. Hauschka story.?
Growth concerns: ?Yes, I have concerns that although the sales of natural products are growing, the thinking behind them isn?t changing fast enough. We need new paradigms for how we conduct business?not simply green products and business as usual.?
What you use: ?Someone is always looking at me. I do however enjoy receiving Santal Eau De Cologne from L?Artisan Parfumeur.?
Favorite competitor: ?I try not to show favoritism.?
Founder and vice president of acquisitions for Jason Natural Cosmetics, which was acquired by Melville, N.Y.-based The Hain Celestial Group in June.
Years in the biz: 35 plus
Trigger event: ?After leaving Hain Natural Foods, I acquired Jason because I wanted to move toward a more holistic line of work, and since I had worked for Hain, I had learned that there were ways to make natural products with little or no compromise.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?My proudest accomplishment has been our certificate of quality and purity. Our next goal is to be organic certified by organizations in all possible countries.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?In the beginning, I soon recognized that some companies in the cosmetic industry succeeded while others treaded water and some failed, which was worrisome.?
Growth concerns: ?Yes, the segment is growing at a phenomenal pace, but the companies that seem to profit most are the ?near naturals.? If you compare the amount of dollars spent outside the natural/health food store compared to those within the industry, it is not hard to see that there is a difference in customer base and what the expectations are from each marketplace.?
What you use: ?I use all of the Jason products.?The only product that I do use that Jason does not make is Penhaligon?s lime cologne.?
Favorite competitor: ?I admire when companies are certified as an organic manufacturer, kosher certified, [Food and Drug Administration] licensed or [International Organization for Standardization] certified.?
Chairman and founder of Annemarie Börlind. In 1947, Lindner opened a skin care clinic in East Germany, which would later become Börlind, now based in Calw-Altburg, Germany.
Years in the biz: 53
Trigger event: ?The clearing of my acne and scars with herbal treatments instilled in me the desire to provide products that would allow everyone to enjoy the confidence and benefit of healthy, problem-free skin.?
Mission: ?To produce only the highest quality natural skin care products, and to use only the highest quality herbs and other natural ingredients. To preserve the integrity of those ingredients and to produce ecologically sound, cruelty-free products.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?The development of the NatuRoyale products is the high point in my lifelong career.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?When my family and I fled to West Germany, I thought that I would have to give up my life?s work. Luckily, there were people in the West German health food industry who believed in me and who financed the re-establishment of my business.?
Growth concerns: ?I am concerned that the companies who are mass producing are not using first pressings of botanical ingredients. If botanical ingredients are not handled carefully and combined in a synergistic manner, the products will not work.?
? What you use: ?I only use the Annemarie Börlind products.?
President of the Organic Trade Association and chair of OTA?s Quality Assurance Committee and Personal Care Task Force.
The OTA is the membership-based business association representing the organic industry throughout North America. Much of the organization?s work has been to build industry consensus on stringent standards for organic agriculture and products.
OTA?s years in existence: 19
Group?s Mission: ?As a task force of OTA?s QAC, OTA?s PCTF is charged with discussing issues relating to personal care standards and generating recommended standards.?
Growth concerns: ?There have been some instances of personal care manufacturers using the media to attack their competitors. At this stage of the sector?s development, it?s important to work toward consensus and building retailer and consumer confidence in the sector, rather than quibbling publicly.?
Best possible outcome you can hope for—both for the group and organic personal care in general: ?Stringent standards that everyone in the organic industry can agree to and that also give organic farmers the most opportunity to access new markets for their organic products.?
? Future of organic personal care? ?As shoppers learn more about the ingredients in personal care products in general, personal care products made with organic ingredients will continue to have appeal. The challenge for manufacturers and retailers is to make those differences clear to shoppers in a way that supports the category as a whole.?
Vice president, Simi Valley, Calif.-based Derma E. Joined Derma E in 1973 with a master?s degree in oriental medicine and in 2001 received a license to practice acupuncture nationally.
Years in the biz: 30
Mission Statement: ?To produce and distribute the highest quality natural formulas possible, using cutting-edge technology and research, and to provide information so that customers can make knowledgeable choices.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?Our best accomplishment in personal care would be our use of super-antioxidants for anti-aging, like pycnogenol and astazanthin. Based on the free-radical theory of aging, these ingredients help turn back the clock.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?Yes, we have thought we were ahead of the times. It takes the public some time to catch up with the latest developments, but that?s what keeps this industry unique and important.?
Growth concerns: ?The biggest concern is that companies with less than ethical products see a profit [opportunity] and jump on the naturals bandwagon. The public really needs to educate themselves and read labels.?
What you use: ?If I?m not using a Derma E product, I use pure substances like aloe gel straight from the leaf, or cucumber slices for a cooling eye treatment.?
Favorite competitor: ?My favorite competitor is Dr. Hauschka. I have a great deal of respect for [its] formulas and marketing.?
La Rhea Pepper
The president of O?Donnell, Texas-based Organic Essentials Inc. has been an organic cotton farmer all of her life. Organic Essentials was founded in 1996.
Years in the biz: 8
Mission: ?The goal of Organic Essentials is multifaceted: We want to expand organic agriculture, we want to have the best personal care products for women and their families and we want to have a positive impact in our rural community.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?First would be the fact that women now have an organic cotton choice for menstrual protection. Secondly, agriculture is changing—one bale at a time. Our cooperative has grown from 400 organic cotton bales in 1990 to over 6,000 bales for the upcoming harvest.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?Absolutely! It seems that every year brings new challenges—from fiber processing standards to the normal growing pains of a small business. We?re always learning.?
Growth concerns: ?For long-term stability, the concern and challenge will continue to be the importance of strong consumer education programs. We should be just as concerned about what we put on our body as we are about what we put into our body.?
What you use: ?Nothing like a cool, green tea for a toner/refresher after working in West Texas cotton fields! The tea bags also work for those times when you get a little too much sun.?
Founder and president of Rachel Perry Inc. While working in a beauty salon in Los Angeles, Perry began to notice the poor selection of natural personal care products. Using ingredients from her local natural food store, she created her sea kelp herbal facial scrub.
Years in the biz: 27
Trigger event: ?I noticed that health food stores had no natural skin care lines. I would go and only see one strawberry cleaner, made with artificial strawberry. I thought that someone needed to come up with a good natural line.?
Mission: ?To create products with a purity and excellence of performance that doesn?t exist anywhere else; to uphold the high quality standards of the ingredients in my products; and for people to enjoy using them.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?That I was the first one to come out with products made up of all herbs and vitamins, and that I?ve always kept up with skin care technology. As I kept growing, I kept incorporating this technology into products.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?My packaging has lots of bright color and illustrations. [When I started], everything was brown, brown, brown. I came out with full color and people were shocked because they didn?t look like skin care products. There was a lot of heartache in the beginning because there was a lot of rejection. It was so unusual. People would ask, ?What is a natural skin care product?? No one really believed in it.?
Growth concerns: ?No. I?m very happy that it?s growing. I think it?s an enormous accomplishment of the natural foods industry.?
What you use: Rachel Perry?s Sea Kelp-Herbal Facial Scrub and Peach and Papaya Gentle Facial Scrub.
Favorite competitor: La Prairie. ?They?ve been around a long time, and they specialize in natural ingredients.?
Brand manager and inventor of Age Reversal by Desert Essence. Also the head of the research and development team at Hauppage, N.Y.-based Desert Essence.
Years in the biz: 18
Mission: ?Desert Essence?s mission is to continue to be a leader by delivering technologically advanced natural products and provide for a healthy lifestyle.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?Being a leader in new product trends always keeps you on the edge of your seat. You ask yourself, ?Will the customer embrace the new product?? The challenge is to get them to try it just once.?
Growth concerns: ?The biggest concern is if we as an industry are ready for the huge predicted increase of natural personal care products bought in health food stores, which is supposed to jump from 7 percent to 25 percent. We must embrace this new crossover customer or lose the opportunity.?
What you use: ?There are tons of lab samples in my bathroom. I try every lab experiment and every product before it?s launched.?
Favorite competitor: ?I have a lot of respect for [Est?e] Lauder and their various brands. While they may not be natural, they put a lot into product testing, consumer evaluations and innovation.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?Age Reversal?s Instant Lift and Firm Serum. It?s a natural alternative to Botox based on amino acids and peptides. This product instantly reduces the appearance of wrinkles—it has really taken off for us.?
President and co-founder of Durham, N.C.-based Burt?s Bees. Graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, with interests in gardening, herbs, sustainability and environmental issues.
Years in the biz: 20 plus
Trigger event: ?With a degree in art, no conventional work experience on my resume, and no jobs in my neck of the woods, making and selling products seemed to be a good source of cash for feeding and raising my children.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?The success of Burt?s Bees has given me the resources to pursue my goal of creating America?s next great national park in the state of Maine through an aggressive land acquisition and preservation program.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?The company?s move from its countryside location in central Maine to the urban environment of the Raleigh/Durham area was quite taxing on the company and was a big cultural change for Burt and me.?
Growth concerns: ?The rapid growth of the natural products industry has largely been a positive phenomenon, but one is always concerned about companies that get involved for short-term profits and whose products lack integrity.?
What you use: ?I just can?t seem to live without my Burt?s Bees Tomato Complexion Bar, Lavender-Mint Toothpaste and Doctor Burt?s Res-Q Ointment.?
Favorite competitor: ?I have a lot of respect for Aveda. They make great hair care products that are harvested in a sustainable manner, with post-consumer recycled plastic packaging.?
President and founder of Burlingame, Calif.-based The Crystal Body Deodorant, founded in 1984.
Years in the biz: 20
Trigger event: ?The concept for making deodorant of natural mineral salts came after I found a company that was using mineral salts for water purification, and [I] had them make it in rock form. Now we rank within the top three brands of deodorants sold in natural health food stores.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?We have so many consumers [who] have let us know that they love the product and have told other people. Also, the fact that radiation patients who can?t use conventional deodorants can safely use ours is very uplifting.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?At first I was constantly explaining how the product would work and people doubted it, but I had confidence. The first retailer I took it to placed an ad in The New York Times and it sold out in one day. After that, we had immediate success.?
Growth concerns: ?I don?t have any concerns. More people are becoming aware of the fact that natural products are healthier to use, and a more aware customer will inevitably help the business.?
What you use: ?I use my own deodorant, The Crystal, and soap and shaving cream. I?m not a great consumer.?
Favorite competitor: ?I like to see our product next to Tom?s of Maine on the shelf. There is a good synergy between our products.?
President and CEO of Weleda USA, in Congers, N.Y. Beginning in 1992, Schuchhardt interned with different Weleda divisions throughout Europe. In 2000 he came to the United States as head of Weleda.
? Years in the biz: 12
Mission: ?To lead and grow Weleda USA in harmony with our environment and the human being is the personal mission.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?We are proud of being the first company—and now oldest company—to manufacture truly organic personal care products in the industry. We were also the first to actually use biodynamic ingredients, harvested in our own gardens, in our products.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?No, there has not been a time when I thought that the company would not make it. When you look back and see how the company has developed?over the past 82 years, the only worry you need to have is your own incompetence in keeping the company a success.?
Growth concerns: ?I am worried about some companies that are just jumping on the ?natural? bandwagon because it is in vogue and a lucrative place to be at the moment. They do not truly embrace the principles of natural and organic products but claim to.?
What you use: ?Don?t expect any secrets from me—I am just a boring German square-head!?? Favorite competitor: ?Dr. Hauschka—of course—as [its] personal care products came out of the same philosophical background as Weleda.?
Seiffert is Aura Cacia brand manager for Norway, Iowa-based Frontier Natural Products Co-op, which bought the brand in 1993. Aura Cacia was founded in Weaverville, Calif., by Doug Nowacki in 1981 who was later joined by his wife, Ann. Nowacki began his business venture in the back of a van and initially focused on body powders. The Aura Cacia brand has since blossomed into a complete aromatherapy line.
Years in the biz: Seiffert joined Aura Cacia in December 2002.
What is your personal mission statement for running the brand? ?To provide customers with the most pure, natural and organic aromatherapy products possible.?
What is Aura Cacia?s biggest contribution to the natural personal care industry? ?The use of gas chromatography testing, which guarantees the purity of essential oils. This testing allows us to guarantee our customers true aromatherapeutic benefits.?
Has there been a time when you thought the brand wouldn?t make it? ?I joined Frontier Natural Products Co-op during a difficult time in Frontier history. Over the last two years, our company has taken incredible strides in rebuilding our leadership position within the industry. I have no doubt that Aura Cacia will continue to be a successful brand for Frontier for years to come.?
Growth concerns: ?My biggest concern for the industry is the lack of standards and regulations for organic and natural personal care products.?
What you use: ?I am a nut about lip balms! I have three different lip balms in my desk drawer and three more in my purse.?
Favorite competitor: ?I am a fan of any aromatherapy company that focuses on the purity and quality of essential oils. Education is also a key component in working together to grow the entire aromatherapy category.?
President and co-founder of Zia Natural Skincare. In 1985, Strachan and his former partner, Zia Wesley-Hosford, founded Zia Natural Skin Care in Strachan?s San Francisco apartment.
Years in the biz: 20
Trigger event: ?Over 20 years ago, my former partner and I believed that consumers would be interested in products that used real essential oils and had no artificial colors and no artificial fragrances. We started the business out of my apartment with one product and sold it by mail order.?
Mission: ?My personal mission is to create high-quality products and provide great service. It has been important to me to create a work environment where open and honest communication exists. I believe that we find our work fulfilling when we are given an opportunity to take responsibility and be creative.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?I think pride can get us into trouble. I will say that having such a loyal following is very satisfying. Twelve years ago, I began hiring Tibetan refugees. We now have seven Tibetans working at the company. I?m very happy we did this.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?I laughed when I read this question. The early days were one day at a time financially. Today it?s one day at a time philosophically. We actually were ahead of our time, but we were focused and grew carefully.?
Growth concerns: ?Exposure to more consumers is a good thing. Everyone can benefit.?
What you use: ?We don?t make hand soap or shampoo, so I use EO?s.?
Favorite competitor: EO Products
Thew is CEO of the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and Leaping Bunny.org. CCIC was launched in 1996 as an international program to end the testing of cosmetics on animals and to register companies against animal testing in their products and ingredients.
Years in existence: 8
Mission statement: ?To ensure that consumers can choose cruelty-free when they shop for personal care. The broader mission is to end animal testing, and consumers making that choice bring us closer to the day when it will end.?
Have consumers received the message about animal testing? ?I think that they are still confused because companies claim they are cruelty-free when they really are not. The most important thing is getting consumers information and choice on animal testing.?
What is the best possible scenario for animal testing and your group?s mission? ?Our mission is ultimately to end use of animals for product testing, to have a society where cosmetic products are produced, but animals are not used.?
Do you feel the anti-animal testing movement has affected the movement toward more humane animal practices? ?When consumers make ethical choices, they positively affect the movement because they are stopping to think about where those products come from and how they are made.?
Leo and Vladimir Weinstein
Brothers Vladimir and Leo Weinstein founded Chatsworth, Calif.-based Nature?s Gate/Levlad Inc. in 1972.(This interview was conducted in the weeks before Leo Weinstein passed away. See obituary.)
Years in the biz: 32
Trigger event: ?My brother, Vladimir, had recently fulfilled courses at UCLA in botany with an emphasis on the traditional and scientific use of herbs and plants. I had the flair for business,? Leo Weinstein said. ?We saw an opportunity to make a niche for ourselves in the natural foods industry where there was nothing in the way of natural personal care products. We created our first product, Nature?s Gate Rainwater Shampoo, using rainwater from a rare Southern California downpour.?
Mission: ?We distinguish our business with the creation of affordable and effective natural products that cause no harm to animals or the environment. We like to think that we are a company with a heart, and this care passes down to our employees and filters through to all facets of our business.?
Proudest accomplishment: ?We?re very proud of the fact that we?ve remained true to our original goal: creating natural products that cause no harm to people or to the environment.?
Thought you wouldn?t make it: ?We?ve been amazingly fortunate to have sustained growth every year that we?ve been in business. We?d like to think that we?ve anticipated and helped to direct the industry.?
Growth concerns: ?We are pleased to see the growth of the industry but have some concerns about the blurring of the lines in regard to ?natural? products. Mass market and mainstream retailers have realized the huge potential of ?natural? and they?ve jumped on the bandwagon. This has caused some confusion with consumers and their understanding of what are truly natural personal care products.?
What you use: Nature?s Gate Herbal Shampoo and Conditioner. Nature?s Gate Organics Fruit Blend Asian Pear + Red Tea Lotion.
Favorite competitor: ?I couldn?t possibly name just one. We admire and exchange pleasantries with many of our competitors.?
O?rya Hyde-Keller is a free-lance writer based in Madison, Wis. Christine Spehar is a free-lance writer in Boulder, Colo.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 9/p. 40, 42-44, 46, 48, 50, 52