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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Entrepreneurs Ayo and Nigel Hart hold Dolphin Organics to high standards

Entrepreneurs Ayo and Nigel Hart hold Dolphin Organics to high standards
As exemplified by their mom-centric focus groups and from-scratch formulations, Dolphin Organics' mission is to make sure you feel good about the personal care products you're putting on your children.

Between coaching high school basketball, prepping dinner for 6-year-old twins and developing a baby sunscreen formula, Ayo Hart still finds time to personally pick up the phone at Dolphin Organics, her children’s personal care company. Why? Because she really does want to talk to you.

Two years ago, answering questions about baby bath ingredients was hardly part of Hart’s day-to-day. Her husband, Nigel, was out the door at 4 a.m., heading from Westchester County to Wall Street and arriving home just as Ayo was leaving for basketball practice. Today, the two spend their work weeks addressing fellow parents’ concerns with their family-run, organic baby body care company.

After a successful launch at Natural Products Association Marketplace last June and a trip to Natural Products Expo East in September, Dolphin Organics has made its way into dozens of retailers and was featured on NBC’s “Green Week.” So what’s next? No strangers to multitasking, Ayo and Nigel are preparing their Natural Products Expo West product launches, shipping current orders and mapping out an ambitious distribution plan. Here, they share why Dolphin Organics is better because they are doing it together.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What sparked the idea to launch a children’s personal care line?

Nigel Hart: My mother got breast cancer. Her oncologist in the UK highlighted chemicals for her to avoid, and a lot were in personal care products. It got us thinking more about how what you put on your body is as important as what you put in your body.

Also, after the birth of our now 6-year-old daughters a few years before, we weren’t happy with what you could buy in the store and wanted to create products for our children. We wanted a completely natural, plant-based offering with as high organic content as we could get into a product that still works.

NFM: Tell me about Dolphin Moms.

Ayo Hart: We wanted to involve other parents from a very early stage, and that’s where our Dolphin Moms come in. Because they have been with us so long, it’s not like your typical focus group. They have invested all this time into the business and really feel part of it. They give us honest answers, and we believe in their opinions.

They helped us narrow down exactly what they wanted from the products—what they expect in the natural and organic space.

NFM: How did you transition from your initial idea to a finished product?

AH: Once we knew what we wanted to do, it took a while to find the right formulator in North America. Some manufacturers basically have you take a product off a shelf and allow you to re-label and rebrand it. We didn’t want that—we wanted our own formula, our own control. We wanted to own our destiny. That’s why finding the right formulas took many months.

NFM: Why did you decide to get the NSF/ANSI 305 “made with organic ingredients” certification?

AH: We were very aware of how many products claim to be natural and organic but contain what we consider to be harsh chemicals. We wanted to make sure that we made it very easy and clear to parents that we weren’t just saying we were natural. We wanted to meet the highest standard and decided to work with QAI and NSF. Parents can look at our certification and say, “This is made with good stuff, in a certified facility, with a process that also is not going to bring about harsh byproducts.” We also geared our formula toward the Whole Foods Premium Body Care Standard.

NFM: What’s next for Dolphin Organics?

AH: We’re debuting our sunscreen and new scents at Expo West. We also want to continuously grow Dolphin Moms. We trademarked it because we really wanted it to be a program. It’s more than wearing a T-shirt—it’s trying products, talking with Nigel and me, and really helping us come up with the best products for what Dolphin Moms are looking for.

NFM: How do you spread the word about Dolphin Organics and Dolphin Moms?

AH: We partner with trusted organizations such as Healthy Child, Healthy World, an amazing education resource, where you find a group of moms on a mission. We speak to moms that are engaged with nutrition, what they’re putting on their bodies and what they’re feeding their children.

NFM: What is your target market?

AH: It’s twofold: We’re a smaller organization, so we enjoy smaller independent retailers. I like that I can speak to the owner and have that partnership. But we also think there are many people who may not shop at a natural health foods store yet still want what’s best for their children. We want to make our product available to everyone, so we’re not putting any walls up to anyone.

NFM: What do you like most about working with retailers in your area?

AH: It’s nice to have that relationship where they support us coming into the store, doing demos and Q&As. They want signage, and I think there’s more of a conversation.

Ithaca is a very educated community. The owner at a local natural products store recently asked Nigel and I to come in and answer their customers’ questions. I really enjoyed that. People ask great questions.

NFM: How are you handling the company’s growth?

AH: It’s a double-edged sword because you want to grow, but you know with growth comes more work. When NBC chose us as one of the companies to feature for its Universal “Green Week” in November, we were very excited. After being on TV, we had more sales in one day than we usually had in one month. We were scrambling, but we got it done.

It’s hard for us because it’s a family business, and it’s the two of us. We want our clients to be serviced. If we’re working with a small independent retailer, I want them to know that someone from Dolphin Organics is going to regularly come in to make sure everything is OK.

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