Adina Grigore, owner of Brooklyn-based natural skin care company Sprout, has a dilemma … or does she?
“I don’t know what my problem is, but I tend to work on a bunch of stuff all at the same time,” she said, blending a batch of Sprout's signature skin cream while ardently sharing plans for the company.
This so-called problem provides at least some explanation for how the 27-year-old completed an entire branding of her pantry-inspired, artisan skin care—featuring small-batch lotion, scrub, vegan lips balms and more—one week before Natural Products Expo East 2011. And why, as she talks about the future of a company that doubled its monthly revenue since exhibiting in Baltimore, nothing seems off limits—toothpaste, shampoo, you name it.
But heading into her second Natural Products Expo (Expo West 2012), the self-proclaimed multitasker dealing with the “complete insanity” of rapid growth has dialed in on a clear mission: to use simplicity and quality to help people make small, healthy changes, such as what they put on their skin. “It’s about getting people to shift only as much as they’re comfortable with, rather than forcing them to change their whole lives.”
newhope360: Why natural skin care?
Adina Grigore: I studied nutrition and am a holistic nutritionist. I went to nutrition school to begin with because I have supersensitive skin, and three years ago, I launched a wellness company. I was teaching workshops and seminars that started with friends and family, and then people would tell people and they’d tell people. I was using natural products and still having crazy reactions, so I started making skin care products. I evolved the recipes and spent a few months really perfecting them.
newhope360: What’s the inspiration behind Sprout’s unique labels?
AG: People shop how they feel. You really have to get them to trust that you’re high quality and that you’re something that they should pay attention to. We’re entering a saturated market—not just the skin care industry itself but also the natural skin care industry. We are doing something different and don’t want packaging that looks like everyone else’s. I also really want the products to appeal to people that aren’t already buying natural stuff. I wanted it to almost be “accidentally all natural.” The packaging itself stands out, and it’s an added bonus that it’s all natural. We communicate the natural aspect by putting the ingredients on the front.
newhope360: How do you reach your key customer?
AG: Our top customers are people who are incredibly sensitive like I am. It’s such a growing population. Natural Products Expo East was a really good experience because it made us hone in on where we should be. We do really well in places that focus on local, handmade and fair trade or direct trade products. Eventually I’d like to grow the brand into a national presence. To dream big, at some point we’d like to be the natural brand that you can get at Sephora, to sell in those places where the customer isn’t necessarily on board with what we are doing we might be able to kind of sway them a little.
newhope360: Have you experienced growing pains?
AG: In November 2011 we sold about 800 times more than what we sold November 2010. Since Expo East, we've more than doubled our average monthly revenue. It has been completely insane. There are only two of us and a part-time intern. The hardest part is that I would really like for this to be a full line of personal care products. When you’re growing, you know where you want to go, you know what you want to create, but you’re so busy. Every day I want to work on new formulas. There’s so much that you have to keep up. I would also like to be fair trade certified and organic certified. But we have to take it one step at a time and make sure we’re doing it right.
newhope360: What are your plans for product launches?
AG: I experiment and see what I can make with really high quality, and then we will do it. We’ve got testers sitting right now that we’re working on for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and sunscreen. To me, the basic point of the line that cannot change is its simplicity and its quality, so as long as we can maintain those things, I’ll make as many products as I can. I’d love to do cosmetics if it’s possible to make them that natural and that simple.
newhope360: What are your main formulation challenges?
AG: I want our products to be user friendly, and I don’t want them to require extensive directions and be so different from the stuff you normally use. So we’re figuring out how to make the experience as good as possible. With shampoo, I don’t want someone to get out of the shower and say "I’m never using that again," but I also want it to be so natural that you are getting something different out of it. You shift what people are comfortable with just a little bit at a time; that is key so it’s not like telling them "Everything you’re doing is wrong and this is how you should do it."
newhope360: How do you spread the word about your brand?
AG: Natural Products Expo East was awesome. We also do a lot of sampling and giveaways. We really understand that it’s something new and it’s something intimate. Giveaways with bloggers are our main asset, aside from people who find us in other outlets. People hear about us from a source that has tried this brand and believe in this brand; then they get to try it and see that it really does work and that’s the best for us.