The Business Of Affordable Skincare - How Pickle's Potion Does It
You know the song that says “Wake me up when September ends”? We have to tell you it would be a huge mistake if you missed out on this month’s curated fave : Pickle’s Potion. This cruelty-free brand creates natural skincare in their basement, packs and labels their own concoctions that were inspired by their time spent in Asia and the desire to create affordable solutions to everyday skin issues. We sat down with founder Kristin to discuss how they came to be, what their goals and dreams are and how they plan on growing their business.
In the past we have heard the most exciting stories about how certain brands were created and we just can’t wait to hear your story!
The formulation of Pickle’s Potions is pretty much a ‘mother of invention’ story, as I began creating natural skincare products out of necessity. Around 15 years ago my husband and I were living and teaching in rural China. There was a dearth of Western skincare and cosmetics in the barren, grey concrete shopping center and I was reluctant to purchase anything for my inability to read Chinese characters. In any case, it was also around this time that my frustration had peaked regarding the unnecessary and potentially harmful additives of mainstream beauty products. Thus, I was filled with hopeful joy when my first small collection of mail order essential oils miraculously found its way to our back-end-of-beyond. I wasn’t a complete novice. I had dabbled with my mother’s oils as an anxious teen growing up in the Philippines as a missionary kid in an attempt to stave off malaria-ridden mosquitos and rabid dogs.
Back in China, after several weeks of researching and experimenting on myself whenever I had spare time, I had created a small cloistered trove of potions. I was rather darn pleased with myself.
“However, it was not until a couple of years later when I became pregnant with our son that I really became serious about the idea of switching over to using solely natural products.”
Whilst there were a few decent natural product lines available in Korea, I was dismayed by the steep prices, and began sourcing even more ingredients to craft my own. Two years later, my daughter was born and it was clear from the outset that her overly-sensitive skin would not play ball with the peninsula’s humid summers or arid winters, and so I began formulating my ‘healing salve’, and what I playfully now call ‘Eczema Elixir’. Upon our return to Maine, USA a few years ago the foundations for my fledgling company were already established in the knowledge and product recipes I had accumulated in our time overseas.
“Our first winter, a few days before the opening of the annual Christmas ‘Shopping Stroll’, I was approached by a member of our village committee to peddle my wares. I agreed, my art major husband designed a logo and printed labels, I measured and mixed, and we sat up all night labeling together in our frigid basement.”
Two years down the line, we now have an extensive range of products, feature regularly at a host of regional craft fairs, enjoy best-selling products on Etsy, run our own website, and are blessed to have a fast-growing mass of consistent, genuine followers.
What are your company’s business goals and how are you planning to achieve that?
We are very much a fledgling company and feel that our corporate identity is still not fully-matured, and honestly, I’m fine with that as it allows for flexibility and freedom to explore novel directions and opportunities as they present themselves. Of course, we’re not entirely rudderless! In the absence of an official, concise mission statement there are underlying principles that steer our path.
“Components must be natural and of high-quality and each one needs to have a justifiable reason for its inclusion – more is not always better – a lengthy ingredients list can send a false message of ‘more bang for your buck’, but the truth is unnecessary additions don’t increase potency but do raise prices and may even prove detrimental to your skin health.”
Because we believe the tendency for gross over-pricing in the health sector is scandalous, we work hard to maintain a balance between efficacy, quality and affordability. What really helps to sustain this is remaining conscious to the fact that my compassion to help others has consistently proven to be a deeper source of personal fulfilment than the increases in revenue we have witnessed. I love to be able to get out to markets and fairs to engage with our customers on a one-to-one basis, as it’s a means for personal and professional growth.
“Not only does it make me happy, but it’s just good business to focus on the individuality of customers, to listen to their history, their opinions and feedback, and foster lasting relationships.”
Your brand name always puts a smile on our faces. What’s behind it?
When I was a little girl I had a penchant for eating pickles, I guess someone in my family took note of that and the nickname just kind of stuck around. When it came to deciding a name for the business this appealed for its playfulness and was deemed more memorable than using my real name. ‘Potions’ was then added for the same reasons and to reflect the hand-blended, natural aspects of what I do. The alliteration between the two words was an additional boon we felt. Finally, because we weren’t sure if ‘Pickle’s Potions’ alone was sufficiently informative we added ‘And Lotions’. However, nowadays we often drop this last part when talking about the company as we no longer market lotions.
“We cater for anyone concerned with a natural, health-orientated lifestyle and those who experience skin distress in some form.”
What kind of ingredients do you use in your products and why?
“I use ingredients sourced from reputable, quality, organic wholesalers in the U.S and wildcraft with local and cultivated botanicals and our recent feature, the Vegan Lash & Brow Serum in Nourish Beauty Box, is also responsibly sourced.”
Around one third of my potions originated as private, custom orders, the rest are items that I either wanted for myself or required for loved ones, such as the eczema remedy for my daughter’s flare-ups I mentioned earlier. Therefore, ingredients I choose must be of a high-standard.
Every business encounters some obstacles but to be successful you have to be able to overcome them. What difficulties have you had to face in your career and how did you overcome them?
The most common issue I have to contend with is the matter of how to financially factor in for the large amounts of time I put into production and packaging.
“I am reluctant to raise prices due to the firm belief that natural skincare products should be affordable for all. While I could address this to some extent by making products in larger batches, this isn’t really an option either as we pride ourselves on providing the freshest products we possibly can.”
So, to rectify this my husband has begun assisting with packaging and we aim to hire someone in the near future to lend a hand.
What is your experience with other homegrown beauty brands and if you had one advice to give to self-starters, what would that be?
“There are a whole host of small beauty entrepreneurs out there. Unfortunately I frequently see the use of questionable ingredients and methods, such as potentially unstable water-based lotions and the inclusion of unsafe essential oils in certain products. Also, not to hark on, situated as I am to understand the base cost of quality ingredients, I am horrified on a daily basis by the outrageous mark-ups manufacturers place on their products.”
Subsequently, I would say if someone wants to enter this business they should do so with the intention of improving upon the current state. That means having a solid understanding of herbalism and the tools of the trade and the intention of employing these skills conscientiously.
“The best way to ensure this is to begin with a genuine compassion for people, you really have to want to serve others.”
Apart from Nourish Beauty Box, where else can our customers find your products?
I regularly feature at local markets, fairs and events in and around Maine. Here people have a chance to meet with me in person to discuss their personal issues and sample potions. For states further afield and our international customers, I make myself as available as possible through the message systems on our website, the Etsy shop front, social media and our subscribers’ mailing list.
“As most can’t road-test potions in person, I make it a policy to include one or two samples in every order we send out. If someone has a specific skin complaint they can always contact me directly through these channels where I can offer advice, make a recommendation or tailor a unique product to their needs.”
In the build-up to Mother’s Day this year, thanks to a percentage of customer purchases, we were fortunate enough to be able to fund newborn birth kits for mothers in crisis zones through the International Rescue Committee. As Pickle’s Potions continues to grow we aim to support worthwhile causes such as this with more frequency.
“Also, earlier this season we officially affiliated our brand with PETA’s anti-cruelty certification for all of our products.”
Finally, we just released a delightful SPF lip balm that is currently available in our online stores at a discounted price along with other seasonal favorites such as our natural sun protection and natural tick and bug spray deterrent. We have also created a special discount code just for you!
“Nourish subscribers! There’s a 15% discount in our Etsy shop for you waiting to be redeemed by using code ‘NOURISH15’ at the checkout! Hope you enjoy your lash and brow growth serum as much as I enjoyed crafting it!”