How I started a $15k/month eco-friendly skincare brand selling natural beauty products

Alaska Glacial Essentials feature image
Lauren Padawer Alska Glacial Essentials founder image
Lauren Padawer
Founded: March 2007
No of employees: 1
Location: USA
$15,000 Revenue/mo

Driven by the spiritual connection between life in Alaska and protecting the world’s rich natural resources, Lauren Padawer founded Alaska Glacial Essentials. The company sustainably hand-harvests pure glacial minerals to manufacture spa-luxury and raw beauty skincare products. Their products are aimed at any adult who loves adventure and are looking for effective, safe skincare solutions based in both science and sustainability. 

After taking advantage of the booming spa industry, Lauren has achieved an incredible amount so far with the brand, including over 400 5-star reviews, 8,000 subscribers to their email newsletter, and a 60% profit margin that has so far been maintained. 2020 will bring plenty investment and scaling, so we chat to Lauren to find out what’s next.

Who are you and what brand did you start?

My name is Lauren Padawer, founder of Alaska Glacial Essentials. The company sustainably hand-harvests pure glacial minerals from the Copper River Delta and manufactures spa-luxury and raw beauty skincare products inspired by innovation, science and ethical beauty practices. We are located in Cordova, Alaska, a wild and remote coastal community surrounded by glaciers, mountains, ocean and the largest contiguous wetland on the Pacific coast of North America.

Here at Alaska Glacial, we are driven by a passion for natural beauty and the deep spiritual connection between life in Alaska and protecting the bounty of our rich resources through preservation of wild intact ecosystems. Our products are for every adult who loves adventure and wants effective and safe skincare solutions based in science and sustainability.

Alaska Glacial appeared on Shark Tank in 2014 and painted Mr. Wonderful with our buttery mud!

Alaska Glacial Essentials homepage

How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Alaska Glacial Essentials?

I was inspired to start Alaska Glacial as a means to preserve the wilderness of the Copper River Watershed through profits generated from the sale of skincare products made with its abundant and sustainable resources. I had been working for a nonprofit and wanted to have a bigger impact.

My life was forever changed by a rafting trip down the magnificent and wild Copper River in 2001. We stopped for lunch in a spot where the river narrows, a classic brown bear salmon fishing spot. Afterwards we decided to dip our toes into some super inviting sun-warmed glacial pools next to the river leftover from the high water of the summer. My feet unexpectedly sank deep into the most buttery mud imaginable. There were bear tracks everywhere and eagles screeching overhead and I knew I was literally soaking in the wildest spa in the world. 

Prior to that trip, I had worked in a spa and knew the industry was booming. I set out to understand the differences and similarities of how Alaska glacial mud compared to other therapeutic muds on the market. As it turned out, Copper River glacial mud has a more diverse mineral profile than any other mud on the market!

Ultimately, Alaska Glacial was inspired by my dream that a company could both create amazing luxurious natural beauty products to nourish and protect skin while also protecting Earth’s skin through awareness and philanthropy towards environmental education, salmon habitat restoration and wilderness preservation projects in Alaska, particularly in the Copper River Watershed.

Our logo is representative of the shapes made by the Copper River as it winds and weaves its way towards the ocean. We chose the name as a commitment to our transparency as a brand and establish our mud products as a staple in the spa market.

Lauren and crew from Alaska Glacial Essentials

Describe the process of launching Alaska Glacial Essentials?

My first steps included testing different glacial muds. I chose to work with the Copper River because it was the main inspiration for the brand and turned out to be the most accessible, abundant and mineral-rich sediment considering our remote location. At that point I understood a lot about the geomorphology from the analyses, but I also had enough background in biology to know that I couldn’t just put mud into a jar. I sought a cosmetic chemist to help develop a well-formulated shelf stable product. I also hired a friend from college who had studied graphic design and had a great sense of brand style. 

My first big achievement was obtaining a rural business award in a statewide competition and taking home the People’s Choice award as well. There was an Associated Press writer who wrote a feel-good story after the competition and the story got picked up by over a hundred papers around the US. That award along with some personal savings entirely helped with start-up costs and was a big nod to keep moving ahead!

Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?

We have been lucky so far in how we’ve attracted customers. We are well-distributed in Alaska seasonal gift shops, so we get about 3 million new visitors each year who come across our brand. We also appeared on Shark Tank in 2014 and that generated a ton of traffic. We have attended several trade shows over the years including Natural Products Expo, the International Spa Association ISPA trade show and a special skin care show called EXTRACTS, which was a subset of the New York Gift Show, now replaced by the Indie Beauty (IBE) events.

When people end up at our site, we try our best to keep them there! Our website is beautiful, has tons of information and we encourage people to sign up for our newsletter. We have transactional flows integrated that communicate with subscribers and new customers in an effort to keep them engaged. We have a very limited advertising budget. Mostly we rely on word of mouth and the reputation of our products.

Alaska glacial mud

With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?

Our business was born in the digital era, but a few things have changed over the years. Social media has become a significant driver for marketing and we have never been behind the eight ball. We try our best to keep up with content and influencer marketing. We have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to marketing online. For the most part, we try to stay within our budget and have bootstrapped the growth of the company.

We maintain a 60% profit margin on sales and have over 8000 subscribers in our email marketing. Between our www.alaskaglacialmud.com website and Amazon, we have over 400 5-star reviews for our products.

How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?

The business is surviving on a bread and butter diet related to the Alaska tourism industry. While we have our products available around the US and globally, there is no widespread distribution strategies. We hope to change that in 2020.

We are launching four more products in 2020 to flush out a glacial mineral facial skin care line including a cleanser, toner, serum and cream. All the products are made with Alaska glacial mineral water and incorporate well-known skin care ingredients like resveratrol and hyaluronic acid, as well as potent complexes made with Alaska mushroom and berry extracts. We have partnered with a Korean-Alaskan cosmetic chemist who works with the largest university lab in South Korea dedicated to skincare research. You could call it K-beauty meets AK-beauty!

Contrary to the trajectory of most business, we are “in-sourcing” our future. We are building a manufacturing and storage facility in Cordova, Alaska and bringing home operations that were previously outsourced.  Due to our remote location, we are making a bigger effort to minimize the footprint and maximize our profits.

What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is to be receptive to all solicitations. I often want to ignore emails or calls from strangers due to the high volume of my existing workload, but you never know where a gem is hiding in the dirt. Return all your calls and do your best to follow through even when you have doubts.

Two, get multiple estimates from companies for the same products or services. Just like a health problem, get more than one opinion. For business, it will save you money!

What marketing tools do you use to run Alaska Glacial Essentials?

I think a good CSM is key. We use Klaviyo but there are a lot of options out there. We also have a third party review platform called Yotpo.  Based on trial and error or hurdles, I’m inclined to say Shopify would be the best ecommerce platform. We currently use WordPress and there seem to be a lot of limitations.

*Find full list of tools/platforms at the bottom of the page.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m doing manual labor tasks. Super Soul Sunday, Skimm'd from the Couch and Clean Beauty, Y Combinator, MarTech to name a few!

Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?

I was originally inspired by activist Dune Lankard, who set out to preserve the remaining wild intact ecosystems after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill tragedy. He wants to leave a legacy of preservation for the Eyak people who were the indigenous people that called this region where we live home for the last 3500 years.

Alaska Glacial Essentials team photo

Any advice you’d like to share for other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Acknowledge fear, calculate your risks and be bold.

'Acknowledge fear, calculate your risks and be bold'Click To Tweet

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?

We are hiring new positions as we expand our product line and move manufacturing and order fulfillment to Cordova, Alaska. We will be looking for new investors after we establish new operations.

Where can we go to learn more about your current offers/promotions/programs?

We offer a 10% discount to all new email subscribers. Once in the fold, we provide special offers to our subscribers. We also offer sales promotions on several holidays including; BFCM weekend, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Summer Solstice and Halloween.

 

Online Business Tools that Alaska Glacial Essentials uses:

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