Natural Cosmetics Entrepreneur

With today's shoppers becoming more concerned about health and beauty, natural cosmetics manufacturers are finding success marketing and distributing their products.

So just what does "natural" mean in the cosmetics industry?

In general, a "natural" product should be free of synthetic ingredients, such as fragrances, preservatives, additives and artificial colors. It also should not be tested on animals.

Gabrielle Melchionda is the founder of a U.S.-based natural beauty products company. She says there are no regulations about using the word "natural." She defines it as using ingredients that are in their purest form, that come from nature and that are not treated with synthetic or chemical ingredients or processes.

"We are very strict about where our ingredients come from, how they are handled, what they may have in them," she says. "We do this because it is important to us to offer a pure and natural product that is safe and effective."

Paula Polman owns a natural beauty products company. She says that in a broad sense, a product labeled "natural" should be safe, made mainly from herbs, botanicals, base oils and waxes.

Entrepreneurs can do well in this field, says Mary Berry, the founder of a natural beauty product manufacturing company in Texas.

"The natural beauty care industry is a great opportunity for people interested in both cosmetics and business," she says.

She adds, however, that it is by no means easy money. There is quite a bit of competition from firmly entrenched retail stores and many smaller cosmetics stores.

"You have to set your company apart from others, whether this is by service, superior products, price or exclusivity," she says.

Getting started doesn't take a college degree. Polman says you need a genuine interest first and foremost. She suggests that if manufacturing is your goal, then you should read lots, talk to formulators (cosmetic chemists), consult with raw material producers and experiment.

"I began in the toiletries industry when my child was born, as I was looking for natural products to use on him. When I couldn't find much, I decided to try making my own," she says.

"I found I was good at it, was able to formulate with good results and people had a strong interest in my products," she says.

"It grew from there. It also helped that I already had a personal interest in aromatherapy and herbal use in maintaining my family's health and had been practicing both for a number of years in my daily life."

Berry's company currently produces and markets lotions, bubble baths, creams, body washes, candles and perfumes. She says she started making her products for fun.

"I started making salt scrubs one afternoon from a recipe. Many of my friends liked these salt scrubs and my obsessive nature took over from there," she says.

"I purchased hundreds of different carrier oils and hundreds more of fragrance and essential oils. I then tried hundreds of different combinations of carrier oil mixtures until I found the one that made my skin feel the best. I then gave away samples to friends and family and thus refined my recipe."

Melchionda started making lip balm in 1991 when she was a college student. "It is the classic story: friends and family liked my products, encouraged me to make more and sell it, and little by little it became a hobby.

"I went to the Natural Products Expo, found receptive buyers who reordered over time, found distributors and it just started to come together."

There are legal, health and insurance regulations that must be followed. These will vary in different cities and states. Polman suggests talking to your local civic and state government for the specifics.

"The best bet is to become very familiar with the government branch that oversees the regulations of the cosmetics industry," she says.

Berry says that start-up costs in the industry vary, depending on the speed at which the entrepreneur wants to expand and also what choices the entrepreneur makes.

"You can easily spend two to three thousand dollars to get a large number of oils for testing. The same kind of thing goes for really all your options. Do you do your website yourself or have a friend do it, or do you pay three to 10 thousand dollars for a commercial firm to do it?"

Polman says costs will depend on how much you need to buy, how efficient you are at research and development and what type of products you are trying to produce.

"The costs are high on any level, though, for manufacturers," says Polman. "It is wise to develop a business and marketing plan and to do careful budgeting to keep in control of the business' early stages."

The Internet offers a wide-reaching scope for sales for the entrepreneur. "The Internet is simply another marketing tool to get the word out about your products," says Polman.

"It provides a place where anyone in the world can view and purchase your products; however, the same rules about marketing any business still apply.

"You still have to advertise, you still have to do word of mouth, you still have to network and you have to work in the physical as well as the virtual world. The advantage to the Internet is that you can expand your reach much further much quicker if you want to."

The natural cosmetics industry provides a wealth of opportunities for the budding entrepreneur. "The rising interest is really in overall personal health and wellness," says Polman.

"People have been more conscientious about what they have been putting into their bodies by trying to change eating habits. They exercise to stay fit and healthy and now they are finally realizing that the picture isn't complete without examining what they're putting ON their bodies. That is where the growth [in the industry] is coming from."


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