This blog post is dedicated to the true makers of green beauty many of whom we know and admire. We know the endless passion it takes to create the most beautiful, healthy and wholesome products. You are the new entrepreneur and together we inspire growth and connection with our customer. Be brave, bold and let’s continue what we built.
My favorite color is green. It always has been and probably always will be. It’s my mom’s favorite color too. It makes me feel happy and reminds me of forests and hills and connects me to the earth both visually and emotionally. I love the smell of grass and of vegetable gardens and once when I was a little girl I had a plant embedded in the palm of my hand that I watered and nurtured as though it was a part of me. So, I’ve got no problem with green. I want La Bella Figura to be known as a “green” brand. It defines everything associated with my favorite color and the passion that Karen and I pour into our work every day. Many have attempted to use the word green as some sort of insult in relation to our niche presence in the beauty market. We’ve been called hippies, eco-freaks, geeks, small potatoes and even on one occasion, cutesy. Well guess what? We love hippies, freaks and geeks and small potatoes are adorable. None of that bothers me one bit. A better insult would be to call us unimaginative, lazy or uncreative, but one only believes the things they know to be true so none of that works for us either. Green beauty is made by forward thinkers and hard workers. It’s how this young business emerged into what it is today. I realized some time ago that both Karen and I are “Business Romantics.” To me that means we strive to rise above the business of fast business and instead pursue authenticity. We aim to be purveyors of quality content with the belief that we have something valuable to offer as well as we have a demographic that appreciates what we offer. We aren’t the fluffy type of brand nor do we seek fame and fortune at the expense of producing things we just don’t believe in. From us you can always expect the truth in the direct style we’ve always shared with you. Our focus is on how to do things better. Sometimes that means laying it all on the table. So to those that want to call us green (or natural) We say, go ahead as I rather like the honesty of those words and we’ll continue to be business romantics putting forward our very best. Things are changing though. Maybe you’ve noticed. Green is always clean, but clean isn’t always green.
When green beauty began to increase in popularity with customers, bloggers, beauty writers and celebrities so did the interest of the same beauty corporations that claimed green beauty was merely a passing trend created by hippies. Suddenly, these companies/brands were launching face oils and using the word “natural” on their labeling. These were beauty giants and have been around for a long time with plenty of influence with media and impressive marketing budgets. I saw an advertisement by a conventional brand in a magazine that was so clever I almost believed it myself. I was at that moment both amused and upset. This is the part I refer to as, The Big Fake. Brands that want to cash in on the popularity of green beauty, but don’t want to play by the same rules as us. If you’re curious about why that is it’s just a simple economics matter. It costs a lot more to produce whole, natural green products than it does to produce any other type of product. There is more money to make this way and the focus is not on better product making, but bigger marketing hype. Pick up any magazine and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
As the customer demand continued to grow so did the new independent green beauty retailer. It seemed as though there were green beauty retailers opening every month. Many of them by folks that were initially fans, then customers, then retailers. They were excited about the emerging green beauty scene. Some of these retailers did not do their homework. They opened e-commerce sites with no concrete direction of how to engage with their audience and not much connection with the green beauty consumer. They fell short and in order to compete with the retailers that did do their homework began offering discounts and promotions to the excited customers coveting green products. Some retailers were feeling the squeeze by the discount allure and the growing demand, but some also lacked ambition to compete or the capitol to grow with the expanding market. (It seemed that suddenly green beauty was a hot commodity. Good work hippies!) We also saw some of our retailers close their doors (both literally and virtually) while others sold to investors. What remained was an influx of retailers with brands struggling to grow into their space. I call this part, The End Of The Monopoly. Some retailers were forward thinking and had a great grasp of the green beauty market and their customer’s needs. Many are still around and you probably purchase from them from time to time. We are grateful to these retailers that have been in the trenches with us, working hard to educate customers about our products and selling what they truly love. What they offer as a merchant can’t be outdone by other hands-off retailers that are either not understanding the true rise of green beauty or just in it to cash in on the new hot commodity and a growing (projected 18 billion in 2018) market. I certainly don’t have an issue with making money or profits, but I do take issue in making money or profits by “undoing” the work we set out to do in this new era of “Cleanwashing.” Clean washing is the current trend and one many of us want you to be aware of. This is what’s happening now with people jumping on the bandwagon and putting products on the market that claim to be clean, but aren’t exactly so clean or diluting formulations so they are less expensive to make (read, more profit margins) as well as not particularly effective in your skincare routine. The growth of the natural beauty industry has brought forward many investors seeking small brands that they can grow into large retail, but something’s gotta give and I’m afraid that is quality. I read labels and I’m sometimes baffled by the ingenuity of clean washing. Pretty packaging and lots of hype, but like your ex-boyfriend no substance. What I love so much about green beauty is the honorable approach to creating quality product. I LOVE hearing the passion exude from the voices and work of others. From Josh Rosebrook, his belief in plant synergy or from the brilliance of Julie Clark, founder of Province Apothecary and her style of studying herbs, plants and old-world methods to treat issues or the poetic way Mandy Aftel experiences scent to design gorgeous and complex botanic perfumes. There are so many amazing makers that value craftsmanship and have vision beyond the standard way to do business. Maybe they don’t know it, but they’re also business romantics. This, in my opinion is the key to our success. Many of what some insiders refer to as “the pioneers” of green beauty began businesses with the intention of putting forth excellent products and hoping they found connection with customers in order to grow their businesses. I don’t think anyone had any idea how big this was going to get or that in just a few short years it would turn into what it is today.
When you purchase from Integrity Botanicals, BeauTeaBar, Follain, Reina Organics or the many other retailer partners we consider part of our family you are purchasing with our full blessing. These are committed partnerships. They are true believers and excellent businesses, but not all businesses run this way. About a year and a half ago we began pulling out of a few retailers and closing our accounts. There are a few reasons that happened and I want to tell you the truth about it. I feel it’s important and our small company was feeling the impact of what was booming.
With the rise of green beauty came a new type of retailer. Truth be told, some of these guys are the reason that clean washing is such a hit. More product for the growing demand, more money to make. Some of these retailers began to ask us to renegotiate wholesale terms with more profit in their favor. I remember asking about that and one retailer explained, “to market your brand with bloggers, social media and influencers.” I have very strong opinions with that type of thinking. As a brand owner I work endlessly to connect with my customer. I feel it’s my job to do so. I want to share how we do things because I believe that the reason we even exist is because of the way we connect with our customer. The loyalty we’ve created around La Bella Figura is astounding and I cherish that so much that we would rather pull out of a retail space and grow with you then be forced to cut corners. When we partner with a retailer the consensus is to allow our retailer to resell our goods with a generous profit margin for them and a reasonable expectation to sell these goods in excellent condition to their customers. There is also expectation that they know who their customer is as well as discover new ones. (You have your house and we have ours) We expect our brand to be represented with an expert level of care through our retail partner. You put your trust in them so you merit that. Since our products do not have the shelf life of our conventional counterparts that means retailers must sell products quickly in order for the customer to receive quality goods. This is paramount to the success of our partnerships. Well, we noticed two things that began to happen. The first was that many of the new green retailers on the scene did not know who their customer was or how to connect with them. They allowed products to stick around and continued to pick up brand after brand with hopes that the concept, “if you build it they will come” would grace their good luck. They were hunting for brands to collect instead of selling the products they truly believed in and loved. We are still a teeny fraction of an industry compared to the conventional brands and there is still a lot of education to do. On top of not knowing their customer audience, some also began the discount craze. Asking us for complimentary full-sized products and thousands of samples in order to run marketing promotions for their businesses. This is simply difficult to provide when you’re a small independently owned brand. We are often eager to support our retail partners, but not at our own expense. The hunt for the green beauty bargain began and customers were cramping their necks to see where they could find their favorite products on discount next. We all saw it and felt it and it really hurt. While we all love a discount it is unsustainable for many small brands as a consistent business transaction. It would ultimately either put us out of business or cause us to reformulate products with less expensive ingredients and fillers in order to stay on the shelves of these retailers. The bigger problem and the one I’m concerned about most is losing the trust we built with you. I know I wouldn’t trust a brand who started with good intentions only to waiver the second big business came into the picture. Of course this happens, but green beauty is different. We opened up a non-existing market in a very transparent way. I believe (and maybe this is where my business romantic ideals have conflict with all the clean washing advocates,) that this is the future of business. Transparency, connection and quality content. Green beauty is starting to feel convoluted. I have spoken with many brand founders who are frustrated, annoyed, disenchanted and concerned over these pervasive issues. It’s changing the way many brands put new products on the market and if you’re a true fan of this industry you certainly don’t want this to happen. We’re hoping it doesn’t and that you continue to read labels, ask questions, reach out and do your homework. Your dollar, your voice resonates power and we know you don’t want to step backwards to the time when you weren’t privy to what the products you used to beautify, celebrate yourself and take care of your families were made of. Green beauty is better than all of that and you deserve better as well.