Back To Basics

Healthy Notions

Just last year, Hazel Keller Cosmetics Inc., which has been selling cosmetics and skin-care products from its Charlotte, North Carolina, headquarters since 1963, added a vitamin C-based facial cream to its line of vitamin-enriched lotions and creams. "Our customers have been really excited to try the vitamin C cream," says Marlene Johnson, 49, one of the company's five co-owners. Hazel Keller's 1997 sales neared $500,000 and, of that figure, about $10,000 came from only six months of sales of the firm's 2-ounce jar of vitamin C facial cream.

"Vitamin C products and products with antioxidants are really hot right now," Strausfogel confirms, "and I'm seeing more and more of them coming out."

"People really want to go back to the basics," agrees Kathryn Weiss, owner of Moonflower Soaps & Sundries in Bellingham, Washington. "A lot of people have built up allergies to fragrances and preservatives, and they want to get back to something that's better for the body and the mind."

That's part of the reason Weiss spent almost a year tinkering in her kitchen developing formulas for her handmade soaps rich with olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, and organic herbs such as lavendar, rosemary and rosehips. By 1995, she had perfected her recipes and started hitting local arts and crafts fairs selling her soaps for $3.25 a bar.

Like Weiss, whose soaps brought in more than $8,000 last year, many newcomers to the natural-products field take a low-tech approach to marketing: arts and crafts fairs, natural foods stores and the like. But many natural-products sellers are giving their marketing strategies a decidedly high-tech slant by hopping on the Internet in search of customers.

Todd Tavares and his partner, Tiffany Visaggio, 23, are using a Web site as the main marketing medium for Healthy Living Outlet, the Vernon, New Jersey, company they formed in September 1997 as a part-time business they hope will pull in enough sales within five years to go full time. "We thought the Web was the best way to get our products in front of people all over the world for the least amount of money," says Tavares, 25.

Apparently, the world was waiting. Tavares says response to the site has been phenomenal "We've received orders from all over the world--Brazil, Sweden, the former Soviet Union," he says. First-year sales of the company's natural beauty-care products, aromatherapy items, air and water purifiers, books, videos, vitamins, herbs and other health products are expected to reach the $30,000 mark. The pair also believe sales will continue to rise after they add a 24-page mail order catalog to their bag of marketing tricks.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Back To Basics.

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