A Hand in Remarriage

On a Shoestring

What: Garden-inspired beauty and skin-care line
Who: Ellen and Jack Davies of Davies Gate
Where: Irwindale, California
When: Started in 1993
How much: $4,000

Being a jewelry designer like her mother didn't make Ellen Davies happy, but taking her mother's advice to pursue a business with the botanical soaps she made did. "I happen to be a passionate gardener, and I love beauty and skin-care products. It was a way to get those two together," says Davies.

She and her husband, Jack, took $4,000 in savings to buy paper wraps and labels for packaging, then worked with a small supplier in France to create a custom formula from which they ordered a couple of pallets of bar soap. Because they started their company, Davies Gate LLC, in their apartment, "we literally sat on soap boxes for furniture," Ellen, 39, recalls.

Jack, a lawyer who's since joined the business full time, handles the legal aspects as well as other business duties. Ellen plunged into the creative aspects, including handling calls. "I'd get a call for our customer service department, put them on hold and change my voice," laughs Ellen, who now has 12 employees.

Booking accounts with The Studio at Fred Segal and other fine boutiques, first-year sales were $60,000; the Davies' alluring aromas now have them projecting 2003 sales of $11 million to $12 million. And although the Davies have expanded from one item to 160, their spending habits haven't ballooned. "There are two types of people: those who look at the top line, and those who look at the bottom line," explains Jack, 39. "We've always been bottom-line [types]."

- April Y. Pennington
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This article was originally published in the September 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Hand in Remarriage.

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