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They Designed One Simple Product With a 'Focus on Human Health' — and Made $40 Million Last Year Marilee Nelson, Allison Evans and Kelly Love founded cult-favorite cleaning brand Branch Basics in 2012.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Nelson, Evans and Love are united by a commitment to creating healthier homes.
  • Branch Basics' laser-focused product line streamlines cleaning routines.
  • In 2023, the brand saw 42% year-over-year growth and $40 million in revenue.

Branch Basics founders Marilee Nelson, Allison Evans and Kelly Love "never set out to sell soap," let alone launch a cleaning brand that would generate tens of millions in annual sales.

But the company's "mission to create healthy homes" while keeping cleaning routines simple continues to resonate with customers — 50% of whom are returning, according to the brand. Among other select accessories, Branch Basics offers a comprehensive "starter kit," which features a fragrance-free, "plant- and mineral-based" cleaning concentrate along with various glass bottles that can be filled with different combinations of the solution and water to meet specific needs: from wiping down a bathroom counter to doing a load of laundry.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Branch Basics. Marilee Nelson, left; Allison Evans, center; Kelly Love, right.

The story of how the company came to be begins with Nelson, who, after battling chronic illness, was told that she'd never have kids and needed to go on dialysis. Nelson wasn't sold on the prognosis and turned to another doctor who used "food as medicine" — a leap of faith that "literally changed her life," eradicating those health issues and even inspiring her to become a medicinal cook. Later, after her 10-year-old son was exposed to pesticides and suffered brain and immune system damage, she took another hard look at environmental factors that might contribute to healing.

"His immune system had been so damaged that he could not detoxify the things we're all exposed to every day," Nelson says, "and he would have extreme reactions. I took one box and thought, Oh, I'll keep my favorite perfumes in here, favorite skincare products and things, in the closet, and when he gets better, I will bring them back out." However, according to Nelson, the box's removal made such a significant difference that it showed her "how important it is to [recognize] how powerful these chemicals are." Nelson's son started to heal, and when word of mouth spread, she developed a course to help other people better understand the products in their homes.

Related: How This Pediatrician-Turned-Entrepreneur Transformed a Health Policy into a Consumer Product for Kids

"Of course, the type of fuel we put in our bodies matters for how we feel."

Nelson's niece, Allison, had a similar experience. Diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, Evans was told by doctors that "no lifestyle change" could help her heal and to take birth control indefinitely; in college, she faced a range of symptoms — muscle aches, loss of motor skills and more — and says she was prescribed numerous medications to no avail. At the time, Evans and her aunt Marilee weren't particularly close, but she consulted with her and realized that some simple lifestyle changes just might help her feel better.

According to Evans, removing certain products with synthetic ingredients and eating whole foods did help her condition improve, and as graduation neared, she decided to spend eight weeks with Nelson in the Texas Hill Country, where she'd learn more about healthy living from her aunt. Her friend Kelly joined her, and despite being in good health, also noticed a transformation — "My dry itchy eyes, headaches, muscle aches are all gone," Love recalls, adding, "the more I learned about all this, it just made sense to me: Of course, the type of fuel we put in our bodies matters for how we feel, how we think, how we act."

Related: PVC Plastics Are Polluting Our Planet. This Startup Has a Solution.

So, in 2012, the three women teamed up to launch Branch Basics, the cult-favorite cleaning brand known for its multipurpose concentrate.

Image Credit: Courtesy of Branch Basics

Although Cleveland Clinic reports that most household cleaning products on the market "are reasonably safe when used as directed," many cleaning supplies or household products can "irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems," particularly if they release volatile compounds (VOCs), which vaporize at room temperature, per the American Lung Association. The organization also notes that even naturally occurring fragrances, such as citrus, "can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors."

"Nontoxic" labels on products aren't the be-all and end-all either, Nelson notes. After all, "it's the dose that makes the poison," as the Swiss physician and chemist Paracelsus said nearly 500 years ago. According to Nelson, looking at the ingredients themselves is key. The founders want people to feel empowered to examine any product — from Branch Basics or another company — and understand the ingredients being used. To that end, they offer a $99 "Toss the Toxins" course to "walk you through a step-by-step process to remove products that pollute your home and body."

Related: Go Green Or Go Home: 3 Ways Industrial Facilities Can Clean Up Their Acts

"Our 32-ounce liquid concentrate cleans your windows, cleans your baby's bottom, cleans your produce."

Branch Basics' "minimalist" product line is meant to make the whole process easier — and save time. "We chose to use our products as a vehicle for our mission," Nelson says, "so we came out with a concentrate that can replace literally every laundry [and] cleaning product in the house. It's so safe it can be used on the skin."

"Our 32-ounce liquid concentrate cleans your windows, cleans your baby's bottom, cleans your produce, takes off your eye makeup, cleans your countertops [or] your hardwood floors — whatever depending on the the ratio," Evans adds.

The approach is resonating with customers, the company reports. Gross sales grew around 42% year over year from 2022 to 2023, with revenue hitting $40 million last year. The company currently has more than 50,000 product subscribers, 600,000 email subscribers and 10,000 five-star reviews on its concentrate and Oxygen Boost, which amplifies the power of the concentrate "for tough cleaning jobs."

Image Credit: Courtesy of Branch Basics

"We know that human health is our priority... [that] keeps everything aligned."

The company's laser-focused commitment to its customers — it reportedly responds to every single customer question on Instagram and TikTok — no doubt fosters a lot of that brand loyalty. What's more, Branch Basics boasts a 6% referral rate compared to the industry's 2% average.

"We approach everything [by asking] What do we want?" Love says. "What's missing in the market? What do we, as people who are moms, as people who are health-conscious, need and want? Because, most likely, other people would need and want those things, too. We know that human health is our priority, so when we formulate products or make our marketing plans, [that] keeps everything aligned."

This WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR® article is part of our ongoing series highlighting the stories, challenges and triumphs of running a business as a woman.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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