We started by cooking our product in our kitchen and now we are in 15 of the top 30 mass retail chains in the country. Here's a photo-journal that chronicals the BLAMtastic story:
I was 9 and my sister Melanie was 10 years old when my mom found out about the gender-gap in lead executive and board positions. So she challenged us to come up with a business idea -- just as an exercise in empowerment. Soon after, I had a slip of the tongue when looking for my lip-balm I instead asked: "Mom, where's my lip BLAM?" We all thought BLAM-tastic would make a great lip balm name. So we used the internet to search for lip balm ingredients and ordered wax and flavorings to cook-up our first few batches. But unlike most other products on the market, we all agreed that we didn't want to use petroleum or parabens (a synthentic preservatitve that can cuase hormonal imbalances), but we did want it to have SPF! Being animal-lovers, we also didn't want to test our products on animals.
We melted the wax and the flavors and poured them into pastic tubes, and then my sister and I would take them to school and ask our friends what they liked and didn't like. All of their opinions drove our decisions on flavors and colors. We came up with some really fun products like "Brain Squeeze Sour Cherry" and "Radioactive Lemon Lime." We seemed to have a recipe for success -- or should I say award-winning formulas?!?!?!
People really loved our products so we took a giant leap of faith and moved from just selling at schools and fairs. We thought it was time to move into storefronts and malls. So we dropped off samples of our products to local stores so that they could "test-it-out" with their customers. Our local Learning Express -- part of a national chain of 140 educational toy stores -- became our champion and encouraged us to establish ourselves as a vendor for the entire chain. The tricky thing was finding a manufacturer!
One manufacturer after the next turned us down, but my mom persevered. She called on a female manufacturing owner and convinced her to take a chance on us. This was about empowering women and empowering youth at the same time! Finding a local champion was really important, because it laid the foundation for us to grow and scale our business.
One of the questions that comes up all the time was how we were able to grow our revnues? In 2011, we had earned just $150,000. Initially we thought if we onboarded a CEO with more experience, he (or she) could help us scale. On paper we found the ideal candidate, but after sitting across from us, he told us that we would never be worth his time because we were so small! Luckily, with her background as a paralegal, my mom knew to nail down trademark protections internationally for BLAMtastic, so we were able to grow and by 2013 had become a multi-million dollar company!
After six years of running our business, we finally decided to pitch BLAMtastic at Walmart's "Made in the USA Open Call" which extended entrepreneurs 30-minutes to explain why their products would be ideal for the $486-billion retailer's 4,600 U.S. stores. (You can read about that in more detail here.) By then we had also expanded our product lines into bath and body including lotions, shower gels, balm for guys, body mists, cleaners and toners.
My sister Melanie, who is passionately shy, decided she'd prefer to stay involved with product development and honing the company's message, which is why people always see me as a front-runner with my mom. Though I still go to school, I am able to earn an intership credit for my work with BLAMtastic, so I do a delicate balance of school and work.
I have learned that entrepreneurship is one of the hardest experiences a person can tackle, but most anyone CAN do it. The resources avaialble through the internet, through books and through mentors make it so that people do not necessarily needs MBAs to become successful entrepreneurs. We had no experience when we started our business, but we learned the personal care industry and found a way to amke our business feasible. My advice for my peers is "follow your passions!" When deciding how to spend your time, you're going to be more successful if you truly enjoy doing something -- and that's when work ceases to be "work."
We have come a long way. We hope we are living proof that anyone can be an entrepreneur, so long as they are willing to work hard. Part of our success is defined by the ethos of our business. Our list of CORE VALUES were important to the success of our company:
- Keep our manufacturing and services local to keep our neighbors employed. Made in America and PROUD!
- Keep it simple - Seek natural and botanical ingredients for our products.
- Use the best quality ingredients on the market.
- Be kind to the earth by applying sustainability measures wherever possible.
- Offer unique products that improve upon formulation, function or fun.
- Pay it Forward every chance you get.
Young people have dreams, ideas and drive. Through our foundation, we are also now helping them pull it all together to find their personal and professional "true north" through (i) exploration, (ii) educational conferences, (iii) entrepreneurial events, (iv) mentoring and (v) scholarships. Our experience has inspired us to support other young entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs in their quest to better the world through their businesses. Our foundation works hard in support of these initiatives. If you'd like more information, please find us on the web at www.blamtasticlegacyfoundation.org.