Gran, who suffers from an auto-immune disease affecting her thyroid, began reading about the ingredients in her beauty products. After years of making her own lip balms, she decided to mix her own skin-care creams. In 2010 she gave Strain a Christmas gift of her creations: a lip balm, a hydrating tonic (called Everything’s Coming Up Roses) and a moisturizing serum made purely of oils (Beauty Rest). Strain loved the smell and feel of the oils on her skin. “The serum was herbal and earthy in a sophisticated way,” she says. “It was complex.”
One morning after a 6 o’clock yoga class, Strain said to Gran, “Let’s make this into a business.” All the color drained out of Gran’s face as she realized, for the first time, that she could have a career doing what she loved. Within days, the two had hatched a plan to get the business off the ground. Gran, who has a bachelor of science degree, would develop formulations and run the lab. Strain, who had an advertising background, would lead the PR and marketing efforts. To make it all happen, the pair lent themselves $200,000 from their savings.
Gran took classes with a natural-ingredients formulator in California, studied the industry textbook Milady’s Standard Fundamentals for Estheticians and signed up for a weeklong course at Bastyr University near Seattle, a school that specializes in science-based, natural medicine. Their first product samples went out to friends and family at the end of 2011.
Today the company, Kari Gran skin care, is on track to gross more than $500,000 in 2014. Gran writes a blog dedicated to educating people about beauty products. The business is still in the start-up phase; the co-owners barely pay themselves the minimum wage. (“Our husbands are totally OK with it. Us, not so much,” Strain says.) But “there’s a solid profit to be made,” Gran says. “The margins are very good, even though natural products usually involve more expensive ingredients. For a long time, using anti-aging products, I bought into the belief that I needed to be fixed. We’re encouraging women to think about beauty a little bit differently.”
LIZ LOGAN is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York.
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