Can a handmade business be more than just a hobby?
We started No Tox Life two years ago on Earth Day and we’re taking time to celebrate our journey.
How did you get started?
Short answer: Sandee taught herself to make soap in Fall 2013 and gave them as Christmas gifts. More and more people started asking for them and suggesting she make a business out of it. Reading the labels on store-bought soaps, she was appalled to realize how many unnecessary chemicals were added to most commercial soaps. She got fired up about helping people start a non-toxic body care routine, and No Tox Life was born.
Callie had a full-time job elsewhere, but would give suggestions on design or packaging, and helped with weekend market sales. By mid-2015, she was working full time in our new business. Callie is the creative director and works with all aspects of the business, from product development to package design to photography & social media, ensuring the brand message is consistent.
Where do you sell?
We started online, since we both knew how to build a simple website. We were first accepted to the Hollywood Farmers Market and began selling there. By Winter 2015, we had expanded to 5 local markets a week in the LA area, and had occasional weekends of 7 markets in LA and San Francisco.
Where else do you sell?
We have online shops on Etsy, Amazon, and of course our own website! We are in some boutiques and grocery stores, and are growing that area this year.
Do you hire anyone?
Yes, we do now. We didn’t for more than a year, and eventually realized we really needed help to grow like we wanted. We started hiring sales assistants, which allowed us to expand into San Francisco. We had a couple part-time production assistants, and now have a full-time production assistant helping us make products.
What are your sales numbers?
In 2014, we sold just over 2,000 units of product. Some of our most popular products were our Vegan Body Bars, DETOX Charcoal Facial bars, Aluminum Free Natural Deodorants & Vegan Lip Balms.
2015 brought a whole new dimension to our business. We sold more than 12,500 units. We expanded our skincare line to include more than 100 different products, which really set us apart from other bath & body vendors.
First Quarter 2016 we’ve sold more than 5,300 units, a third of it online. We began shipping internationally, including to customers in Australia, Sweden, Canada and the UK.
Is social media important to the business?
We try to be very active on social media, posting on Instagram, Facebook and even Linkedin multiple times a week. Social media is the only “advertising” we do – and we get tons of customers ordering online and showing up to our markets as a result of social media postings.
One of our biggest opportunities actually came from a Facebook post – we were featured on live TV (Good Day Sacramento & Bay Area). It was a really fun interview and DIY demonstration live in San Francisco, and we drove back to LA to discover we had beat our highest ever online sales in a weekend.
What other press have you gotten?
Sandee was interviewed on two podcasts last year — That’s So Retrograde hit #1 on iTunes and Food Heals was #1 in Health on iTunes for our podcast. They are worth a listen.
We’ve been fortunate to have bloggers, actors and models as our loyal customers, and they have spread the word about how much they love our products. We’ve also had our products highlighted in a few magazines including Into the Gloss (interviewing Tracee Ellis Ross, who says our deodorant is her go-to), and Handmade Magazine.
We’re not shy, so contact us if you have PR or media opportunities we should check out.
What’s the future?
In 2016 we’re moving to a larger production facility because we have outgrown our little workshop!
We’re also getting into more retail and grocery stores, so let us know your preferred places to shop.
And there are some ideas we’re considering — such as a subscription box, more DIY workshops, and more skin care products for men.
Big dream — establishing storefronts in several states. Maybe next year …
Do you have a special skin care routine?
Currently I use a Shea Butter Exfoliating Facial Bar, a Konjac sponge, and an Illuminating Facial Serum daily. (The Shea Butter Exfoliating Facial Bar and the Illuminating Facial Serum will be released as new products soon.) For showering I prefer mild soaps; one of my favorites is the Peppermint Pine Body Bar, it’s so refreshing! Weekly, I shampoo with our Old-Fashioned Shampoo Bar, use Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioning Rinse, and finish with a few drops of Lavender Hair Treatment. That’s it! I like to keep things simple.
I am a soap addict so I’m switching it up each time my soap runs out. My favorite scents are probably the Desert Sage Body Bar and the Grapefruit Mango Body bar. For good exfoliation, the Blacktop Coffee body bar is my go-to.
For shaving my legs I use the Charcoal Spirulina body bar because it has this amazing “gooey” texture that is slippery and perfect for keeping my skin moisturized. Way better than commercial shaving creams or shaving gel.
I wash my face with the Dry/Combo Charcoal DETOX facial bar, it has a nice creamy lather and cleans off my makeup. During the winter when my face gets super dry I will use the Face & Body oil to clean off my makeup. To moisturize, I’m using our new Illuminating Facial Serum, which is incredible.
I recently got my hair bleached and dyed grayish/lavender, so our 3-In-One Hair Treatment has been a lifesaver. I use about 5 drops every day after I get out of the shower and it gives my super dry hair the hydration it needs.
Anything else to say?
Thank you to our unpaid volunteers (Sandee’s husband, Callie’s boyfriend!) for helping us with late nights and early mornings. And to all of our customers for supporting us on this journey, and helping make our business a success. We love connecting with each one of you at the markets and hearing from you!