Many a fledgling brand or company starts small; in a basement workshop or maybe at the kitchen table. Some make it, most don’t. And while it is hard to duplicate what garage-born brands like Apple or Facebook have achieved, there are plenty of stories of success—albeit a bit less blockbuster—in the beauty business. Erbaviva is one of them.
Founded in 1996, the firm has had long history of steady growth—even when times were tough. In fact, following the economic decline of 2008, company cofounder Robin Brown said the company experienced a 40% growth domestically (although he didn’t share specifics).
Happi had a chance to interview Brown about his business.
HAPPI: Tell us about where Erbaviva is today compared to when the company was in its earliest days? What are you most proud of?
Erbaviva was started based on the conviction that the world needed clean, organic products especially for babies and moms-to-be. This was in 1996 before there was an organic trend so theindustry did not understand the need to manufacture organic products with care and integrity. For this reason, my wife and I started creating organic soaps, butters and balms formulated for baby and pregnancy in our own home in Topanga, California. Erbaviva has gone from a small company operating in a Topanga Canyon kitchen to a respected pioneer in organic personal care who distributes products all over the world. We now operate in a newly built, spacious, state-of-the art Southern California manufacturing facility where solar panels are currently being installed, although we have always operated on 100% renewable energy. I am most proud of the fact that our core values have not shifted all since the inception of Erbaviva and our ethos are wholly essential to our company DNA.
HAPPI: What are your hero SKUs and why do they resonate with consumers?
Our hero SKUs are our Organic Deodorants, Baby Lip & Cheek, Sunscreen, Baby Wash Bag, Stretch Mark Cream and the Hand Cream. We feel our products resonate well because our customers experience quality through the textures and the European-influenced aromatics.
HAPPI: Tell us about some of the brand’s other offerings.
Both Organic Deodorants (Jasmine Grapefruit and Lemon Sage) fly off the shelves because they are effective, completely organic and they smell great.
The Baby Lip and Cheek is a shea butter based balm, formulated for baby but is a favorite for all age groups. It nurtures the skin and travels really well.
The Baby Washbag is a signature Erbaviva product. It was formulated as a soap-less way to wash baby. Organic oatmeal, lavender, milk and essential oils are filled into unbleached muslin sachets.This process can only be executed by hand. The muslin sachets and the canvas pouch are purchased through the nonprofit organization Sop Moei Arts, artisan nonprofit, whose sale of textiles directly and financially benefits the Pwo Karen hill tribe of Northern Thailand and Burma.
The Stretch Mark Cream is our most popular Mommy-to-be product. It is very effective in the prevention of stretch marks when used early in pregnancy. And the sea buckthorn is extremely beneficial for the skin.
The Hand Cream is one of the newer items, but recently won “Best Hand Cream” for the 2013 Natural Solutions Magazine “5th Annual Beauty with a Conscience Awards.” It is deeply moisturizing, contains the healing properties of organic guggul and has a bright citrusy aroma.
Consumers have so many more choices today when it comes to natural skin care—so where is your company’s sweet spot, or point of differentiation?
Erbaviva products have always been created with the highest level of craftsmanship and artistry possible. We spare no expense when sourcing exceptional ingredients and do not stray away from some of the more scarce and costly essential oils. We create our formulas using proven, ancient science related to the therapeutic properties of herbs and botanicals. We have worked closely with Dr. Douglas Schar using his expertise as an herbalist and botanist in our formulas. Dr. Schar studies plants, herbs and foods used by traditional cultures throughout history that are known to increase health and vitality. We are also deeply committed to the betterment of the world through responsible manufacturing and global community service.
Erbaviva is a certified B-Corp, which means that we meet rigorous standards of social and environmental accountability and transparency. We have been offering financial support to the Blink Now Foundation, an inspiring non-profit organization that runs Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School in Nepal. Our financial support currently provides pediatric care for these children. Since the founding of the company we have also purchased ourbasketry and textiles through the nonprofit, Sop Moei Arts. This great organization works with the Pwo Karen hill tribe to run a health clinic and helps farmers create sustainable farms.
Is it easier today to be a natural/organic company or more difficult—and why do you feel that way?
There are many challenges in being an organic company. It can be difficult to find quality organic ingredients from reliable sources. Organic ingredients are in shorter supply since there are less organic farms then there are conventional farms. Also, when dealing with botanicals, weather issues and crop yields can affect availability. With the popularity of organic, although there is more competition, there are more ingredients available, which is extremely exciting to us as a company.