Saturday, December 2, 2023

Managing growth case study: Everyday Oil in Black Mountain

It started with a simple concoction of ingredients mixed together in Emma Allen’s kitchen. It evolved into becoming the signature item of a business that sells its products in more than 600 stores, on Amazon and online.

Allen wanted a face-care product, something plant-based, with a good scent. Something cleansing and hydrating and nourishing.

“I intended to make a face product but started using it on my entire body as well,” she says. “Through experimentation and research, I realized that I could create something that was actually cleansing for the face as well as moisturizing.”

Her concoction used the best wild-harvested botanical oils she could find. Everything organic. Everything labeled ‘cruelty-free.’

“Ultimately,” she says, “Everyday Oil was born. I made it for myself and family and friends for about seven years before I launched it as a product.”

She outgrew the kitchen. She moved from New York back to Asheville, where she grew up. “I met with the SBTDC when I moved back. Moving back to North Carolina was a really positive thing for the growth of the business,” she says. “This is a really supportive community for small business.”

Allen expanded her network beyond family and friends.

“I was originally introduced to Sandra Dennison in 2020 by Tommy Dennison, who I met through the Chamber of Commerce and the Venture Asheville program,” she says. “Sandra introduced me to Chris Slaughter, who helped us do a Clifton Strengths analysis with our team and who was incredibly helpful with business analysis and was very supportive to the business.”

Clifton Strengths is an online personality assessment that helps individuals target their strengths, such as strategic thinking, relationship building, influencing and executing, so they can achieve goals and improve performance. Allen is the sole owner of her company. Her team formed when it became apparent that Allen’s solo gig needed more players. “In the beginning, I was working as a consultant for another company and doing Everyday Oil at night on the side,” she says. “I was lucky to have some friends and family who helped out in the beginning, but it was mostly me, wearing all the hats. I did it on my own for about two years before I was able to hire someone. I was very fortunate with our first hire, and she has been with the company ever since.”

Two became better than one, then three became better than two.

“We slowly added people as we had the need,” Allen says, “and now we have a small but mighty team of six. We have only ever had one full-time employee leave the company in seven years, and every employee has really grown a lot with the company.”

Growing from kitchen entrepreneur to company boss was a little scary.

“It has been really cool and gratifying to see the team take on so many new challenges and to grow and evolve alongside the brand,” she says. “I was always nervous about finding good people to work with, and our team is something I feel unbelievably lucky about.”

In addition to the spray bottle of Everyday Oil (made from organic coconut, jojoba, olive, castor and argan oils), the company sells a refill bottle and funnel to transfer to the spray bottle; waffle knit, 100 percent cotton towels; a hairbrush with massage bristles designed to de-tangle hair; a Gua Sha healing massage tool “made to perfectly cradle cheeks and jawlines and the curvatures of the face and body;” a hand sanitizer; meridian comb; and dry brush.

“We have expanded, but super slowly,” Allen says. “Our bread and butter is still our main product, Everyday Oil, but it has been fun to add some wellness tools and objects to our collection. We do have plans to expand the skincare line, but in a very tight, simple way.”

Her office space keeps expanding as well. The first stop after the New York kitchen was a friend’s basement. “I moved to a new house where it took over every inch of floor space in the entire house, then moved to a small warehouse in Black Mountain. We have moved into larger and larger spaces, bit by bit, and are now in a 14,000-square-foot space in the same building in Black Mountain.

“We have our offices, distribution and manufacturing all in the same space, so we are able to communicate and collaborate with every aspect of the business. Manufacturing our product in-house has given us a lot of control over the quality of our products.”

What started with online marketing grew to independent boutiques, then 600 retail stores including Whole Foods Market. “We have some plans to expand to Europe, and we also sell in Canada and Australia,” she says.

When the product line grows, she says, the marketing will be calm. “We aren’t interested in bombarding people with skincare products they don’t really need, so the hope is to provide only what is truly necessary and nourishing for the skin.”

She has advice for people who may be experimenting with their own invention, like she did in her kitchen.

“I don’t know if everyone wants to follow my kooky path, but I would tell people to just start doing things. Make things, experiment, play, pull at threads, start walking the path,” she says. “Don’t wait to have the perfect idea… start simply. It’s unbelievably difficult to do things well, in my opinion, and if you try to do 10 things right away, inevitably some won’t get the care and attention they deserve.”

If budget is an issue, she advises to start with one product. Grow from that base.

“I really think the best ideas are born out of a desire to solve a problem, or offer something that doesn’t exist already. If it’s already out there and it’s already great, why bother recreating it?”

Everyday Oil
Black Mountain

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