June 13, 2016

Sustainable growth planned for Good Natured Brand

Photo / courtesy of good natured brand
Photo / courtesy of good natured brand
Kate Perrin, founder of Good Natured Brand in North Yarmouth, expects the company’s products to be in 150 stores by year’s end.

With consumer demand for chemical-free products at an all-time high, Good Natured Brand's line of all-natural cleaning and personal care products is finding a profitable and expanding niche.

"People are starting to look at products they use in their home, the way they do food. We're following the food trend," says co-owner Lisa Hansen.

But while eco-friendly products are growing in market share, this small North Yarmouth-based company attributes its steady sales growth in large part to one ingredient: thoughtful, hands-on management.

Founder Kate Perrin and partner Hansen run every aspect of operations themselves, with a focus on sustainable expansion and a close eye on the budget. "We're very cognizant of strategic growth, so we can manage it properly," Perrin says. "We never want to be in a position where we can't deliver."

Their steady-handed, do-it-ourselves approach now has the company poised for substantial sales growth. After quadrupling numbers for the past six months, they've selected their first two distributors to expand beyond New England.

"We decided to go with smaller, regionally based distributors rather than huge national distributors," Hansen explains. "We're being very intentional about our demographics, and are growing concentrically."

Perrin adds: "You start in your own backyard, and you own that backyard. Then you spread to your neighborhood, your town, your state, your region."

The products are now in 30 stores. By year's end, the products are projected to be in 150 stores from Maine to Florida. The owners are coordinating the line's debut with Amazon, which could have been an expensive, multi-layered process had they listened to the brokers who came calling.

"Turns out Amazon will walk you through the process of getting set up directly," Hansen says. "We didn't need to spend money for a consultant."

Hyper local product and brand appeal

Good Natured Brand as it exists today is less than a year old. In 2011, Perrin began selling her surface cleaner, carpet deodorizer and laundry detergent at farmers markets and through local retailers. Her products were well received but growing the business was a lot to manage solo with a young family. She joined forces with Hansen, who has an extensive marketing and business development background and the company went through a re-boot in 2015.

The company did not provide specifics on financial data. But the partners did say they received initial funding in exchange for a small equity position. The funding went toward rebranding, repackaging and targeted marketing.

Marketing has been done mostly through Facebook advertising. "We can be hyper local that way, and get a lot of bang for our buck," Hansen says. A Facebook campaign for the Bugaroo Bug Spray features Bob Crowley, owner of Maine Forest Yurts and winner of CBS's "Survivor: Gabon," from 2008. He's holding a bottle under the caption, "How do I survive the outdoors?"

They landed their first of multiple Hannaford accounts last fall, and have been picked up by every retailer they've approached since.

"A Hannaford executive told us that we hit two of their hot buttons. It's a local product which aligns with their 'Close to Home' campaign. They realize that's the rising tide and they want to be on that tide," Hansen says. "And our products are 100% natural with really nice plant scents that people like, not super strong like some products."

Perrin is highly selective in sourcing ingredients. "The fact that our products are truly natural gives us the edge. We wouldn't be doing this otherwise. You can't compete with the national brands on their playing field. No one is doing this without synthetic preservatives," Perrin says. "We're the only one, as far as I know [that will be distributed nationally]. A lot of products claim to be all natural, but they're not. And we don't use derivatives of essential oils, we use the actual essential oils."

Good Natured cleaning products went through rigorous testing for ingredients and manufacturing processes for Whole Foods. The company is one of only a few Whole Foods vendors to be rated at the top green tier of the company's "eco-scale," which sets restrictions on literally hundreds of ingredients. Good Natured products are already in multiple Whole Foods stores in northern New England and are approved for sale in all 40 stores in the grocer's North Atlantic region.

Hansen and Perrin are finding the 20 to 45 age group to be an enthusiastic market for their products. "Consumer education is a huge part of this," Hansen says. "But that demographic, they get it, especially if they have children."

Price-wise, the products are high-end but on par with, or in some cases, less expensive than competitors. Hansen says, "You can either be high-end or low-end, but you don't want to be in the middle. You'll get killed in the middle. Our product is high-end in terms of ingredients and we're not going to compromise."

"We're finding that a lot more consumers are willing to pay more for the real stuff," Perrin says. "It's a bit like shopping for food. I buy my cheese from a farmer in Freeport because I know who made it and what's in it."

Staying focused

"One of the challenges is to remember, 'What's your vision and how do you see the company?' You have to stay focused," Hansen says. "You may not always be right, but you have to go with your gut."

"And family-work balance is very important to us," Perrin says. "I built this business to work around my life with three kids. We think this has a lot of potential, but quality of life and flexibility is huge."

Operations being based in Perrin's home has been a significant factor in terms of flexibility and has helped control costs. Production space has recently expanded, as has part-time staffing, including help with store demos.

"Those are hugely valuable for us; they help us take the temperature of our customers," Perrin says. "And if we can get them to smell our products, it's a sale."

"We're at a jumping-off point now. We're operating at about 30% capacity. When we get closer to 70% to 80%, we'll jump to a larger space, maybe next fall. We may need loading docks," Hansen says.

"We've been profitable from very early on, and we have no debt," Hansen adds. "Our goal is not necessarily world dominance. It's about being successful in both our personal lives and in the business."

Perrin stresses the need to stay close to the company's roots.

"It's the farmers' market experience, where I started," Perrin says. "We don't want to get too far from that; you get really good insights that way. That's always going to be an important part of our brand."


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