Starting up an organic company - what we've learned in the first six months

There’s still room in the market for all kinds of organic products.

It’s true that the number and variety of organic products has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 5 years or so. When we went to Natural Products Expo West ( this year, the atmosphere was almost like SXSW, but smelling of essential oils and acai.

The funny thing about this? There is still tons of room to grow. We’ve got a running lists of dozens of organic products that we’d like to see on the market that don’t yet exists, or that someone is making in very small quantities in some far-flung corner of the world. Maybe at some point we’ll bring some of this to market. But there’s nothing stopping you from doing the same.

When we came up with our idea for organic edible nail polish, we couldn’t believe that nobody had tried to make a product like it before. And maybe somebody else will. But it just goes to show how young this whole industry is and how fertile, particularly if you can get beyond some of the most crowded categories like bars and energy drink.

Expect to search high and low for a new manufacturer.

The wide openness of this market is a blessing and a curse. Unless you’re in one of those well established categories, you may have a hard time finding a manufacturer who’s got the expertise and the equipment that you need to make your product, particularly if you want to be USDA certified. We been having a heck of a time finding a manufacturer who is organic certified and has food grade equipment that can fill the tiny openings of nail polish bottles. Their machines just don’t go that small.

You may also have a hard time explaining what you product is. Some ideas that I really like, like organic wood and organic paint for home interiors, seem so far out to most manufacturers that they have no idea what a term like that even means, let alone how to go about manufacturing it. A decade ago, organic clothing and textiles seemed far out to most people, but now even Wal-Mart sells them.

Be able to describe the benefits of your products in one sentence or less.

In the sector that’s vaguely termed “Natural Products” there’s a lot of marketing gimmickry that goes on and you have to differentiate your product from the others succinctly and easily. There are lots of manufacturers out there who are trying to take advantage of the growth in demand for natural and organic stuff, and they’ll slap words like “natural” on just about anything. I even fall for this and I’m part of the industry. I’ll buy natural soaps that are full of sodium laurel sulfate and natural deodorant that looks like it’s full of great stuff until you get to the very last ingredient and it turns out to be a strong synthetic antibiotic. So if you really care about putting out safe high quality organic product on the market you have to be able to explain in one sentence why it’s better than all the fakers out there throwing around that unregulated “natural” label.

“Organic, edible nail polish.” That sums it up nicely for Kid Licks. Can you sum up your products as succinctly? If not, it may be time to refine it or revamp it totally until you reach something you can. Marketing’s not easy, and our target audience doesn’t have time to decipher the possible benefit of your product from a long-winded, indefinite pitch.

Become familiar with the regulations in your industry before going all-in on a product.

Kid Licks almost fell down of its face in its infancy because of vague FDA regulations that could be read to require all cosmetics to contain strong, mostly toxic chemicals preservatives. Only after hashing out these requirements with experts were we able to come up with a formula for a safe product that doesn’t require us to add these potentially harmful chemicals to our nail polish.

This is something you need to know before you start any major work on any product that’s kicking around in your head. There are regulations that have to do with food, with home manufacturing, with children’s toys and clothes, and many of them are antithetical to the organic movement. Many baby clothes, mattresses, and furniture require flame retardants for example, although innovative companies are finding ways to get around these requirements while keeping their products legal and safe. If the product that you’re making are subjected to requirements like this, you’ll either need to find a way around or find a new product.

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