By Chris Meehan | Jun 19, 2016
Organic and Natural First-Aid Products
So you take two daughters of a biologist and a West Point-trained Air Force general and what do you get? In this case, a neuropsychologist and an herbalist who created the family business, Sierra Sage. The company's line of natural body and first-aid products are quickly gaining traction at variety of stores.
Jodi started the business with her sister, Jen, and her mom, Kathy. Oh, yeah, and dad -- the retired general -- is now "labeler-in-chief," quips Scott.
The family is working towards a big goal. "Our mission, besides bringing clean, simple products and more effective products than your traditional Neosporins, hydrocortisones, and Vaselines of the world," Scott explains, "is that we make it affordable and organic."
And that means natural ingredients, herbs like sage, arnica, rosemary, and ginger and bases like beeswax and sunflower oil. "All of our ingredients are essentially weeds that grow in abundance," she says. "They need very little water and have two to three growing cycles per year and are good for the earth."
"We're really taking the science down to every single component: what herb, how much herb, how they're processed. What is the carrier, beeswax or oil? We're making sure you're getting optimal absorption of the products, taking all of that science and making sure they work," Scott explains.
When Sierra Sage launched, employees were spread across Colorado, Texas, and Idaho. Jen, a midwife, beekeeper, and farmer, was making salves for her clients in Idaho and selling the flagship product, Green Goo, at farmers markets there.
Sierra Sage has coalesced at an idyllic small farm in Lyons, owned by Scott and her husband. Her sister's family built a house on the property and their in-laws and parents live there part-time as well, each fulfilling roles at the company.
Sierra Sage is growing like the medicinal herbs it uses. Sales have doubled each year and the company's products are found all sorts of places. Its products are available at the Army Air Force Exchange -- important because of the family's military background.
But that's just the tip of the Green Goo iceberg. "We're in farm and ranch stores, hardware stores, outdoor stores, traditional mom-and-pop outdoor stores. We're also launching in REI this summer and we're going into distribution with an outdoor distributor. We're in grocery stores, we're in their first-aid departments, not just naturals. . . . We're in a lot of independently owned pharmacies."
"The FDA is now recognizing certain herbs as having certain medicinal properties," Scott explains. Hence Sierra Sage's products are gaining recognition as actual first-aid products. "It was pretty controversial at first. People didn't want the FDA to get involved with herbs, but I think it's a good thing, another opportunity to educate people."
The company has seen sales double year over year but shortly after the sisters' mother built their website in 2012 Vitamin Cottage reached out to them. That's when they began deciding whether Sierra Sage would be a hobby or business.
They even looked at renaming the company Green Goo, says Scott, "but we have our intimate line and Southern Butter resonates with folks. Having Green Goo as your intimate product doesn't really sound great." They got legal advice, filed for patents, and applied for trademarks. "We spent a solid two years, from 2012 to 2014, doing all of that."
They also had to find a way to produce significantly more product. "We knew we were better suited at product development and our mission work. If we created our own manufacturing facility we would have another business to run," she says. After shopping around for a manufacturer that would create the products using the right materials and technologies, they settled on a manufacturer in Utah. (Scott declines to name the company.) "No one knows when that transition happened but it did. Our faithful followers never knew a difference and that's what you want," she asserts.
Finally, the company introduced new branding in 2016 -- designed by mom. "I couldn't give retailers mock-ups until September 2015. Since then, it's like, 'Whoa!' Since September, we've done more sales than what we did in all of last year."
Challenges: "How to pace things," Scott says. "Trying to grow in a way that is not so overwhelming and yet efficient."
"Financing is always going to be a company's problem as you grow," she adds. "When do you bring in venture capital? What kind of partner do you bring in? This is my family, not just my company."
Opportunities: "We continue to develop products in hopes we can offer really healthy alternatives and then continuing to educate," Scott says. "Healthcare is resonating with that."
Needs: "The counsel of people who have done this before and from any industry," says Scott, noting that the company is looking at establishing a board.