Soap and natural skincare
Perkins describes herself as one lucky girl. "I accidentally stumbled into this thing that I love so much," the former corporate travel business analyst says of her rapidly growing business. "Denver is a great area to do this in. There's a really strong focus here on shopping locally and supporting artisans. Without that, I don't think I would have been able to go in this direction."
In five years, she has turned a hobby -- and a few bins of leftover soap made for Christmas gifts -- into a full-fledged business handcrafting gentle, all-natural, hypoallergenic, and sulfate-free soaps, lotions, shaving products, and other bath and body essentials. Each one -- from Spinster Sisters' original bar soap formulations to its newest face cream and toner -- use simple, recognizable, and sustainable raw ingredients.
"We source fair trade shea and cocoa butter as well as sustainable palm oil," says Perkins. "We grow some of our own botanicals as well and get everything else locally whenever possible." Her company's product packaging is recycled, recyclable or biodegradable to conserve resources and reduce waste, and her production facility is powered by wind energy. "We try to be sustainable and conscious of the decisions we're making and what we put in our products," she adds.
This commitment to the environment plays a significant role in the creation of new Spinster Sisters products. "We came up with our shaving kits because we were having a conversation one night about shaving cream," Perkins explains. "It comes in those aerosol cans, which I don't like to start with, and they don't last very long. Then you have the waste. So we found a way to solve all of those problems with an enamel mug that holds replaceable shaving soap and a brush. There's zero waste on it."
She was also inspired to create solid shampoo bars -- in alluring scents like coconut lime and rosemary mint -- to help her customers reduce their footprint. "It's packaged in a biodegradable film," she says. "There's literally no waste to it, and it's all natural, so there's nothing that hurts the environment. Plus, you don't have to throw away a plastic shampoo bottle anymore."
Perkin's approach to bath and body has become so popular with customers -- both locally and through more than 400 wholesalers nationwide -- that her company is expanding its square footage in Golden and opening a new store in the River North (RiNo) Art District as well as a kiosk at Denver International Airport. "Our new RiNo store is 550 square feet," Perkins says. "We're splitting our Golden facility into a bigger retail store as well as a rented warehouse for production, so we're upgrading from 2,200 square feet to 3,600 square feet. I'm at the point now where I really have to ramp up and get some bigger manufacturing equipment, so we're going to need that additional space."
And Spinster Sisters' sales growth parallels the increasing need for space. "We're still a small company, but I would say we will probably quadruple what we sold last year by the end of 2016," she says.
Challenges: "There are so many right now," Perkins laughs. "But scaling up our manufacturing is going to be the most important thing we do this year. We have to figure out how to do that while still keeping the quality and everything in line that our customers have come to expect."
Opportunities: Perkins sees her potential customer base as her company's biggest opportunity. "Everybody wants to do what is right for our environment, but some of their options have been limited in the past," she says. "There's definitely a new movement towards more eco-friendly, sustainable, and healthy products. People are becoming more conscious about the decisions they're making, and I feel we have established a niche position in the market."
Needs: In short, money. "Winning the lottery would be terrific," Perkins confides. "We have to figure out our cash flow and how to position things appropriately to get the most bang for our buck with the new equipment."