Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Curt Van Inwegen, CEO of Life Elements, located in Atascadero, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Life Elements is a Latina, woman-owned, award-winning formulator of nature-based skin & body care products that are good for you and kind to the earth.
Our formulations are rooted in the use of ancient ingredients and proprietary blends shipped worldwide from our Atascadero, California, production facility. Life Elements offers hemp-based CBD and non-CBD products for the entire family.
We ship to our DTC customers across the country, smaller, regional retailers, including some larger brands in the US and Hong Kong like Uncommon Goods and Farm Fresh to You, practitioners (Chiropractors, Massage & Physical Therapists), as well as Private Label clients.
Tell us about yourself
As an entrepreneur, I'm a bit of a late bloomer. The majority of my career was in the corporate marketing and advertising field working with Fortune 500 clients as an executive-level VP and Partner running operations and client services. My wife, Martha, quit her sales job in 2005 and started Life Elements as a full-time business focusing on nature-based aromatherapy products for couples. She was selling into high-end spas and resorts and doing really well until the economy tanked in 2008. There were several pivots after that, and by 2013, I left the agency to join her in building up Life Elements. Fast forwarding to 2019, our CBD products started taking off with incredible stories from customers about how our products were helping them reduce pain, cope with anxiety, and improve their overall wellness. We continue to have very intimate conversations with customers who really want to improve their health, and those conversations are definitely the motivation to keep going.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Besides our current success, there was a period of time when one of our original products (Action Wipes) was being used around the world by fire departments to help remove the toxins and carcinogens from fires and help prevent cancer. It was incredibly humbling and exciting to work with first responders. But it didn't last. See below for another business lesson.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Where do you start? As a business owner and partner in a small family business, there are ALWAYS challenges. Whether you have a great idea out of high school or are a seasoned corporate executive...to run a small business, you must be all things all the time. The dream is to be your own boss, run the company based on your values and provide a future for yourself and your family and that is usually the incentive to keep going, make progress, and learn from your mistakes.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- To Start: Do Your Homework - You might think you know everything about the market you're trying to enter, but there is always something to learn. Having a Unique Value Proposition is critically important to help differentiate your brand and your products....and for what it's worth, just because your friends tell you that "It's an awesome idea!" doesn't mean it will be a viable product.
- To Run: Have a Plan - This is your mindfulness exercise. What are your goals? What is your strategy to meet/exceed goals? Break those goals down into tasks. Complete the tasks and keep moving forward to plan. Your plan might change, but your goals should always be there. Keep your team involved. Share the plan, so everyone has a stake in your mutual success. And remember that crossing your fingers is NOT a strategy.
- To Grow: Visualize the Future - Take your current sales and compare them against your goal. Say you have $100K in revenue, and your goal is to have $1 million in two years. What does your company look like when you are generating $1 million? How will you scale, and what does that look like? What does your team, operations, logistics, fulfillment, customer service, etc., look like? Always be optimizing.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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