Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal care but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Melissa Torre, Founder of Vellum Street, located in Philadelphia, PA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Vellum Street, and we are a tallow-based skincare company. Locally minded, sustainably focused, and chef made, we source many ingredients that would generally be discarded from area restaurants, farms, and butcher shops, seeing their value and saving them from waste bins and trash streams.
Approximately 70-80% of our ingredients and packaging come from less than 100 miles from our studio in the Wissahickon Valley of Philadelphia. We make some of the most gentle and effective skin care out there, especially for those with sensitive skin or those with skin issues.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Melissa Lynn Torre I founded Vellum Street in 2016. I am also a chef interested in both nutrition and food sustainability, it wasn't long before Vellum Street soap maker/Mayhem Slayer, I started paying attention to not only what I put in my body but also ON it.
After battling an auto-immune disease for decades and finding no relief via traditional channels, I began to realize so many commercially available soaps & skincare products today are formulated with ingredients you would never eat, so why slather them on your skin, which, like your digestive system, absorbs everything you put on it?!
After a growing interest & extensive research, I discovered a slew of ingredients, many of which were leftover/excess ingredients in her cafe Cookie Confidential's own kitchen, that held numerous benefits for the skin, most notably, tallow. Not long after, I stepped away from the world of pastry and private cheffing and into the world of upcycled skincare.
Creating products that are comprised of nothing that doesn't directly benefit skin health, along with being able to put to good use many food "scraps" that were once headed for the trash bin in many commercial kitchens, led Melissa to an exciting new venture that combined her love of food & creating in the kitchen with her desire to improve nutrition and food sustainability for both her and those around her struggling with similar issues.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There are a lot of buzzwords flying around the skin care and candle world, most of them carefully curated to sell you the idea of an eco-minded, sustainably focused, healthy-for-you product and lifestyle, when in reality, all it is is a brilliantly marketed sales pitch. Vellum Street is a sustainability-based company FIRST, the actual products we make come second. We exist to show you what beautiful, useful, and luxurious gems can be created from the things we tend to so readily discard, to shine the light on often overlooked parts of our daily lives.
We are committed to using as many local waste or low-use ingredients and components as we can, from the local grass-fed tallow we use in everything we make, the discarded citrus peels and previously steeped tea leaves & botanicals we infuse that tallow with, to the upcycled glass candle containers we keep from the trash steam...we strive to give these elements new life and value. It takes a lot of work, patience, and time to produce our products in the way we do, but we wouldn't have it any other way. We hope you appreciate the thoughtfulness and care for the land, the animals, and the people that go into every little thing we do as much as us!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Knowing when to keep pushing, when to change direction, when to abandon an idea or when to see it through. There are so many ups and downs in business, as in life, and when you are a creative person, sometimes it is not so easy to switch over to a strictly business line of thought to make sure the way you're living is sustainable, not just environmentally, but emotionally and financially as well.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be open-minded about where your business wants to go. Rarely will it go according to the plans you've laid out? You need to learn to let go while also being dedicated and diligent.
- What you put in is what you will get out, but maybe not all at once. I see so many folks start businesses with so much enthusiasm, and they give up six months or a year in because they're not making a lot of money. If you're not starting with a lot of money, it takes a lot of work to become a profitable endeavor. I worked a full-time job outside of Vellum Street for five years before it became my full-time employment. That was five years of working night and day, with barely any days off, to get to where I am today, which is still not where I'd like to be!
- Get used to rejection, and be thankful for it! Not everyone who you approach with your brand will be receptive, and that's okay! Use that knowledge to hone in on who your customer isn't. This is information that will help you learn who your customer is!
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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