In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Dawn Lancaster, founder of Pure Energy Apothecary. Pure Energy Apothecary sells all natural, plant based body care products, is based in Williston, Vermont, and has been in business for two years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business?
Dawn: Pure Energy Apothecary actually grew out of our first business, Carved Solutions. In 2006, my husband and I started a personalization house where we made custom personal care, home decor, drinkware, tabletop, kitchenware, and general home decor with a ‘Made in Vermont’ focus.
We left our long-term careers at the height of the recession as neither of our professional industries were safe from layoffs or closures. It was important for us to insulate our family financially from the recession and somehow we thought self-funded entrepreneurship would be a good idea.
Carved Solutions’ original claim to fame was custom carved, Vermont made luxury soaps personalized just for you (initials, monograms, names, logos). The offering quickly evolved into personalized, hand-poured candles and cutting boards too! Carved Solutions serves thousands of retailers nationwide with personalized drop ship.
Many of our retailers loved our soaps and candles so much they wanted more. But it wasn’t until my husband, our daughter, and I started caring for my aging mom that Pure Energy Apothecary was born. Pure Energy Apothecary was a natural progression of growing the personal care side of our business.
R: How did caring for you mom change your perspective on skin products?
D: I learned some of the damaging effects these products can have. Learning some of these statistics really helped me realize the business potential we could have by providing better options.
- Up to 60% of what we apply to our skin is known to reach our bloodstream in 26 seconds.
- The average woman applies over 150 synthetic chemicals a day to reduce signs of aging, hydrate dry skin, and banish acne at the price of exposing her body to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and neurotoxins.
My own mom was a huge fan of off the shelf moisturizers and talc. She passed away last April after lifelong issues; suffering breast cancer twice, lung cancer, skin cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. As her main care provider, I started reading ingredients.
What I discovered was that non-toxic, all natural body care is not easily identifiable, available or affordable. Folks find themselves unexpectedly introducing chemicals into their bodies without even knowing it because they can’t understand the ingredients.
Just because it says it’s “all natural” or “certified organic” doesn’t mean it is! Popular brands tote “certified organic” as their lead in, but read the fine print and you’ll discover only some of their ingredients are certified organic.
Furthermore, all natural products are typically expensive, not easily accessible (only at high-end, destination boutiques or investment and time required with the newest MLM of the day). No wonder mom didn’t realize she could have better choices because they aren’t easy to find or afford.
By the time mom passed away in April 2018, there was a fire inside me. Someone as kind and giving as my mom didn’t deserve so much disease. My conscious constantly nagged at me – “You can make a difference,” and in my soul I just knew that I had to.
Carved Solutions was successful and primed for great growth, but to grow Pure Energy Apothecary I would need to re-home Carved Solutions. In the end, caring for mom taught me that balance was a necessity. Twelve years of running two businesses, raising a daughter with my husband of 27 years and physically caring for my mom wasn’t a good example of balance. It was time for a change.
The stars aligned in October 2018 and Carved Solutions was sold to a remarkable group out of Atlanta, Georgia who truly embody our concierge-minded, client care mentality as well as my servant leadership style. I feel as though my family has grown.
With the new path cleared to focus on Pure Energy Apothecary, there is no looking back. One person can make a difference, and when we work together we can make even more of an impact.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
D: Pure Energy Apothecary’s first product was body lotion. We are so fortunate to be surrounded with herbalists, aromatherapists, and other apothecaries that believe in our mission.
The formulation team understood exactly what was important to me (ingredients we could read and understand, plant-based and premium quality, and affordable). Making the products affordable was up to me because as an entrepreneur it was a choice, grateful not greedy is what my family always believes in and this business is no different.
With many years of formulations and testing we discovered the ingredients we really enjoy and what works best. The only changes we have made are adding new products and packaging.
R: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
D: Pure Energy Apothecary’s all natural, non-toxic body care is made in-house. I love that we can control the formulation from start to finish. I love that the team works with quality ingredients that also enhances their lives.
While we are “small batch” our ability to scale happens overnight. We accepted a private label project for 80,000 custom candles and ramped up easily to support the need (having an engineer on staff is a huge bonus). We are a nimble and flexible staff that easily manages the ebbs and flows of daily production.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
A: Behind the scenes at Pure Energy Apothecary starts early. Production enjoys early morning manufacturing and aims to complete daily deliveries and shipments by 4pm. We aim for all orders to ship same day.
Quality of life (both in the lotion bottle and beyond), is key. The importance of balance must be instilled in all. We work late when we have to, but summers are short in Vermont and I want my team to have great lives outside of work too.
I love our lunches together, we often eat family style. It’s always a great time to connect with everyone personally. Having my husband and our 19-year-old college student on staff is also a huge plus!
Like many Vermont businesses we have an in-office pup! Nothing better than unconditional love at work. Even though Shadow (Bernese/Greater Swiss Mix) is not allowed in the production area, everyone gets plenty of time to mingle with her (Shadow’s favorite time of day is lunch).
Brainstorming new products, hearing news from R&D, and expanding into new sales channels is always exciting. I love testing new scents, learning more about aromatherapy, and skin health. Caring for our bodies is much simpler than we, as a population, have made it.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
D: Our initial investment was blood, sweat, tears and our savings! While our businesses have grown, conventional funding and SBA loans are still a must. Managing cash flow is key.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
D: The very first store that took Pure Energy Apothecary was Bed Bath & Beyond (online). Because of our relationship with them with Carved Solutions it was an easy add when they discovered the quality. The first store that took Pure Energy Apothecary in-store was Natural Provisions (Williston, VT natural food store).
R: What places do you sell your product at now?
D: We’ve grown our business with the addition of Ahold/Delhaize (Hannaford), Hudson Group, many natural food stores, co-ops, independent grocers, independent gift stores, spas & resorts. Pure Energy Apothecary is RangeMe verified and ready to grow!
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
D: Going back to my belief that non-toxic body care should be accessible to all, I see Pure Energy Apothecary strategically placed in every single town and city. Not over-populated, as it is important to give retailers the ability to stand out, but accessible in location and price is key!
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
D: Social media is important to us. Not only does it allow us to introduce ourselves to folks who don’t know us yet, but it gives us a direct link to the retailer and consumer, allowing us to engage and discover exactly what they need and want. Personal relationships are so important to us!
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
D: The most challenging experience in business has been funding. Being self-funded, bootstrapping, and growing organically can be satisfying but at times very frustrating. While ultimately, being self-funded builds a strong organization, there are ways an investor can make business “move faster.”
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
D: The greatest achievements aren’t always the biggest in the eyes of society. I’m completely humbled and grateful when I hear from a client that our products changed the health of their skin and their lives.
I’m thrilled when a retailer in a new market adds our products allowing us to share our quality with their clientele. Achievements and victories aren’t always the big things, sometimes the small things bring the biggest reward!
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
D: Research! Understand the marketplace, the demand, the demographics, and make sure it makes financial sense. If your passion is behind it, go for it!
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
D: I love quotes! I find them empowering, thought provoking, and meditate daily with select quotes in mind.
My all time favorite came from my dad, Charles R. Faverty, “See it, feel it, be it, believe it.” Everyday in every way you can apply this to every single moment in your life.
I encourage you, the next time you feel stuck or wonder how you will succeed, reach a goal or make your dreams come true – see it, feel it, be it and believe it. Before you know it, it will all come to fruition.
I also love Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
As for general advice, our thoughts are powerful. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself in your head, it will make or break you.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
D: Being a business owner allows me to make choices and decisions that improve the lives of others. Whether it’s staff, vendors or clients, every single thing Pure Energy Apothecary allows me to impact someone’s life in a very positive way.