Turning a Hobby into a Business
Jen Scott developed an interest in being a herbalist as she entered college and learned how to utilize plants into salves around 2010. Her sister Jodi had in premed and worked with Jen to understand the science behind the herbal remedies. Together they developed some formulas that they started selling under their Sierra Sage name at farmer’s markets. After a few ups and down the company rebranded its products under the Green Goo name in 2016 and today they are in over 25,000 stores, including over 14,000 Walmart stores.
Jumping the Business to a Small Start-up
Jen Scott was on a mission trip with her husband Chris Sparks who is An EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in Africa when she observed just how many different salves and treatments Sparks need to carry to treat a variety of conditions. Scott felt that an all in one first aid cream was the solution. Jodi and Jen started working on varying salves and creams and they developed a loyal following. Then a break came. Jodi Scott recalls “in 2011, Natural Grocers, at the time a chain of 50 stores, expressed interest in carrying the line. That’s when Jen and I mad the decision that we they could turn our hobby into a business.”
Overcoming the Hurdles
During the early stages of the company the sisters were producing the product in a small warehouse with commercial kitchen equipment and selling the product as a cosmetic. To expand the business they needed to produce their product in a FDA approved facility, and they needed to have all their vendors provide certified organic products. This turned out to be tougher than expected. Jodi remembers “the first seven or eight manufacturers we approached just told us no.” One reason was that not many manufacturers were making herbal creams and salves and they didn’t really have the right equipment.” Manufacturers are always reluctant to invest in production for a small company when future sales are uncertain. The sisters were stymied till organic production became more common and finally as Jodi tells it, “one company took a giant leap of faith and agreed to start production for them.
Finding a manufacturer wasn’t the only challenge. Sierra Sage’s formulas were a key to future success. Extracting medicinal properties from plants is not like mixing chemicals, and upscaling production from a commercial kitchen to a manufacturing facility called for careful testing. Finalizing the manufacturing process took four years to put everything together with production ready in 2014.
As they were working out manufacturing bugs the sisters knew they had to increase sales. Jodi had now taken on the sales role and her first big sale was to AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Services), which runs the PXs (Post Exchanges) at military installations around the country. Jodi explains: “AAFES was committed to adding organic products and they were very interested in Sierra Sage’s products. They started a small market launch in 2012-2013 in 30 PXs. The products were selling and AAFES kept expanding sales. But in 2015 the bad news came AAFES reported that Sierra Sage’s products weren’t selling as well as competitive products and they were considering dropping the line. “It was a giant wakeup call to us” Jodi explains, “we needed to go back and rebrand the product and create sales velocity.” The company looked at the sales over the years and they realized that customers were not calling the product Sierra Sage, but rather Green Goo. The company went to a rebranding strategy, with new packaging, logos and graphics and committed to a product relaunch in April 2016.. AAFES committed to the relaunch which was great.
Big Time Sales
The sales growth for Sierra Sage went into overdrive when in the fall of 2015 Walmart agreed to a 100 stores test when the product relaunch happened in April 2016. Things have escalated from that point on. The company is sold in 14,000 Walmart stores, online by Target, and is carried in major chains like Safeway, Albertsons, Rounders, Natural Foods and a host of smaller chains and individual stores.
Jodi Scott did all the sales for the company. They considered using brokers and sales reps but found that there sales volume was just too low to entice distributors to take on their product. 2017 was the first year that sales reps produced any orders for the company, and the company is considering adding brokers now but is not committed to that strategy. Besides a heavy reail store presence Green Goo First Aid Cream, and a variety of other creams and salves from the company are available on line at the company’s website and at a wide variety of other online retailers.
It’s a Family Affair
Five members of the family now work fulltime for Sierra Sage
Jodi Scott – CEO
Jen Scott – Technical Officer
Kathy Scott – Jen and Jodi’s mother – Webmaster and Social Media Marketing
Chris Spark’s – Jen’s husband – Warehouse manager
Kelly Hoyt – Jodi-s husband – Software Development and EDI interface