[caption id="attachment_2155" align="alignnone" width="221" caption="Photo by Jessica Sauck"]
Melissa Kruse formulates and sells affordable and 100 percent natural bath and body products. Her line, Naked Beauty, includes bar soap, lotion, body oils, lip balms, hair care and baby products.
When did you first become interested in starting this business?
Shortly after my oldest daughter was born I realized that I wanted the freedom to continue my own interests and to set my own schedule. It’s also important for me to have my kids see us working and know what we do. Our oldest daughter who is five is already coming up with her own business ideas!
When did you start the business?
2010 was the year it went from being a hobby to a business. Before that it was a hobby that kept growing every year. To me those years were very important because they allowed me to make mistakes that would have been costly for a business.
Was this your childhood dream?
I’ve always had an interest in the natural world and a holistic lifestyle. My back-packing trips in high school and college really took that interest to the next level. For our honeymoon my husband and I spent four months in Thailand where I studied Thai massage. We began to study edible and medicinal plants which led me to experiment in making balms and teas. When I started making soap for fun it was only natural for me to start adding different herbs and oils for their therapeutic value.
What is the best business advice anyone has ever given you?
It’s much easier to create a product for a market than to create a market for a product.
What advice do you have for anyone starting a business?
Be very careful about getting into debt. Move slowly and set realistic goals. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. And most importantly, make sure to surround yourself with people who will not only encourage and inspire, but also challenge you and keep you grounded.
What makes your business enjoyable for you?
Everything always smells good! Also, I like having a working relationship with my husband. It helps us learn about each other and helps us work well together outside of business. It’s really fun when the kids can help out too. And my favorite moments are when customers tell me that my products have helped them in some way.
Is there anything you would change about it?
I think it would be really neat to have a store front in Mankato with our full line of products and other locally made products.
My greatest business epiphany came when…
I’ve never had a single great epiphany. More like lots of little lessons over time that became greater lessons. It usually comes down to being realistic and putting customers first.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
I think it’s the combination of quality and price. There are other bath and body product lines that have similar credentials for being free of synthetic ingredients, but often the price is more than double what our prices are. I also pride myself on my customer service. People like being able to know who makes the products and being able to call or email with a question.
The best part about my job is…
I really love the formulating part of my job. Coming up with new scent combinations is exciting. I also like learning about how different herbs and oils work and what can be helpful for different skin conditions.
The worst part about my job is…
staying organized. It makes everything possible, but it’s definitely not as fun as actually making and selling products.
My long term goal is…
to keep growing our business and eventually pass it on to the kids.
The biggest obstacles have been…
educating people on the importance of using synthetic free products on their skin and how important it is to support local businesses.
Is there anything that would help others prepare for your line of work?
I would say if you want to be an entrepreneur then the best thing you can do is start small and slow. Make your mistakes early when it isn’t going to cost you as much. And have faith.
Where would you like to be in five years?
We would like to buy a farm where we can base our business and continue to expand our product line.
Naked Beauty Products are available at:
Mankato Farmers' Market (May-Oct)
Albert Lea Farmers' Market (May-Oct)
Saint Peter Food Coop, St. Peter, MN
Raydiance Salon, Mankato, MN
Tune Town, Mankato, MN
Of The Earth Salon And Spa, Elysian, MN
Electric Beach, Mankato, MN
The Silhouette Shoppe, Mankato, MN
The Little Green Cupboard, Forest City, IA