DePauw University seniors start a line of organic lotions, Simplicity

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After spending the semester in Costa Rica, falsely labeled organic lotions and expensive correctly-labeled organic lotions rubbed DePauw University senior Caitlyn Hammack the wrong way.
 Now, she and fellow senior Stephanie Sharlow are creating their own organic cosmetics line. The duo is starting the line, called Simplicity, with a body butter.
During Hammack’s semester abroad, she completed an internship on a sustainable and organic farm.
“I couldn’t use traditional beauty products,” Hammack said. “No Aveeno. No Dove. No Herbal Essence. So, we made there a lot of our own products.”
While in Costa Rica, Hammack used coconut oil as a lotion substitute.
“Once I got back, I found out that in dry, winter Indiana, coconut oil was not a good source of moisture,” Hammack said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
Hammack tried to find an organic lotion at health food stores.
“I couldn’t find anything that was cheap or that I found to be really simple, organic,” Hammack said. “It says organic, but you read the label.”
The gap between affordability and having a truly organic lotion prompted Hammack to start the company. During this same time, Sharlow was searching for a Media Fellows project.
“Whereas I can make a lotion, I know nothing about starting a business,” Hammack said.
Sharlow helped start the Be Great Today 5k and had experience working in public relations through internships.
“The extra bonus is that it is for Media Fellows,” Sharlow said, “but I think it is a good idea in general.”
Sharlow will be receiving credit for her work with Simplicity as part of her Media Fellows seminar.
“Media Fellows in general is very broad in its definition of media,” Sharlow said. “It could be book publishing. It could be PR or advertising, journalism or anything that kind of, sort of deals with the media is really included in it.”
Sharlow is interested in broadcast booking. Currently, Sharlow manages the branding of the business as well as their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
“There’s no casual media project one can do [for broadcast booking],” Sharlow said. “I can’t just book someone on D3TV for The Source and call it a Media Fellows project. It’s not comprehensive enough.”
Sharlow and Hammack believe that their partnership is a solid one because their skill sets are unique and overlap very little.
“I’m not going to argue about what oils she puts in the lotions because I did not live in a jungle for four months,” Sharlow said.
The duo also has outside help. Both of their mothers are small business owners. Hammack’s mother is responsible for all of the trademarking and incorporation efforts.
“A lot of it is online searching. There’s actually websites for your trademark, where you research your trademark,” Raschelle Hammack said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “That will probably coincide with whoever ends up doing website design because there’s also a domain search that has to be done.”
The trademarking is normally done when a domain search begins. The trademarking search and the domain search occur at the same time because once the search begins, competing companies with similar products or product names will purchase the domain to prevent accidental traffic to the small business’ websites.
Simplicity currently carries two types of lotions: cocoa butter and shea butter based. Both come in various scents. Because of the natural scent of the coco butter, all lotions of this base are chocolate variations, such as chocolate mint and chocolate orange. The shea butter based lotion that can have more variation in the scents.
Hammack and Sharlow will be hosting two focus groups on Sunday, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday to determine which of the lotions better serve their demographic. Those wishing to go to one of the focus groups should email them at products.simplicity@gmail.com. During the focus group, those in attendance can receive samples of the products.
After spring break, the duo will finalize what scents they want to begin selling and sales will begin. Customers will be able to purchase the body butter by approaching either Hammack or Sharlow.
The duo plans to put the project on a crowd funding website such as Indiegogo and hopes to launch other cosmetics.
“Everyone’s into the organic, all-natural stuff, but you go into whole foods to buy all-purpose cleaner and it’s like 20 bucks for a Windex size bottle,” Sharlow said. “No one, especially on a college budget, can afford that, but you shouldn’t have to riddle your home and your body with chemicals either.”
They expressed the importance of vetting what is placed on an individual’s skin.
“Your skin is the biggest gateway to your bloodstream and so…if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t put it on your skin,” Hammack said.
All Simplicity products are food-grade.
“You could eat it,” Hammack said. “It doesn’t taste very good, but you could eat it. It wouldn’t hurt you or kill you.”
For Hammack, there is a simple reason for taking more care when selecting skincare items.
“If you think about it, your stomach acid is PH 2,” Hammack said. “If you eat something, it has the very harsh environment to go through before it can pass into your intestines and be absorbed into your blood stream. But your skin has very little filter.”
In designing the products, Hammack avoided using a water base because she wanted to avoid having to use chemicals in the products.
“When you introduce water into your lotions, you automatically have to have the extra ingredients of preservatives,” Hammack said. “Once you introduce water, you introduce the potential for mold.”
Additionally, when adding water, there must be an emulsifying agent to blend the oils and the water.
“Our body butters end up being a little bit heavier, a little bit richer than your normal everyday lotion,” Hammack said. “But that’s because there’s no water to be absorbed into your skin, which ultimately means that your moisture is better.”
After they create a full line of cosmetics, Hammack and Sharlow hope to add a line of organic cleaning products to their inventory.