On a warm, sunny, and uncharacteristically warm winter day, I recently met with Kirsten Connor of Flourish Natural Body Care in Woodstock, VT. I had been curious about her products after discovering her on Instagram. She looked to embody all the things I am hoping to unearth and spread the word about in Vermont- natural, local, organic. A stellar product with great marketing mojo. What I discovered about Kirsten was something very appealing. The most important feature about her products wasn’t within the products themselves, it was within their maker. Kirsten’s dogged determination defines Flourish.
First, let’s talk about the business itself. She moved to Vermont as a single mom with 3 kids and started making bar soap, primarily for herself with the hopes of someday opening a shop. As she mastered the craft, she quickly turned to making liquid soap, balms and skin creams. She decided to try her hand at making shampoos-a process requiring a high level of determination.
“Mastering adding water to formulas is very difficult. You have to know how to preserve it, you have to know how to emulsify it so it doesn’t eventually separate. There is a whole science behind all of that.” It was not an easy road and the learning process was long and involved. By reading everything she could get her hands on, working with environmental groups to help classify good vs bad ingredients, and utilizing ECOCERT (the organic certification organization, founded in France, now based in Europe) Kirsten was able to finally develop a shampoo and body care line that she was proud of. And. Then. Along. Came. Irene.
Hurricane Irene devastated and disrupted her home life as well as her business. Irene literally destroyed their home and she and her family lost everything. At the time, Kirsten had built her business up to include several non Upper Valley Co-ops and outlets like Whole Foods and it looked like her wholesale business was about to take off. Once the reality of Irene set in, she knew she had to regroup and rethink her business plan and start anew. No small feat. Again, her determination was evident. She enlisted help to get loans, to find a better space, and to brand her products.
She also decided to expand the focus of her products. She wanted to add infusions to her body lotions and creams to make them even more unique and more appealing. She met with an herbalist who recommended which herbs to add in order to help create a “feeling” – Kirsten wanted the products she made to have meaning beyond a just having an effective marketing campaign. She wanted her products to make your day better by making your hair better, your skin better and by surrounding you with aromas that helped create a response that you found pleasing. If you check out some of her products you will see that her added ingredients include things like arnica, schisandra, melissa, angelica, and clover.
When I left her studio, I realized how impressive her business is. It takes a certain kind of person to want to start their own business, and an even more unique person willing to start it again after being part of a natural disaster. She obviously believes in what she does and is willing to take the time and effort to be sure that she is completely satisfied with the product she is delivering. All of the products are handmade with great care with and emphasis on natural and organic. Kirsten cares not only about her products, but also your reaction to them. She wants you to experience them, and for them to help create an experience for you.
This time, I think she is off to an even better start!