Elemental Herbs in Los Osos strives to be socially responsible

jlynem@thetribunenews.comJune 10, 2014 

Caroline Duell is founder and president of Elemental Herbs, based in Los Osos.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

  • Elemental Herbs Inc.

    Location: 1281 Third St., Los Osos, with production facilities at the Morro Bay Community Center Kitchen

    Top executive: Caroline Duell, president

    Number of employees: 10

    Annual revenue: $2 million

    Founded: 2006

    Favorite apps: AroundMe, Pizza Finder, Instagram, Pandora

This is another in an occasional series on small business owners operating in San Luis Obispo County. If you have operated a small business for at least three to five years, please contact Julie Lynem at jlynem@thetribunenews.com or call 805-781-7932. Businesses will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Caroline Duell's business started with goop.

The goop — called All Good Goop — was an herbal ointment made from natural, organic ingredients and produced at a family farm in Northern California where she once lived and worked. Now, the former massage therapist is president of Elemental Herbs, which offers a variety of organic body care products: sunscreen, lip balm, healing salve and sore muscle spray. The products can be found in about 45 health-food, sporting goods and other retail stores, including New Frontiers, Mountain Air Sports, Farm Supply and Bambu Batu.

Duell recently shared her thoughts on being an entrepreneur and what it takes to grow a business.

Q: What were the three most important ingredients to starting your business and why?

A: Medicinal herbs, beeswax and olive oil. No joke. This is what started the business: a simple balm to help people’s skin, infused with intentions for healing the world.

Q: Explain the toughest challenge you faced when you started your business. How did you overcome it?

A: My biggest challenge was thinking that by growing a business that I would compromise my personal values on social and environmental responsibility. We overcome it daily by finding ways to improve the way we do things and by being educated on how we impact our local and global communities. We also became a certified B corporation (a company that has social and environmental performance standards) to measure our business practices, and we joined 1 percent for the Planet through which we donate 1 percent of all revenues to direction action environmental organizations.

Q: What is the single biggest priority for your company now?

A: We have about seven biggest priorities all vying for first place right now, but just to pick one… Our biggest priority is to increase awareness of our brand in regions of the U.S. where we currently sell our goods. We've done a lot of work to get products into stores; now we need to help move them off the shelf.

Q: Who inspired you to become a business owner/entrepreneur and what advice did he/she give you?

A: My husband, Ryan, who is now our sales director. He does not let any challenge stand in his way. In the early days of Elemental Herbs, whenever I’d find a hurdle, he’d help me figure out how to get over it and find a way to make improvements along the way. When I had to do something I didn’t know how to do, I’d spend time searching for experts. Ryan would say, “Quit looking around for answers and just learn how to do it yourself!” Now he’s on board, leading our sales team, and he’s a very important part of the business’ growth.

Q: What was your — or an employee’s — best idea that increased sales, profitability or both? Explain why.

A: Our sales are divided into two categories. Our All Good brand and private label. We started custom labeling our products for other brands, and this has become a very important part of our business. Companies and nonprofits like Patagonia, Clif Bar, PrAna, NOLS and KEEN Footwear use our premium lip balms and sunscreens for their marketing giveaways. Growing our brand in retails stores is a long process, and we are able to do that with the additional help of private-label, business-to-business partnerships.

Q: Where would like to see your business in the next five to 10 years?

A: We will be leading the industry as a socially responsible business with a great team of people and All Good products!

Q: How have you used Internet marketing via social media to your advantage?

A: We are actually just jumping on the social media train. Check us out on our website (www.elementalherbs.com), Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. It’s a great way to build community, share stories and dive into topics beyond what we sell (sun safety or organic farming, for example). We also like to encourage people to leave their technology behind and head to the hills every so often.

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