Business

Cuesta student and entrepreneur has dreams of a lip balm empire

Avery Shannon has lip balm on the brain.

Shannon, 20, first made his own skin care products as a makers fair project while he was a student at Templeton High School. Now, with stores throughout California carrying six different flavors of his RAW Lip Balm, Shannon balances his studies at Cuesta College with his career as a budding entrepreneur.

Shannon said he was inspired to create his own balm after Accutane, an acne medication, dried out his skin.

“I was just kind of over the conventional lip balm that just wasn’t up to my standards,” said Shannon, who is taking business classes at Cuesta.

He learned how to make lip balm by watching YouTube videos and reading online articles. After his products sold out at the makers fair, a teacher encouraged Shannon to continue marketing his lip balm. It took him a year to perfect his recipe. Honey and cinnamon, sweet orange and peppermint were early flavors.

“It was just trial and error to get to the formula I have today,” Shannon said.

Shannon said he wanted to avoid certain ingredients, such as petroleum jelly. Instead, he uses a double boiler to melt beeswax, which he combines with butters, including shea, mango and coconut. To add flavor, Shannon also infuses his balms with extracts such as rose oil.

When asked what makes his lip balm better than others, Shanon said its texture and long-lasting moisture make it unique.

“The formula’s very creamy and smooth,” he said.

Although he started out making his balms in his home kitchen, Shannon’s investor and former volleyball coach, Todd Scully, provided him with space for a commercial kitchen at his property in Creston. With Scully’s investment, Shannon also was able to purchase additional equipment that allows him to make more tubes of lip balm faster.

About five months ago, Shannon starting pitching his products to stores throughout San Luis Obispo County. Wildeheart Boutique in Paso Robles was his first retailer, but he’s since expanded into stores in San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Templeton and even Fresno and San Francisco.

So far, Shannon has invested about $2,000 of his own money in his business, while Scully contributed about $6,000. Shannon has only been selling his products in stores for a few months but said his sales come to about $9,000. Aside from paying a friend commission to help promote his balms at different stores, Shannon said his only other expenses are his ingredients, and that has allowed him to make a small profit.

Erin Stuck, co-owner of General Store in Paso Robles, which carries RAW products, said Shannon’s “enthusiastic” sales pitch helped persuade her to sell his lip balms.

“We love to focus on local vendors,” she said.

RAW balms really took off during the holidays, and the store had to keep restocking after they sold out, Stuck said.

Shannon’s immediate goal is to get his balms into at least 60 stores. He said finding cheap ways to market his products is his biggest challenge, as other, bigger lip balm companies have more money to spend on advertising. Right now, Shannon’s in-store displays and social media accounts are his primary forms of advertising.

Even so, in the future, he said he could envision retailers like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s carrying his products, which could include more than just lip balm.

“I want to just embrace natural, modern-type skin care,” Shannon said.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

Flavors

RAW lip balm flavors for sale in San Luis Obispo County stores and for online purchase:

  • Purely Pomegranate
  • Tangerine + Wild Orange
  • Pink Grapefruit + Lime
  • Rose + Mint
  • Lemongrass + Coconut Milk
  • Vanilla Bean + Blue Chamomile

To learn more, visit rawlipbalm.com.

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