In preparation for the Beauty & Money conference in New York, Benedict H. Auld, CEO and Founder of Lapidarius, caught up with Mariska Nicholson, founder of Olive + M, one of the independent beauty brands hand-picked to share their business and product in a quick-fire round of presentations at Beauty & Money New York.
What is the unique value proposition your brand or product brings to the category?
Olive oil. We are unique in the plant-based oils category because the base of our products is olive oil, and we haven’t seen much of that out there. We use olive oil because it’s mother nature’s beauty secret. It’s close in molecular terms to our natural sebum, so it penetrates quickly and deeply, carrying all of its omega and antioxidant benefits to feed the skin. Olive oil also contains hydroxytyrosol. In fact, it has the highest-known concentrations of it—15 times higher than green tea and co-Q10.
We are very intentional when we formulate. Every ingredient matters. None of our formulas has more than 14 ingredients. Every ingredient must have a role to play in the efficacy of the formula. We don’t sprinkle things in for talk value. We see a lot of products with micro-amounts of various things. But the fact is, when you get to ingredient number thirty-six, it doesn’t matter, because it’s such a trivial amount that it doesn’t matter. We don’t do that.
How did you do it?
I’ve been using olive oil on my skin for many years and have known the benefits of plant-based oils since finishing culinary school 14 years ago. I then fell in love with a formula I was using from Italy. When I got to the bottom of the bottle, I started to wonder about the formula, the oils but also the preservatives. I started researching ingredients and drilling down on the ingredient decks of products I was interested in. Due to my love of cooking and comfort in the kitchen, it was second nature for me to start mixing things up. Once I came up with a formula I loved, I started sharing with family and friends.
When I look back on my journey of how it began, it began very organically. I like to say that Olive + M wanted to be born and she simply chose me as her person. There’s something bigger, here, and it’s my honor to be a part of it.
We started with a face oil, she’s the matriarch in the family and still our best seller, although our new Shimmer + Glow Body Oil might give her a run for her money pretty soon. All of the products are about solving a problem for me, and my friends. I wanted to create a face oil. I asked my friends and they couldn’t afford any out there, because all the effective face oils on the market were 0.5 oz and around $200, so I wanted to create change and disruption.
At the time I was a single mom, and a 0.5 oz face oil for $200 wasn’t an option. I wanted to create a product made with all-natural ingredients, sustainable ingredients, deeply effective and that a single mom could plug into her budget. So, I did.
The cleansing oil was a revelation for us, too—that we should wash our skin with oil. The products have rolled out one by one as we realized that we can fill more needs.
What’s next for Olive +M?
We just launched the Shimmer + Glow Body Oil. It’s a new category and it has the potential to take us in more of a beauty and cosmetics direction but in a focused way—true to O+M. We’re talking with the team about formulating some friends to go on the shelf with her, for example pigmented lip oil shakers. This new shiny object is more playful, it’s reaching a younger demographic, and the price point is more accessible. The response so far has been explosive in the best possible way. We can’t answer the Instagram responses fast enough, it’s 24-hour-a-day interest.
What is the most important thing an investor should know about your brand?
That we are focused on becoming a household name in plant-based oils and that we are planning to bring our inspiration, hard work, and positive energy to bear on many other personal care categories. We have huge scalability and we want to infiltrate the household; we want to be in every single bathroom and counter top. And we will.
We’re all over the state of Texas and currently working our way up the East Coast, focusing on the West Coast as a market that’s opening up for us, as well as Colorado and Arizona. In areas where the climate is drier the oils are in demand all year long—they go from dry summers to cold, dry winters. We do a great direct-to-consumer business as well.
We have built excellent velocities in high-end spas and online, and we are excited to now be in conversation with a large national retailer. We know that selling into a big retailer and succeeding there are two separate things. Related, but separate. So, we are focusing on being ready, on doing what it takes to be a great partner to those that see what we see and believe what we believe.
What would your ideal investor look like?
The ideal investor is one who lets me do what I do best. It’s someone that sees the passion in our team and the drive to create this legacy for our children. I want them to be proud of me as an entrepreneur, see my value, prop me up and see me succeed.
We just finished a round of fund-raising. We are open to raising more with the right partner, there’s a lot going on that we see as pivotal for the brand and we are excited.
Who is the muse for your brand? That is, who is the consumer target that you are creating your products for?
It ranges from women in their mid-20s, all the way to women 60-plus. If I had to pick one, it would be me! A working mom that is taking care of her family, her career.
We talk about how all of our ingredients have felt the sun and the soil, and that is a lifestyle. It’s a family. As a company and a family we are focused on recycling efforts and the choices we make which impact the planet. We make sure that our packaging is made with soy ink, recycled paper, we try to do our manufacturing start to finish and look at every eco step along the way.
Yesterday my son threw a glass bottle in the trash and I said, “Sebastian you know better than that. This is your planet and it will be here, good or bad, long after I am gone, so take care of it.” He responded, “Sorry Mom, epic fail,” and transferred it to the recycle bin. My kids are sponges, they do what they know, they follow eco-sustainable practices, and as O+M grows into the $100MM company I want to build—I want them to see the connection. Doing well and doing good are slowly going to become the same thing, everywhere. We’re part of that movement. On the front guard.
What is your vision for the brand? Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
I would like to see the brand in a national retailer, where clean beauty is accessible to everyone. I don’t think you have to sacrifice your health for your beauty regimen. I want everyone to be able to afford to make choices that make them feel beauty, inside and out, and make the connection between their beauty and the beauty of this planet.
Photo Credit: Olive +M