Stephanie Leshney dreamed up Dabble & Dollop while President and CEO of the West Coast’s leading supplier of natural care ingredients. She turned “Take Your Kids to Work Day” into an interactive laboratory where kids aged 5-15 envisioned and then blended their own shampoos, bubble baths, and more. The result was not only a cavalcade of creativity (coconut cream glitter shampoo?), but proved a great way to inspire magic, experimentation, and imagination through science.
Later that evening at home, while bathing her own three bubble-bath-crazed toddlers, the idea for Dabble & Dollop began to take form. As she watched her children giggle with delight mixing various bubble bath products with shampoos, she realized she had to find a way to “bottle” that experience.
So, after hundreds of baths later, Dabble & Dollop was born. The products feature fresh fruit scents, are sold as a kit and are specifically formulated to be mixed. This activity encourages kids to use their imagination, express creativity, and even become “little scientists.” Children can either decide to follow the recipe cards provided with the kit or dream up something entirely new.
Throughout the developmental stages of Dabble & Dollop, Leshney realized the company could become a platform for inspiring creativity and a love of science in children. The company plans on offering custom-tailored programs to K-12 schools to help children learn about ingredient science and will also support other STEAM nonprofits focused on fostering future scientists.
Tell us about your product formulation philosophy and development process.
I was lucky to have a father who was also a cosmetic chemist. As a result, I have spent the past 20 years completely inspired in the space, and have been a major part of creating scores of winning formulas. I know what works, and in turn, know what mistakes to avoid. Less is always more; I definitely take a KonMari-esque approach and have challenged and continue to challenge the best formulators in the country to think outside the box.
With Dabble and Dollop, I strived to create a full sensory experience for kids—with soft-touch, grippable bottles, colorful modern design, velvety, creamy, fluffy textures, and authentic natural aromas. I’m focused on fresh, singular notes. Think: vanilla, tangerine, and strawberry, those sorts of notes that drive and tie scents to memory.
What is your distribution strategy for the brand?
We are launching direct-to-consumer and at the same time, are in the process of finalizing a select number of national retail partners who are excited to build long-term relationships with us.
How have you funded the launch of the brand?
I was fortunate to have a successful exit (sale) from my last business, so I have self-funded Dabble & Dollop. The beauty of taking no money is I can do things my way—the right way—and I don’t have to run a business based on bottom-line profit, alone. I can use this business to do what I’m passionate about, which is to help kids foster a connection to their products in a manner that helps expand their minds, as well as through our school outreach where we hope to inspire some “little scientists.”
What has been the best piece of advice you have received during your journey of building your brand?
Early on, we ran a consumer preference study with 96 families to test the mixing concept. That study remains the best piece of advice I received. It helped me with a gut-check on what I thought was a great idea. It also provided valuable insight about which scents would be a hit and other brilliant ideas that hadn’t ever crossed my mind. Kids are really smart and we don’t give them enough credit!
Where do you see the brand in 5 years?
My goals are simple—becoming a massive company does not excite me, nor is it my plan. I’ve seen so many brands grow too quickly and go from cachet to cliché. I want to have a great business that is profitable and be able to make an impact on supporting nonprofits and schools in their STEAM programs.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the industry and what are you doing to address it?
I don’t believe in unnecessarily long ingredient decks. It’s both wasteful and costly to the environment. From what I know, I can tell you there isn’t enough incremental benefit to sourcing and throwing in endless ingredients, other than to fool consumers and make money.
My hope is that both consumers and my industry see an executive who spent 20 years making a living off selling ingredients (*a lot of ingredients!*) develop a brand with a less-is-more ingredient philosophy. I hope that it might turn some heads, shake things up, and perhaps help to form a movement where we all aim for product simplicity.
Content Created in Partnership with Unfiltered Experience.