Universe to small biz owner: “You grow, girl!”
It’s a daring move, indeed, to completely re-brand your company during a pandemic. Lakisha Bullock isn’t so much a gambler, though, as a woman with unshakable faith in herself and her own potential. Her label, SCB Naturals, literally means “She Creates Beauty” – and her mission is to nurture, inspire and empower all kinds of beauty in the natural world.
A licensed cosmetologist, herbalist and skincare specialist, Lakisha blends all of her organic, vegan bodycare products and loose-leaf teas by hand using the best locally-sourced, fair-trade ingredients available seasonally. You might know her from the East Falls Farmers Market, where she’s been a regular vendor for years. Heads up: she’s got a whole new look now!
She’s also got great news to share – business is booming, with a retooled online shop featuring fan favorites plus some fun surprises. As SCB Naturals grows to meet customers’ needs, Lakisha is also working to boost local entrepreneurship through mentoring. This year her goal is to help 100 new business owners get started. Beautiful, right?
We recently had the chance to catch up with this community dynamo over ZOOM. This article is edited from that conversation, above.
So after like five years as a successful business, you decided to throw out all your old branding and start over in 2020. What were you thinking?
One of my biggest goals with SCB Naturals has been to be like Johnson and Johnson of the natural world – to really shoot for universal appeal. If you notice on their website, they have all these spin-off companies with products for the whole family.
When I first started out, though, I didn’t really know all the things to consider with promotional packaging. My first logo was really intricate – it was very hard for designers to work with, and for like soap stamps, which I wanted to do. And frankly I realized that my original branding was very personal, so it came across stylized for Black women, which is how I appealed to customers.
But my products are for everyone. So I needed my branding to reflect that. It was a lot of work but I felt strongly there would be a payoff and, you know there was. I had record sales that weekend, and my online store has attracted a whole new customer base. I was like “Wow that worked.”
Sounds like you knew what you were doing. Is this how your mentoring program came about?
Thank you and yes, exactly. I have a ton of experience restaurant and retail management, and all these skills are transferrable to running a small business. But even so, I had a lot to learn starting up SCB Naturals. There are so many aspects of running a business that you just don’t think about. Licenses and certifications. Lots of rules!
Websites can be very particular about how you set up your shop, and what you can and can’t say about your products. And packaging, too. I see people all the time trying to sell products with just a logo, no ingredients. I’m like “You can’t sell it like that.” There’s all kinds of stuff like that, you need to be mindful of.
Now I work with a lot of very small local operations putting together my products, and encounter people all the time who would like to start their own companies, too. So I’ve been doing one-on-ones with them, guiding them through all the steps from conceptualizing your business to launching it. Because there’s a process, and it works if you follow it. Like I said my goal for 2021 is to help 100 new businesses get off on the right foot!
Does your mentoring ever turn into collaborating with other businesses?
Not so far, but I definitely think it’s a good way to innovate and expand the brand. I connect with lots of other wellness vendors at local markets, too, so that could be interesting.
When we saw your tea infusions we immediately thought of Viva Leaf Tea Company, who does a lot of honey infusions — you might be able to play off each other.
Oh sure, I know Christa! So one of the one of the things about supporting Black-owned businesses, it’s important to support Black women-owned business because we’re the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs now.
That’s right. If you’re supporting me and business owners like me, you’re directly helping the economy. It’s a great way to start closing the racial wealth gap, and invest in a multicultural community. The effect is immediate, too.
So let’s go shopping! What are your big sellers?
The first products I made were lotions and butters – mostly facial care. But I really took off when I introduced the bar soaps. And I’d never made it before, I just saw people posting all these beautiful handmade soaps on Instagram and it looked so cool. And it was also so eco-friendly because there’s no packaging.
So I watched some YouTube videos and just dove in! I learned all the things that can go wrong, and how to avoid all that. And how to incorporate all my natural herbs and plants and stuff, so that the scents all work together, and the colors come through right. I really love making soap, by the way. It’s just so fun! When I wake up on a soap day, I’m like so happy.
It’s not just about the sensory experience, either – natural soap can be a blessing for people with chronic skin sensitivities and conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis, and so forth. A lot products that are on the market, they’re not really helpful to be honest. They’re doing nothing for our skin and our hair, which is a missed opportunity. Botanical compounds can nourish, purify, repair… When you experience this personally, as I have, you want to share that message with the world.
Do you have a product that’s like a secret weapon?
Rose! It can improve any skin type. If you’re shiny, it’ll help regulate your oil. If you’ve got dry skin, it will moisturize. It’s like magic. Damask rose and rose clay are my biggest sellers.
Also I want to mention that many of my bar soaps work for skin and hair, as well. That’s not magic but it’s very handy.
Are there any challenges to working with natural ingredients?
Well I’m a licensed cosmetologist so I’m very aware that commercial products must be safe and reliable. Obviously I keep my home production line spotless but with organic flowers and herbs, of course they will pick up pollens and spores and stuff from the fields they grow in. So I test random batches for signs of mold, bacteria, yeast, whatever. I also test to make sure my products are pH balanced because that’s important too.
All SCB Naturals products are handmade in small batches, which I realize is unrealistic if I’m going to scale up as I intend. I’ve thought about it and I’d rather train a team to help me meet demand than take any shortcuts that could affect quality.
Another big challenge I’m tackling this year is packaging: no more plastic! It’ll be a gradual thing, switching over all my oils/balms/lotions to glass containers – I’ve already started. When I’m finished, I want to offer some way to encourage people to recycle. Like a discount if you return the packaging to me. It’s really important for me to promote sustainability.
Besides EF Farmers Market, where else do you sell?
Right now I’m only doing The Falls market every Saturday (11am – 1pm) but when the weather warms up I’ll get out to the spring and summer events. Oh yeah, I’m starting to do Franny Lou’s too, in Fishtown. Have you been there? Fantastic spot! They have a market twice a month: vendors out front, people come by to grab some coffee and browse. I think the next ones are March 13 and 27 (10am – 2pm)
Anything else we need to know about SCB Naturals?
I think we all deserve selfcare products made with pure, wholesome ingredients that have been respectfully obtained and processed. It’s empowering, to look and feel your best. I’m proud to be a woman running her own business, and I hope others will dream big with me.
All natural, organic and vegan bath & body products hand-made in small batches with proprietary botanical blends. Also pet care, loose leaf teas and garden boxes. Order online 24/7 or browse at the East Falls Farmers Market (Saturdays under the Twin Bridges).
267-539-6650 / firstname.lastname@example.org
**SCB THIS SPRING**
Loose-leaf tea infusions in pretty rose-pink tins! Four blends to choose from:
Meditative State – Decaf black tea with calming, focusing herbs like chamomile, lavender & valerian root. Relaxes and de-stresses w/out sluggishness
Chakra Balance – Heady green tea brew with neutralizing, clarifying herbs: lemongrass, turmeric, dandelion leaf, etc. Refreshes the sinuses & clears the mind.
Antiox-Me – SCB’s most popular tea contains white tea, one of Nature’s most powerful antioxidants that also has been shown to boost metabolism, fight aging, regulate blood sugar, and other health benefits for heart, teeth, bones, brain and more.
Masala Chai – Lakisha’s favorite (and ours). A big bold black tea with a peppy kick of seven spices including ginger, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. A little sugar and creamer, it’s like a yummy milkshake.
Introducing… Garden Boxes
Start your garden in a snap with SCB Natural’s starter kits, fully-stocked and ready to plant!
Organically-grown veggie and herb seedlings grown with love in biodegradable pots you can just pop into the ground for fresh produce through fall. Eight to twelve hardy plant varieties including (but not limited to) tomatoes, peppers, squash, celery, mints, sage, parsley and more. Great for small spaces and container gardens. Pre-order online, distribution starts in April. Eat fresh, stay healthy, shop local!