Flourish began back in 2004 in a little soap shop, in a little town in Vermont. Having taught herself the art of making handmade olive oil-based soaps, Kirsten opened the shop. Some great soaps were already being made in Vermont, but there was no store dedicated to a broad range of soaps made by one person and all sold in one place. The soaps, which came in an extensive array of scents and colors, became incredibly popular. Customers would discover a favorite and then request the same scent in a lotion or a crème or a perfume. To meet customer requests, Kirsten researched every ingredient and method to make these new products, while staying true to the philosophy of handmade, pure, and natural.
After several years, and an association with a local inn, visitors to the shop fell in love with the soaps and lotions and shampoos and conditioners they tried, and placed orders to be shipped back home so they could continue to enjoy them. But when the economy slowed, the number of visitors to this little Vermont town slowed to a trickle. We wracked our brains about how to keep our business thriving and we thought… why don’t we take the top-selling products and scents and launch a wholesale line so other stores can sell our wonderful handmade products too?
So we did! In 2010, we launched Flourish Natural Body Care at the Boston Gift Show and caught the eye of the head buyer for Whole Foods North Atlantic as well as many other buyers who were very encouraging. We spent the next year learning about barcodes, packaging requirements, and what it takes to prepare for getting our products into Whole Foods stores. During that time we also drove all around New England meeting with Wellness Buyers in every Co-op and natural food store we could find, knowing they’d appreciate our choice of ingredients.
We steadily began to develop a following. Wherever we went, we did demos, sharing samples of Flourish, talking with customers, and explaining how Flourish products contained only a careful selection of ingredients. Finally, in 2011, we got into our first Whole Foods store in Portland, Maine. And then into a few others too! Things were looking good. Our success with spas, stores, and co-ops meant moving the operation to a large barn at our home.
On August 28, 2011, it was one rainy day. We decided to pick whatever we could from the garden and make pickles. It just rained on and on. We got some phone calls about the river swelling and washing across the road in the next town over so we decided to walk across the field and take a look. The river was running high and fast. The change from the day before was dramatic – we’d gone tubing with the kids and had to walk in places because the river was so low. Now we watched and waited. We kept watch and starting moving things upstairs over the next couple of hours but then, very quickly, things got scary. We could see the river reach the crest of the bank, normally a 20 foot drop and 200 yards from the house. Then Darren saw the water in our field flowing backwards. He realized that something was damned upstream and that we were in trouble. Water began cascading into our basement and within 20 minutes our house and our workshop were under 5 feet of water. And just like that we lost our home and our business.
We moved into my parents house across town with our 5 children and cat and dog and began to evaluate what to do. All of our inventory, raw materials, machinery, labels, and equipment were destroyed. We had no product to ship and no way to make more. The entire interior of the house had to be gutted, bleached, and dried out. There was only one thing to do: rebuild the house and rebuild the business, whatever it took.
It took all we gave it, along with lots of help from friends and extended family. In about six months, against all odds, we had new product ready to ship. Unfortunately, we were ready, but most of our retailers weren’t. Too much time had elapsed and stores no longer had shelf space for Flourish.
We began the work to win back retailers. Today, Flourish products are in over 50 stores in 8 states, including all of New England, New York, and Alaska!
We’ve moved into a new workshop and we’re busy making Flourish Natural Body Care.