How Awake Organics Responded To Its Customers Waking Up To Supply Chain Issues
When it comes to supply chain issues, Awake Organics’ customers are woke.
After three surveys showed transparency is of utmost importance to its audience, the brand moved to tap local ingredient suppliers and service providers, and communicate about the companies contributing to its products. In a crowded clean beauty market, Melissa Kimbell, founder of Awake Organics, believes its conscious supply chain approach will distinguish the brand from competitors.
“It’s not enough anymore to say, ‘It’s natural or it’s organic, here’s all the ingredients, and we make everything by hand,’” she says. “It’s not cutting it because customers are just so smart, and they know what they want. My customers want to know that, yes, the ingredients are clean and natural, but also where they’re grown. They want to see the farm and know the story of the plants.”
Awake Organics’ road to greater supply chain openness began roughly nine months ago as a brand revamp got underway. Kimbell sought to improve lids that didn’t always work, and shift to higher-end boxes with information on them that wouldn’t require her to slap on labels and put inserts in them to convey product details. She polled her audience before instituting the adjustments, and set out on a course to satisfy their demands in products and the process that brings them to life.
Kimbell decided to reevaluate the source of Awake Organics’ cannabis sativa or hemp oil, which she had been securing from a middleman in the U.K., where the brand is based and will exhibit at Indie Beauty Expo London from Oct. 24 to 25, that imported it from China. She switched from the supplier to Vitality Hemp, a West Sussex producer of industrial hemp cultivated without synthetic chemicals. Awake Organics spotlights Vitality Hemp in a video on its website.
“Everything is grown without any pesticides or fertilized, and it’s harvested and pressed right there. It’s one hundred thousand times better than the hemp oil we were buying before though technically it was the same on paper because it was from a synthetic chemical-free farm before as well,” says Kimbell. “Now, it’s fresher, and I know where it comes from. It’s a local product from a local business.”
Despite the advantages of sourcing hemp oil locally, Kimbell figured the price of the ingredient would increase as much as 30% upon converting from a Chinese importer to closer source. However, the price hasn’t risen. Awake Organics has hemp oil in its Frankin-Sense Brightening Serum, Citrus + Hemp Clear Skin Serum, Sea Quartz Crystal + Algae Cleanser and Green Tea + Detox Dead Sea Mask.
“It’s not enough anymore to say, ‘It’s natural or it’s organic, here’s all the ingredients, and we make everything by hand. It’s not cutting it because customers are just so smart, and they know what they want. My customers want to know that, yes, the ingredients are clean and natural, but also where they’re grown. They want to see the farm and know the story of the plants.”
“The reason for that is twofold: We are able to buy it in larger volumes, and we are supporting each other. So, I throw the hemp business some attention,” says Kimbell. “If you find the right supplier, and you can support them, you can sometimes negotiate better pricing. Getting to know them makes a huge difference. I didn’t know that until I started going out and meeting with people face to face.”
Awake Organics has transferred its printing to a local firm, Rapid Box, and costs didn’t mount with that change either. The brand relies on boxes with Forest Stewardship Council-certified cardboard and biodegradable ink. “I know that, if I need 10,000 boxes in a week, they can do it, and I can easily pick it up,” says Kimbell, who has featured Rapid Box in Awake Organics’ Instagram feed.
Via social media, Kimbell invites Awake Organics’ customers along on her sourcing endeavors even if they take her far from home. She traveled to Crete to search for ingredients for an upcoming natural perfume at herb supplier Botano and chronicled the experience on Instagram Stories. Kimbell didn’t disclose Botano’s name on Instagram because she’s anxious about revealing the source of ingredients with limited stocks, underscoring that transparency carries risks.
Discussing Botano, Kimbell says, “They can only produce so much, and I’m worried that somebody with a bigger budget will swoop in and buy it all out from under me. For sure, it’s a major concern, and I do struggle with that.”
Overall, Kimbell asserts the benefits of transparency outweigh the drawbacks because the market is lunging toward candor. She’s particularly deft at sensing market dynamics. In 2015, Kimbell launched vintage-inspired skincare company Sweet Living Co. in the Canadian city Saskatoon. Following a later relocation to the U.K., she noticed many brands in her adopted country had a retro vibe, but fewer with a hyper-clean reason for being, and the turbo clean philosophy became the foundation for Awake Organics. (Kimball’s mother Cathy Shadbolt is running Sweet Living Co.)
“If you find the right supplier, and you can support them, you can sometimes negotiate better pricing. Getting to know them makes a huge difference. I didn’t know that until I started going out and meeting with people face to face.”
The customers for 18-month-old Awake Organics are slightly different than Kimbell envisioned. She predicted they’d be squarely millennials, but they range primarily from 38- to 44-years-old, ages crossing older millennials to members of gen x. They’re interested in clean beauty products for disease prevention purposes and are often turning to them once they have children. Ensuring brands don’t test on animals is meaningful to them, too, and Awake Organics is certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.
Awake Organics’ bestselling product is Aura Clean Deodorant, a natural deodorant cream priced at 14.99 pounds for a 30-gram jar. Aura Clean is a gateway into the brand. “I felt like, if I wasn’t going not be able to get 30 to 40 pounds on a first sale, I could get between 12 and 15,” says Kimbell. “I thought, ‘What could I make that would be really useful and impress somebody enough to come back and buy more?’ The deodorant has basically been the vehicle for everything else.”
For the year ended this month, Kimbell estimates Awake Organics will generate around 50,000 pounds in revenues. The brand is available on Amazon in the U.K., and it’s responsible for 60% of sales. With the rebrand, Kimbell is confident Awake Organics is ready for retail distribution. Holland & Barrett and chains similar to it are targets. Wherever the brand sells, Kimbell is convinced its supply chain forthrightness will be a draw.
“My customers really want to make the world a better place, and they want to feel really good about spending their money, so that’s where I put my priority, she says. “I want to prove ourselves to them, and I really do think that matters to my customers.”