Little Brand Kenna Nicole Achieves Big Goals With Launches At Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods And Mills
Kenna Nicole has always acted like a formidable beauty player and, now, it’s becoming one.
The natural brand’s Green Hemp Face + Skin Oil has landed at Urban Outfitters, and its other products, including Thyme Balm for Lips, Skin + Cuticles, Patchwood Soy + Beeswax Candle and Torch Essential Oil Blend, have entered Mills Pharmacy + Apothecary and select Whole Foods locations in its home state of Michigan. In total, Kenna Nicole has rolled out to 50 grocers, clothing boutiques, salons, pharmacies and gift stores.
“My idea was to make something that was really branded well, that was solid and consistent, and not your typical DIY brand,” says Nicole Baragwanath, who began developing Kenna Nicole eight years ago before launching it three years ago, and named it for her and her niece’s given names. “When I created it, I knew I had to have UPC codes, beautifully-tinted tins in bulk, a trademark and labeling down to a tee. We have been doing business as a big company because we wanted to be ready for it when it happened.”
Kenna Nicole isn’t a big company yet. Baragwanath divulges it generated $600 in sales during its launch year, $12,000 its second year, $24,000 last year and is on pace to more than double last year’s amount this year. She supports herself and the business by working full-time as a senior producer and post-production manager at a media company in Detroit.
An instinctive networker, Baragwanath tapped her rolodex to grow Kenna Nicole’s retail footprint. “I happen to know a lot of business owners. I would reach out to my friends, tell them about what we do, and they’d be like, ‘Great, we like what you are doing, and we will put you in our store,’” she recounts. “After about a year, people started to reach out to us. I still reach out to places, but, a lot of times, we get an email saying, ‘We tried your product. We really love it and want to put it in our shop.’”
“When I created it, I knew I had to have UPC codes, beautifully-tinted tins in bulk, a trademark and labeling down to a tee. We have been doing business as a big company because we wanted to be ready for it when it happened.”
Kenna Nicole’s unisex packaging, which Baragwanath purposely devised with the help of designer Courtney Bugram not to resemble the packaging of most brands sold at farmers’ markets, has been a huge factor in its spread. It features an elegant thyme sprig in a logo that’s intended to be classic, complete rundowns of ingredients and deep brown glass containers housing the formulas with the exception of the orange-and-white tin-encased balm.
“I didn’t want to have outer packaging because it’s wasteful, and I found out that a lot of people do outer packaging so they don’t have to put the ingredients on the product itself,” says Baragwanath. “I want people to be reminded of what it’s in the product, so they know what they are putting on their face and lips. I like the idea of people having knowledge and being educated about what they are using.”
Kenna Nicole’s debut item was its balm, an all-purpose product made from olive oil, unrefined beeswax, illipe butter, grape seed oil, thyme essential oil and lemon. Baragwanath turned to the balm following an initial attempt to produce makeup at private-label manufacturing facilities and being disappointed by the outcome. The balm was simple enough that she could whip it up on her own, and she ended up adoring its invigorating and soothing benefits.
“The whole perspective of what we wanted to do changed. We don’t want to have 10 different scents or colors for each product. We want something that we have tried and tested so many times that there becomes one product you can use many different ways,” says Baragwanath. “We have one face oil and one candle.”
“I didn’t want to have outer packaging because it’s wasteful, and I found out that a lot of people do outer packaging so they don’t have to put the ingredients on the product itself. I want people to be reminded of what it’s in the product, so they know what they are putting on their face and lips.”
The Green Hemp Face + Skin Oil was conceptualized prior to CBD’s rise as a popular ingredient and doesn’t have CBD. Baragwanath and her business partner Stefanie Carlson, the formulation whiz in the duo, were looking for alternatives to coconut oil for a face product and stumbled upon hemp seed oil. Coconut oil led to them suffering from clogged pores, but the hemp seed oil didn’t clog pores and was an effective hydrator.
“I use it with makeup remover, and I also mix it with my lotion. I use it every morning and night before I go to bed. It really moisturizes the skin, and it helps with acne,” says Baragwanath of Green Hemp Face + Skin Oil. “We have a lot of customers shopping at high-end department stores, and they’ll mix the hemp oil with their expensive lotions. They really seem to be loving it, and I was surprised by that.”
Next up for Kenna Nicole’s product range is a roll-on essential oil blend called Dusk. It will be a spicy, sexy complement to Torch’s light woodsy scent. Out of the existing assortment priced from $8 to $28, the balm is the bestseller, but the rest of the products aren’t far behind. “I don’t have a whole lot of customers using all four products. There are people who love the candles, and people who love the balms,” says Baragwanath. “They find their favorite and stick with it.”
In the short term, Kenna Nicole’s continued national retail expansion is Baragwanath’s goal, but her long-term vision is to open a headquarters with a greenhouse. “We would like to be involved in the community. We would like to give back,” she says. “We are very passionate about the Great Lakes and the environment. We try not to talk about politics, but it’s prevalent. For us, the priority is the earth.”