Meet The Chic Black-Owned Natural Skincare Brand That Just Launched At Urban Outfitters
Being basic often gets a bad rap, but, when it comes to skincare, Nia Baucke has realized the basics are exactly what her skin needs.
It took her a while to reach that realization, though. Throughout high school and college, Baucke followed the skincare advice she read in magazines to combat acne and hyperpigmentation. The result? She says her skin became simultaneously overly oily and irritated from piling on acids and oil-free products. “I wanted to do what was cool and on-trend,” admits Baucke.
In 2017, during a trip back home to Michigan, where she grew up with her grandmother, she became entranced with her grandmother’s and mother’s holistic approach to skincare. They relied on soothing oils and butters, not harsh or flashy skincare ingredients, to care for their skin. Something clicked for Baucke. She decided to set aside her trendy products and try time-tested natural skincare remedies that had been effective for her forebearers.
The change was monumental. The gentle skincare quickly cleared up the issues Baucke previously dealt with. She says, “In fact, I didn’t have oily skin. It just had become so dehydrated.”
The transformative experience motivated Baucke to develop Cypress Beauty, a business centered on teaching people how to concoct natural skincare products. She held workshops on making DIY masks and facial oils.
After cultivating a strong local following in and around Cincinnati, Baucke’s students encouraged her to create products for sale. In December 2019, she rebranded Cypress Beauty to Flora Lee Naturals, which is named for her late grandmother Flora Lee and inspired by her vegetable and fruit garden.
“We are really inclusive and attract people focused on a healthy skincare journey instead of perfect skin.”
Flora Lee Naturals has an assortment of six products priced from $15 to $30: Balanced Days Facial Oil, Balancing Toner, Bright Eyes Oil Serum, Chill (Skin) Days Facial Cryo Roller, Instant Glow Cleanser & Mask and Gardener’s Beauty Oil. The ingredients aren’t cryptically scientific. They are regular staples of food and herbal medicines. For example, Gardener’s Beauty Oil features grapeseed, hazelnut, jojoba, blackberry seed and cucumber seed oils.
The brand is aimed at millennial women familiar with skincare who understand the value of natural ingredients. Similar to Baucke, many of Flora Lee Naturals’ customers have experimented with skincare fads and are now steering away from them. As Baucke puts them behind her, she’s dedicated to promoting skin education and positivity.
“There is such a big focus on clear skin, perfect skin and glass skin,” she says. “We are really inclusive and attract people focused on a healthy skincare journey instead of perfect skin.”
Although the entrepreneur is operating the business part-time as she works in marketing at a consultancy, Baucke just placed Flora Lee Naturals at its first national retailer, Urban Outfitters. The lifestyle chain is currently selling three of the brand’s top products: Gardener’s Beauty Oil, Instant Glow Cleanser & Mask and Balancing Toner. Baucke credits Flora Lee Naturals’ intentional social media imagery and vibrant packaging with the brand landing an Urban Outfitters partnership.
“I made sure to come up with a plan to make sure the business was paying for itself so we could reinvest monthly without recurring debt.”
“When I envisioned Flora Lee, I wanted it to be inclusive, bright, colorful, inviting,” she says. “When I thought of large brands that align with that, Urban Outfitters came to mind.”
At the moment, Baucke isn’t rushing to expand Flora Lee Naturals into a bunch more retailers. Her hope is for Urban Outfitters to consistently reorder and for the brand to gain traction online. “I would really love to continue to grow our direct-to-consumer business,” she says. “When you have a strong customer base that really believes in your brand, they become more willing to go to the national retailers to shop.”
By manufacturing Flora Lee Naturals at her home studio, Baucke says she was able to cut down on upfront costs. “We did everything shoestring,” she shares. “I haven’t taken out a business loan or borrowed any money. We have been resourceful and part of that is because we were able to do so much in-house.”
Baucke estimates she’s spent less than $5,000 on Flora Lee Naturals since its rebranding, with the majority of the money going toward ingredients and packaging. “I made sure to come up with a plan to make sure the business was paying for itself so we could reinvest monthly without recurring debt,” says Baucke. Her plan has been fruitful so far. In 2020, Flora Lee Naturals’ revenues climbed 600%. Nearly a third of its sales came directly from Instagram, even though the brand didn’t run any ads on the social media platform.
With her sights set on careful growth, Baucke is eager to hire an employee to manage daily orders. “It’s not as cool as bringing someone on for marketing or design, but just having another pair of hands there to help with fulfilling products and orders is incredibly important,” she says. The founder is also concentrating on getting people to understand that natural skincare doesn’t have to break the bank. She emphasizes, “It doesn’t need to be this exclusive fancy thing. It’s really for anyone and everyone.”