Natural Skincare Brand CLN&DRTY, Which Takes A Steady Approach To Growth, Wins Small Business Prize
CLN&DRTY has gone from a down-and-dirty DIY project to an up-and-coming indie beauty brand.
Started two years ago with homemade natural sunscreens resulting from Paula Hoss’s teething daughter gumming her SPF-slathered shoulder and causing her to panic over ingredients, CLN&DRTY quickly pivoted to facial products after the now mom of two realized her amateur sun protectants didn’t meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory standards. The pivot led to the brand’s current wide-ranging assortment of 83 items, including bestsellers Luxury Anti-Aging Oil, Luxury Facial Toner and Balancing Toner, that’s attracted devoted customers and put CLN&DRTY on the path to break into the six figures in revenues this year.
“Rather than throwing stuff out there, we ask our community what they want and formulate based on that. We have had slow, calculated growth,” says Hoss, noting CLN&DRTY’s sales rose 33% last year over the prior year. “Something that I’m really proud of is that we’ve never had any business debt. The brand is 100% owned by me, and I’ve always cut myself a paycheck. We’ve grown out of our own pocket by listening to our customers.”
Recently, that pocket became fuller when CLN&DRTY received a $10,000 grant from Rockland Trust by winning the community bank’s Small Business, Big Dreams contest. The brand is investing the money in updating its production facility, supporting Hoss’s professional development, paying employees and building inventory. According to Hoss, Rockland Trust CEO Christopher Oddleifson projected CLN&DRTY would generate at least $1 million in sales in two years, although she’s content crossing that milestone a bit further into the future.
“Something that I’m really proud of is that we’ve never had any business debt. The brand is 100% owned by me, and I’ve always cut myself a paycheck. We’ve grown out of our own pocket by listening to our customers.”
Hoss says bringing on employees beginning a year ago has been one of the most impactful changes to CLN&DRTY. Assistants Megan Tamasanis and Krystiana Watts, marketing specialist Teresa Compton, photographer Bethany Bourgoin, and lead assistant Niamh O’Connell are on the brand’s team. “I was spending half my day bubble wrapping products, and that’s not something I necessarily need to do, and it’s been really inspiring to watch them grow and have ideas,” says Hoss. “If they stay with me, that’s amazing, but also it would be great to see them be entrepreneurs themselves.”
Hoss has discovered CLN&DRTY customers are interested in her entrepreneurial journey. A video she uploaded last year documenting her decision to leave a comfortable job at Lululemon to work full-time on the brand has been viewed thousands and thousands of times. “There’s no safety net. There’s nothing on my side to fall back on,” she revealed in the video. Hoss has been open about personal struggles, too, and shares experiences with alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence. She says, “I show people, ‘This is where I was 10 years ago, and here I am today. If I can do it, trust me you can do it.’”
Hoss’s honesty resonates with CLN&DRTY’s core demographic of 30- to 40-year-old busy moms. She says they like to support quality brands and are agnostic about where they’re shopping from. They’re just as inclined to take a shopping trip to CVS as they are to Sephora. For most of them, CLN&DRTY’s mid-tier pricing – its products largely run from $16 to $54 – isn’t too much of a reach. Hoss explains, “We wanted to land on a price that made an affluent buyer feel like they were getting something of value and made a middle-class buyer feel like they were getting themselves a treat that wasn’t inaccessible.”
“We wanted to land on a price that made an affluent buyer feel like they were getting something of value and made a middle-class buyer feel like they were getting themselves a treat that wasn’t inaccessible.”
CLN&DRTY is available on Etsy, and 90% of its sales are through e-commerce. The remaining 10% of sales are from hosting pop-ups, and wholesaling to small stores and fitness studios. On its website, the brand has transitioned to free shipping on all orders from free shipping on orders $50 and above. To swing free shipping, it’s bumped up prices $1 or $2 here and there on products. Hoss hasn’t detected resistance to the incremental price hikes.
“When they [customers] are buying $50 of products, no matter what, it’s costing me between $7 and $12 to ship. Under $50, it’s only costing me $3 to $4 to ship. It made sense from a logical perspective to do free shipping under $50, but, from a marketing perspective, it didn’t make any sense,” details Hoss. “Free shipping over $50 did push people to buy $50 of products, but, now that we do free shipping altogether, I have seen the volume of orders increase with my regular customers purchasing on a more regular basis.”
Hoss plans to keep CLN&DRTY on Etsy and add to its wholesale network little by little. She’s not chasing big chains. “I’m OK with increasing our wholesale partners by one or two a month. Maybe we will be in Target in two to three years, but it’s not something I’m putting my money into right now because, with that growth, comes a lot of challenges,” says Hoss. “It’s been slow and steady for us, and I’m completely OK with that.”