Noto Botanics Set To Stretch Into Retail As Its Sales Soar At Wholesale
“I’ve never been satisfied with doing one thing, to my detriment sometimes, but it’s also something I’m proud of,” says Gloria Noto, makeup artist and founder of Noto Botanics. “I want to make things that I’m inspired by.”
Today, Noto is inspired by the idea of a brick-and-mortar manifestation of her natural, gender-inclusive namesake brand. It’s expected to open a location on the Eastside of Los Angeles next year to complement its wholesale distribution network of around 115 retailers, including Free People, Revolve, Need Supply, CAP Beauty and The Detox Market.
“I feel like the product is so beautiful and the concepts we have are so unique and interesting that I want a space to bring that to life in a physical way and bring experiential discovery to our customers and a place to build a community,” says Noto. “I live in LA and love the communities that I’m part of, and it would be really cool to have a store in the neighborhoods I’ve grown up in over the last 10 years. I hang out in Echo Park, Silver Lake and the Arts District.”
Although it’s several months from completion, she has a strong vision for what will go in Noto Botanics’ flagship. There will likely be an on-site manufacturing component at the rear of its footprint, and an element of product customization for bath and drinking teas. In addition, Noto Botanics will develop signature facials to offer skin services at the store. Makeup application will be incorporated, too.
Noto is drawn to retailers that are elevated and carefully curate merchandise, but still maintain an accessible atmosphere. At Noto Botanics’ outset three years ago, she sought a presence in the stores and e-tailers she shopped at. Of A Kind placed one of the big initial orders, and retailers like Mohawk General Store, Otherwild and Individual Medley promptly picked up the brand. Going forward, rather than aggressively target large chains, Noto Botanics aims to expand its wholesale distribution abroad in the sorts of shops that have been its domestic retail sweet spots.
“I want to feel connected to where we are sold. A huge reason why I started the brand is building community, and building community with our wholesalers is just as important,” says Noto, continuing, “I have mixed feeling about bigger department stores. One part of me is like, ‘Great, you can get your product out there and have it more visible to a larger demographic,’ but those stores take away smaller shop dollars, the shops that are run by people and not corporations. There’s something beautiful in supporting the smaller shop ecosystem.”
“I feel like the product is so beautiful and the concepts we have are so unique and interesting that I want a space to bring that to life in a physical way and bring experiential discovery to our customers and a place to build a community.”
At stores and on its website, Noto Botanics’ bestsellers are Deep Serum, Hydra Highlighter and Multi-Benne Stain. Noto Botanics specializes in multipurpose products bridging beauty categories that are hardly the priciest in the clean beauty segment. There are various sizes to provide lower-price options. For example, the Multi-Benne Stain comes in a pot at $26.50 and a stick at $18.50. Across some 10 products, prices range from $18.50 to $55.50.
“When I decided on the price points, I had to ask myself, ‘What do I need to mark it up to make sure the costs are covered? Then, where does the profit lie, and how much profit do I need?” says Noto. “Yes, as a company, I want to make money and, as a company, we are making money, but it doesn’t need to come with greed.”
Noto’s mind is teeming with product possibilities for her brand. A new Multi-Benne Stain color is probably the item that will be out the soonest, and it’s slated for a spring release. On top of that, she’s producing scents that can be used on the body or for the home. A facial mask and conditioner wash are on the docket as well.
“[Brands] usually stick to color or they stick to skin or hair. I decided to do the well-rounded aspect because I wanted to be almost a modern, minimalist one-stop shop to have everything people would need,” says Noto. “Also, there’s something special when you create products based off of your own personal need. Really, at the end of the day, I made all of the products for my own personal needs. I just wanted to have everything available for myself.”
“When I decided on the price points, I had to ask myself, ‘What do I need to mark it up to make sure the costs are covered? Then, where does the profit lie, and how much profit do I need? Yes, as a company, I want to make money and, as a company, we are making money, but it doesn’t need to come with greed.”
Noto Botanics’ revenues have roughly tripled in the past year. At least partially, Noto attributes the uptick to her hire of Cici Shepard as director of sales and operations, and dedicating more of her time to the brand. Currently, she spends 20% of her time on makeup artistry, and the rest on the brand. In 2019, Noto’s goal is to build the brand’s team to support its expansion. External investment isn’t in the cards at the moment.
“I’m just too much of a control freak at this point. I want to really develop my brand before I bring on any outside voices. If I had to answer to anyone else based on money, I think I would quit altogether,” says Noto. “I’m not there yet, not to say I will never be there.”
About a decade ago, Noto left Detroit to pursue makeup artistry in LA. She was in art school to become a conceptual furniture designer, but exposure to Kevyn Aucoin’s work compelled her to change course. Professionally, she’s not put herself in a makeup artistry silo, and has paired makeup artistry with explorations of painting, poetry and publishing at art magazine The Work Mag. Four years ago, Noto’s sister battled cancer, and she started to question her path. She took off for Thailand to study Muay Thai and ruminate for a month. There, the concept for Noto Botanics was born.
The brand’s stark black-and-white packaging made a splash on the clean beauty scene as pared-backed aesthetics were gaining steam. Noto points to Jil Sanders, Helmut Lang and CK One as design muses for the brand. She says, “I wanted the product to speak for itself and the label not take you away from looking at how beautiful the color of the oil was.”
As for Noto Botanics’ future plans, Noto tries not to get ahead of herself. She says, “I feel like the goals can change a lot. I’m more interested in what we are doing right now, really nailing down our systems, growing the team and developing what we have.”