Pantry Products Proves That Clean Beauty Isn’t Only For The 1%
After Bikram yoga classes, Michelle Czarka’s yoga mat was dirty, but she couldn’t find a product that cleaned off the grime without giving her a face full of chemicals while she rested in Child’s Pose. Frustrated, she took to Pinterest, then decided to whip up her own natural formulas. The descendent of women she affectionately calls “crafty,” the kitchen concocting was a natural fit, and her homemade personal care potions took off.
“I had a 780-square-foot home and, in my kitchen, instead of cooking dinner, I cooked up products,” says Czarka, founder of the brand Pantry Products. What began with a yoga mat cleaner quickly expanded into an assortment with a hand salve, bubble bath and body wash. Soon enough, people were asking to purchase products. A thriving Etsy page turned into a booth at the farmers’ market and, eventually, to a shop inside of a local marketplace that bowed in December 2015.
Produced in small batches in Reno, Nev., Pantry Products now boasts 92 stockkeeping units, many from scent or ingredient variations of a single product, and all of them 100% natural. Pantry Products’ merchandise spans the skincare, haircare, household cleaning products and candle categories. One of the brand’s most popular products, Gardener’s Hand Salve, is priced at $16 for a 4-oz. tin. Pantry Products’ offerings retail between $5 and $26.
“Not everybody can afford to go and buy natural [products], and I think that’s kind of a shame, so we try to do [affordable prices] so that anybody at any budget can come in and at least start to incorporate healthy products into their daily routines,” says Czarka.
Another bestselling product is Pack Your Bags Neroli Eye Serum. Formulated with organic aloe gel, rosehip oil, and neroli and lavender essential oils, it’s priced at $16 for a 6-oz. rollerball. Also strong sellers are the Hand + Body Lotion, specifically the lavender vanilla option, and Deodorant. The underarm stench fighter comes in three scents—bergamot lemongrass, cedar lemongrass and ylang ylang lavender—and is priced at $10 for a 3-oz. stick.
“Not everybody can afford to go and buy natural [products], and I think that’s kind of a shame, so we try to do [affordable prices] so that anybody at any budget can come in and at least start to incorporate healthy products into their daily routines.”
“People absolutely love our deodorant, so we have a hard time keeping it on the shelves both in inventory and in our retail operation,” says Czarka. “It’s more like a lotion bar, so it’s very conditioning…the opposite [of] a lot of natural deodorants, [which can] tear your skin apart.”
In 2018, Czarka shares that Pantry Products pulled in about $280,000 in revenue. Its sales have increased steadily at around 10% annually. Of its total turnover, about a quarter stems from online sales. Wholesale orders are responsible for the bulk of business. The brand is available at independent boutiques across the country.
Pantry Products opened a standalone store in 2018. Production takes place in both of the brand’s retail locations, its standalone store and the marketplace store. A team of six full-time employees mixes everything. Czarka can tell who made a batch of products just by looking at the handwriting on the bottles. Currently, the brand hasn’t taken on any investors, but Czarka believes she’ll have to secure external funding to significantly scale her business.
“Right now, I’m completely self-funded,” says Czarka. “I feel pretty fortunate in that, but, as we continue to grow and we try to get into bigger markets and take on co-packers to offset production, then looking for investors is definitely something that I would be looking into.”
“My vision for this is that Pantry becomes a product company, but also a lifestyle company.”
On the docket for next year is identifying a manufacturing partner to help mitigate the costs Pantry Products spends on production and the time it takes to complete its items. “We can’t dial in exactly what our labor costs are because every person works at a different pace,” says Czarka. “So, I’m looking to investigate for 2020. Hopefully, working with a co-packer to bring down some of the costs on that.”
Other next steps include optimizing Pantry Products’ website, which Czarka, who was in web marketing before she stepped into the beauty industry, admits needs greater attention. Product copy could use a brush up. She hopes to build out the site as a destination for wellness content. Czarka’s objective is for it to become a destination to convey what she’s learned and continues to learn about clean living.
“My vision for this is that Pantry becomes a product company, but also a lifestyle company,” says Czarka. “We’re rolling into cleaning products, household living products, but [I] also [want] to provide information and guidance on how to live your best, healthiest life. The goal is that we become a resource for the community.”