The trials and tribulations of building a beauty brand

Author: Edie Goldstein Tolchin
Posted: Monday, February 01, 2010

Kerhonkson resident Katharine Phillips L’ Heureux built a unique and groundbreaking business using drive and determination. Not only does the line pride itself on using natural products, but the Kahina-Giving Beauty also has a unique vision for the skin care brand. Based on the idea of “women helping women through shared beauty rituals,” Katharine says they positioned the line as an organic skin care brand that gives back, giving women a deeper kind of beauty. She adds, “We are a luxury brand in that our products are of the highest quality, with natural and organic ingredients and beautifully packaged in recycled and recyclable packaging.”

 

When asked to comment on her ability to thrive and even grow amid the recession, Katharine says she has nothing to compare her sales to, so it is too early to determine whether the economy has negatively or positively affected her yet. She did say, however, that several retailers have cited the difficult economy when evaluating the Kahina line and have postponed the decision until their businesses pick up. Since Kahina is a start up, she feels, “We have been able to operate very lean and can ride out the tough economy. Then we will be well-positioned when the economy improves.”

 

And locally, Larry Ruhl, co-owner of High Falls Mercantile in High Falls, NY (highfallsmercantile.com) says that their customers rely on them to find the most unique and quality products. Ruhl adds, “What Kahina has brought to us is an incredible source of skin care that our clients can’t seem to get enough of! For so many reasons, it is one of the best additions to our store that we’ve ever made.”

When asked about obstacles in starting and developing her business, Katharine shared that starting a business is tough, especially when one is trying to create a new mind set in a competitive space in an economic downturn. For example, it hasn’t always been easy to conduct business in Morocco. In one instance, the oil that was purchased and required for manufacturing wasn’t delivered for an entire year.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing, particularly organic cosmetics, is very complex. There are many components to consider – from creating formulas that work to sourcing and importing organic raw materials and finally to meeting organic standards. Katharine says this has been a huge learning experience. Then there are the challenges of developing and maintaining a brand, and the administrative roadblocks from international shipping to customer relations.

 

Katharine feels that it has been difficult to maintain the balance between work and family. In order to operate an international business, she must do a lot of travel, which can put a strain on the family, especially with three children.  Fortunately, “I have a very supportive husband who helps out a lot both on the business and the family end.”

 

And, speaking of Katharine’s hubby, Jim L’ Heureux said that in the beginning his wife did not know the intricacies of cosmetics manufacturing, packaging development or distribution. She just had a vision to create a great, effective organic line. “She has tackled each one with a level of focus and determination that frankly surprised me,” says Jim. From finding a chemist who would formulate the products that met her expectations to locating a manufacturer who could produce organic skin care products at the quantities the business could afford, Jim says, “Katharine has been on point, usually solo.”

 

Jeff Serouya, co-owner of High Falls Mercantile, agrees with Katherine’s husband. From the packaging, which has an old-world feel, to the charitable giving of the company, Jeff says it all lends to the popularity of the product line. Jim truly believed and expected that at some point she would say, “this is too hard,” but she has not and he knows that she will not.

 

Kahina has plans to introduce three new products in 2010. And for the future, Katharine adds, “I plan to take the concept to other countries where women are in need, hopefully in 2011. There are so many countries that produce great essential oils where underserved women could use assistance.”

 

Edie Goldstein Tolchin, “The Sourcing Lady,”(SM) is the owner of EGT Global Trading in Florida, NY (egtglobaltrading.com), author of Sourcing Smarts: Keeping it Simple with China Sourcing and Manufacturing, and is a licensed US Customs Broker with over 35 years of international trade experience.

 

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