We are here with Sandra Richey, the beauty and brains behind dolce botanica, a skincare line based in the Bay Area, California. I hope you enjoy this interview.
First of all, what is dolce botanica?
dolce botanica is a natural plant-based body and skincare line. We create products that cleanse and moisturize the face and body.
Why did you choose the name “dolce botanica” – – – this connotes an Italian touch. Why not simply call it “Sweet Botanical”?
dolce botanica is for sweet botanicals – it came to mind when I was thinking about being good to one’s skin with plants -“be sweet to your skin,” sweet as in being kind to it, being good to, and things like these. Good plant nutrition. I believe in the power of plants for all things for oneself. I personally found the name very appealing. It embodies everything that defines for me how one’s skin should be treated – – – naturally with plant-based ingredients, whole nutrition for your skin.
Why did you start this type of business?
Since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with botanicals. I am mesmerized by their intricate structure, their fragrance, their beauty and the powerhouse ingredients they contain. Growing up, my Mom had a beautiful garden with flowers, herbs and vegetables. Together, she and I would take care of the garden. I loved harvest time as it was so fascinating to watch the process from seedling to maturity and to be a part of this experience. She taught me the names of all the plants, flowers, and their various uses. We would make tea with dried herbs from our garden…fond memories of my early years.
I used to make my own rose perfume from petals which I would secretly pull from my Mom’s garden. I would take only a few so she wouldn’t suspect, saturate them in olive oil and keep them in a jar in my room. When the jar smelled of roses, I would make little perfume gifts for my friends and pass them out in elementary school. It was a way to feel grown up and smell pretty as my Mom didn’t allow me to wear her perfumes. Of course, my school friends loved dabbing the rose perfume behind their ears and enjoying the fragrance. What little girl didn’t love perfume and having this lovely scent linger around her all day? I think as young girls we all like to feel grown up at times. Perfume creates a mood for us all and captures moments throughout our lifetime.
My experimentation with flowers continued with perfumes and eventually led to using plants in formulating creams and salves. Along the way, I discovered what irritated and what soothed my skin. I went through a lot of itchy arms and rashes before realizing which plants are healthy for your skin. In high school, we lived in a town where the summers were insufferable, and I would swim daily and as often as I could to stay cool. I realized soon that chlorine and sun made my skin and my hair feel dry and irritated.
“Growing up, my Mom had a beautiful garden with flowers, herbs and vegetables.”
My Mom kept aloe plants and I knew their medicinal benefits for the skin and would make my own healing spray with the aloe juice I would scrape out of the leaves, with almond oil and Vitamin E. I would spray it head to toe…and found it very soothing and moisturizing. I was always experimenting, always intrigued by what I could find around the garden and the house to create solutions for my skin. I rarely had a blemish throughout high school, my face was always clear, and I attribute this to my natural skincare regimen – and, of course, by staying hydrated with water.
When my daughter was in her early toddler years, she developed eczema on the backs of her knees. The pediatrician gave her an ointment that would have to be applied during her many flare-ups. The ointment worked but would leave dry patches behind. When the ointment ran out, I didn’t renew her prescription and opted, instead, to try my own home remedy with Shea butter. It worked very well and her eczema healed up minus the dried-up patch of skin. Her flare-ups also happened less frequently and before entering school, had not resurfaced. I use the exact same formula in the body cream that I sell today.
What motivated you to create the dolce botanica skincare line?
I was often wary about what I put onto my skin, especially more so once having children. I didn’t want to alter their precious skin with harsh chemicals, so I went the natural organic route not only with skin ingredients, but also with our diet. I feel what you put into your body is just as important as what you put on your body. I believe that these two disciplines provide a natural balance, and so why alter them, right? If anything, they should be enhanced. It was a steady push in this direction, motivated by my becoming a mother, seeing results, having a natural love for botanicals and an appreciation for their natural power that encouraged me to create my own skincare line.
Friends were also a motivating factor as they kept coming back for more samples which turned into them asking to purchase my lotions, soaps, and creams. Then they were giving my jars out to their friends, family, etc. and soon I had a community of customers asking for more. This gave me the confidence and boost to package and offer my products to the public.
Why did you choose skincare products as opposed to cosmetics or something related?
I used to love watching my Mom put make-up on her face in the morning and watch her process of removing it every evening. I would often sit with her while she got ready in the mornings and was curious about the products she was using. She would open up multiple jars and bottles saying, “this is for under your eyes, this is for your neck, this is for your face, feet,” etc. All the products, their labels, and their daily requirements were fascinating to my young self. I was only given body soap to wash my entire self with and a jar of Nivea as my moisturizer. I didn’t get to experience the luxury of the multiple jars and bottles at her disposal.
To me, my Mother was the epitome of beauty and I admired her dedication to loving her skin and working hard to fight the aging process. I also became skeptical and thought beauty should be natural and should not be such a hard battle to fight to feel that you look beautiful. Along with product applications, one needs to have a clean and stress-free mind, hydrate with water, eat a healthy diet, and move your body so that your entire self is working in harmony with itself and that which surrounds you.
Since I was not allowed to use her skincare products, I decided to emulate her by making my own. My love for skincare was born out of my experiences with my mother and my determination to not be left out of the beauty regimen experience. I had to find out what was so fabulous about all those lotions and potions without which she could not live. I also wanted to find simplicity, and that’s where my experimentation with botanical skincare began.
“I’m not pushy. I let the products speak for themselves.”
It’s much more complex to understand how to delineate the simple out of something as intricate as the cell structure of a plant. How does this perfect specimen relate to our cell structure, so that by combining the two via a skincare product, the natural plant properties will harmonize with our cellular structure? Everyone’s skin is different – not every plant is favorable to everyone. Lots of research and trial and error went in to define the plants that were more universally structured to compliment all skin types. Common ground was necessary in order to create a comprehensive skincare/bodycare line.
I understand that your daughter Lauren helps you with the business. Can you tell me more about that?
Lauren illustrates the label designs. I conceptualize them and she interprets my vision and brings them to life. She is also the bath bombe creator and designer.
Other than your daughter, is there someone else who helps you run dolce botanica?
Did you have any business background before starting up?
What were the major challenges that you faced in the process of starting up your business?
Figuring out what scents customers will like, what types of products to carry, and what would universally appeal to everyone.
Are you a member of any entrepreneurs’ union or any other networking organization for business people? How do you advertise or market your products?
I do not belong to any organization. I have my own website. I plug my business on social medial such as Instagram, Facebook, and recently, Twitter.
Which characteristics do you possess that you consider to have contributed to your business success?
I have been obsessed with skincare since I was a small child. I love taking good care of my skin and my skin looks good so this is a plus at selling. If my skin didn’t look good, I would have a hard time convincing others to try my products. I am determined to succeed. I do not give up or give in. I listen, learn, research, and test my products out on my human volunteers to see what works and what does not. I’m not pushy. I let the products speak for themselves.
Who are you major customers and competitors?
My products are sold in retail shops and spas in Northern California. Women make up the majority of my customer base. I also have male customers who enjoy using the “Sea Grass” line as this is more of a neutral scent. I will hear from my retailers that men will come in and buy my lotions and soaps for their wives and girlfriends. I love hearing this as it sounds so romantic and I’m an old romantic at heart. It’s nice to hear that people think enough of my products to purchase them as gifts as with every gift someone is sending a bit of love to someone else that’s dear to them. This is very dolce 🙂
How is the industry today and its market trends?
The industry is leaning towards small batch, handmade skincare brands. People have become more educated and are concerned about what they use on their skin.
What are your future plans in relation to this business?To continue to grow, and to have our products on the shelves of many more stores.
What are dolce botanica’s strengths competitive advantages in terms of fairing in the market?
Our products are all natural and I feel this is a strong selling point. We offer a variety of scents and products. My aim is to fill a woman’s bathroom shelf with dolce botanica skincare products for use from her head to her toe. When I fall in love with a brand, I want to try everything that they make. I hope people feel the same about dolce botanica. This is my wish.
“Since I was a little girl, I have been
fascinated with botanicals.”
How did you learn to mix the ingredients to come up with a desired fragrance? How do you know if a certain ingredient will go well with other ingredients?
A lot of research, time, and experimentation with different oils and plants to combine whole ingredients that are beneficial to everyone’s skin. I would test them on myself, family and friends to see how their skin felt, how the scents combined to their liking and I would gather these results into conceptualizing my formulations.
How do you assign the names of each product?
I try to choose names that represent the beauty of the scent within. I could’ve easily named my scents with logical names such as lemon, orange, or rose, but you can find that on products everywhere you look. I wanted mine to be distinguishable. Instead of calling one of my scents lemon and Jasmine, I thought calling it “Gigi” had more of a beautiful tone to it. It’s one of my best sellers and now has become an identified scent. No one asks for the lemon and Jasmine, they ask for the “Gigi” soap. This, of course, is music to my ears and makes me very happy.
What strikes my curiosity more than anything is how do you decide on which ingredients to put together to come up with a desired or a targeted scent?
I experiment with different fragrance families and see which scents I can create from essential oils. It often takes a lot of time and materials to create the right scent that customers will enjoy. When I find one that I like and it’s well received, this is a very satisfying feeling.
What is your favorite fragrance family?
I love citrus – it’s fresh, exciting and makes me feel the most creative.
What is your favorite fragrance ingredient to work with?
I love Ylang-Ylang. It’s my favorite essential. I love its depth and the soothing beautiful bouquet it creates in products.
What fragrance note would you like to include in your future products?
I would like to incorporate green and woodsy notes as I’ve been experimenting on oils to scent men’s products.
Are there any scents that remind of your youth?
Roses! Roses! Roses!
What is your favorite dolce botanica scent and/or product?
I love “Roman Beauty” – it just captures my favorite mood – inspired. It’s hard to pick one product here as I love layering this scent. From scrub to lotion to touching my wrist points with the body perfume, I just love the lingering romantic and fresh scent that each product reveals.
Wow, I can actually smell the dolce botanica fragrances as we speak! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Sandra. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I have a final question for you:
Where do you see yourself in the future and of course we would like to know where we can buy your lovely fragrances?
I see myself continuing to grow my business, approach more retailers, and expand into new markets. Currently, my products are available on our website, http://www.dolcebotanica.com, Etsy, and local retailers as well as at two spas located in Northern California.
dolce botanica / / Sandra@dolcebotanica.com
Dolce Botanica products available on Etsy: