A natural entrepreneur
Jennifer Carlson is applying her entrepreneurship skillset once more.
The SAIT graduate and co-founder of Baby Gourmet - an organic baby food company — has been inspired by her children yet again — taking on a new challenge in the skincare industry.
"I've spent my career building Baby Gourmet, but we grow up from baby food," Carlson says. "It's not only important what goes in your body, but what goes on it."
Carlson's business has grown alongside her family. Now the parent of a teen and a pre-teen, she's turned her focus from food to faces following her daughter's fateful trip to find a cleanser.
After scouring the aisles for suitable skincare products for her oily, sensitive skin, Carlson's daughter noted the options available appeared more akin to hand sanitizer than facial cleansers.
With this, Carlson recognized the need for skin cleansing products for today's youth -free of harsh chemicals and toxins with packaging that spoke to their generation. Thirsty Naturals was born.
"She was right — the packaging and branding was so sterile and unappealing. How could I expect her to be excited to use this every day?" Carlson says.
Designed to quench the thirst for natural products, Carlson's new business venture stays true to her goal of providing parents with healthy alternatives for their kids.
"I wanted to help my kids develop a healthy, daily routine for skin care," Carlson says. "This would be difficult if you had to rely on giving harsh products to them or products that were made for and marketed to adults."
Taking on the teens
In addition to financial backing, any startup requires hours of research and hands-on work for development. Carlson says the skincare industry is a competitive marketplace, requiring business owners to find their unique value proposition quickly.
"We offer something different because we really target teens. There isn't a brand that currently owns this space or caters to their needs," Carlson says. "We're narrowing in on a niche market, which is our best approach."
Carlson's board of advisors is unique to most, as it's made up of her children and their friends. Advising on the formulas, branding and product development, Thirsty Naturals captures the teen voice.
"It's clear to me what I'm inspired by, and I get a lot out of my kids," Carlson says. "My businesses have grown with my family, and their involvement lets me educate them in a roundabout way."
Nurture your knowledge
Carlson has come full circle at SAIT — named the Chair of Innovation and New Venture in the School of Business, she offers her words of wisdom to SAIT students and alumni looking to make their mark. Her top piece of advice? Do your homework.
"What I mean is to really understand your market. Validate your idea and investigate what's required before jumping in," Carlson says.
While certain elements can be missed without proper research, Carlson credits her success to perseverance. Staying true to her vision has allowed her to have freedom in life, creativity and in expression, she says.
"The ability to be a leader and lay out your own destiny is rewarding. You get to keep it in your hands."
Thirsty Naturals is available online throughout North America and will be in stores nationwide in early 2019.