Just wanna melt: a textbook approach

When building their brands, smart entrepreneurs know how—and when—to take outside advice.

Misty Rawls always had a hard time finding lotion for her sensitive skin and, over the years, the South Carolina nurse had become increasingly fussy about additives; lotions and makeup often caused redness or rashes.

As she recovered from back surgery in 2008, she faced the possibility that she might not be able to return to her 30-year profession and found herself focusing on a soothing solution to her skin issues. The result is Just Wanna Melt, a small line of award-winning personal products that can be found regionally in Whole Foods, among other resellers.

Once she created her fledgling brand, she teamed with a group of business school students who helped her refine it. By developing a strong image of luxury and sustainability, she has attracted widespread attention and built a thriving business.

She accomplished this with a methodical, strategic approach.

Start with a Great Product

Rawls was committed to creating a lotion without additives, fragrance, dyes, or preservatives, so she began experimenting with beeswax and other materials. The result was a solid lotion, gentle on both skin and the environment. She then turned her kitchen into a workshop, handcrafting each item from plant-based ingredients.

Know Your Customer

Satisfied with her product, Rawls began selling her lotion at farmers’ markets. This one-on-one interaction gave her the flexibility to talk about customer needs and even send mothers home with samples to test on their children’s sensitive skin. The instant feedback led to new products, including a shower scrub bar and a petite version perfect for kids.

Get the Help You Need

Finding good partners has been an important ingredient in Rawls’s business success. She met some University of South Carolina business school students at the campus farmers’ market, and they asked her if they could help her develop her business and brand as a class project.

This “board of advisors” evaluated every aspect of her business. They helped her:

  • Develop a brand “look” that was rustic but still upscale, making it appropriate on a variety of store shelves
  • Form her limited liability company (LLC)
  • Determine a more reasonable price point based on her materials costs, production time, and competitive research
  • Work with the university’s chemistry department to determine the shelf-life of each product and stay compliant with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines

As Just Wanna Melt began taking off, Rawls realized she needed more help. After checking out the services available at her local The UPS Store®, she now relies on its staff to help with everything from packing and shipping to flyers and signage.

Rawls credits her local store with going above and beyond in helping her, adding that many times The UPS Store prices have helped her save money over local printers.

Be True to Your Brand

As Rawls and the students began developing packaging, they were committed to using only recycled, biodegradable, compostable, and environmentally-friendly packaging. This has sometimes been a challenge—customers have asked for lip balm in tubes so they don’t have to apply it with their fingers. However, she refuses to package her product in plastic; it simply doesn’t fit with her brand’s commitment to sustainability.

Get the Word out and Be Ready for Growth

Rawls’ steadfast commitment to her brand has paid off. With an e-commerce site, Facebook presence, and word of mouth, her products are now featured in roughly 30 boutiques. A buyer from Whole Foods found her in one of these shops, and after a brief meeting, the buyer committed to carrying her products in local stores.

Her products have also been recognized with awards and honors, including Just Wanna Melt’s selection to represent the South Carolina Small Business Development Center at their biannual meeting, showcasing it to local, state, and federal officials.

The awards and recognition are nice, but Rawls remains focused on how she can manage product and market growth and remain true to her brand. She’s currently looking at manufacturing partners, but they have to be committed to sustainability, she says.