Business Rx: Should she try to broaden market, or focus on the market that's already there?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The business world can be a battlefield. How can you get combat ready to win?

The Entrepreneur:

Sara Damelio became intrigued with natural beauty products about 10 years ago. At the time, she worked part time at a luxury beauty boutique, but found that the synthetic ingredients in skin care products she brought home irritated her skin. She decided to go into the beauty business full time and went to school to become an esthetician. She also started experimenting with her own products, eventually mixing up a batch of natural, organic skin cream that proved a cure-all for combating everything from dry skin and bug bites to eczema. She called her cream Skincando Combat-Ready Balm and began selling it to rave reviews from customers. In 2005, her skin cream made its way to a soldier serving in Iraq, who found it incredibly effective for treating sunburn, dry skin and sand-flea bites in the harsh desert environment. Damelio started donating care packages of her products (which also include lip balm and soap) to troops, who couldn't get enough of it. In 2008, she launched a nonprofit for customers to purchase and donate her products, which she sends to deployed military personnel free of charge. Her small company has achieved success so far and attracted publicity for the work with the troops, but Damelio wants to catapult her brand to the next level.

The Pitch:


"Combat-Ready Balm is an organic/green product with a great story and eye-catching packaging. It has been used by soldiers in war, and now it is here to help you with life's everyday skin battles. I hope to continue expanding Skincando to continue the initial mission -- creating quality, organic and locally-produced products that I believe in."

Right now, Damelio is making small batches of her products by hand in her Silver Spring office. Skincando products are available on the company's Web site and at about 50 boutiques nationwide. Damelio is ready to scale up. She's moving out of the kitchen and turning over the production of her skin care line to focus on selling it and expanding her market.


"How do you shift from being a successful small, women-owned business to a national/international success? How do you get more exposure and distribution on a large scale?"

The Feedback:

Asher Epstein, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business

"My advice: Embrace 'Combat-Ready' in a much stronger and more focused way. Brand authenticity in today's marketplace is irreplaceable, and the fact that this is tested in combat and you're supplying and helping people donate to the troops really resonates. Market Combat-Ready Balm as the one product that a soldier can't do without. And play to consumers with emotional appeal. Tell your story on your packaging and highlight that your product is all-natural and organic. Personalize it to the military.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company