Within a span of seven years, she went from selling her products at her local flea market to selling it to Unilever in a nine-figure deal. On this episode of the Reboot Chronicles, I spoke with Jamie Schmidt, the founder and former CEO of Schmidt’s Naturals, to learn more about how her products went from humble beginnings, to being sought after by all the major CPGs, to now being on the shelves of 30,000 retailers in over 30 countries.
Making Natural Products Mainstream
When natural products first showed up on retailers’ shelves, there was much to be desired. For example, natural deodorants offered by conglomerates like P&G didn’t really work and their smell was a turnoff to consumers. Inspired by her fellow creators in Portland, Oregon, Jamie sought out to solve this problem herself. She started researching different ingredients and how they interact with the body’s chemistry, eventually cracking the code to create something that worked and that people were excited to use. In Jamie’s view, she was successful because she kept an open mind as to who her customer was. Instead of thinking of a specific type of customer, she envisioned reaching people in Middle America who did not have access or exposure to natural, healthy products. As she scaled up her business, she tapped into distribution channels, like Walmart or Costco, where other natural products weren’t going and cornered the market. In doing so, she made natural products more mainstream and started making inroads in an area that was largely untapped.
Selling to Unilever
Having drawn the attention of mass market brands through her distribution channels, Jamie was in talks with a number of CPG brands to purchase Schmidt’s, including Unilever. While she was initially shocked by the attention, it was an incredible experience for her to think that her brand could join a family and have the backing of a large conglomerate. However, she had to balance the risks of joining a larger company, such as having to compete against other brands in its portfolio or pulling back on innovation. Ultimately, she decided that Unilever was the right partner as they did not have intentions of shaking things up among the brand team or in product development. Instead, Schmidt’s could continue in the spirit that it had always grown in with the support of a larger parent company. For Jamie, this was important as she wanted to ensure that her company was taken care of while still able to remain itself.
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