Winthrop Company Successfully Adds Retail To Its Online Natural Skin Care Business


WINTHROP – When Kristin Mutchler opened her store last year on Main Street in Winthrop, it was going against a national trend.

In the months following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, millions of people turned to online shopping for the items they were looking for and to avoid in-person contact.

As the founder of Pickle’s Potions & Lotions, Mutchler, who already sold her natural skin care products through her website and an Etsy store, decided to convert the space she was renting on Main Street into a space for retail.

Jennifer Lindquist, left, chats with company founder Kristin Mutchler while shopping for Christmas presents Thursday at Pickle’s Potions & Lotions in Winthrop. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

“It was never intended to be a store,” said Mutchler, 42, as she stood in mid-December among the displays of her balms, serums, rubs and oils.

Outside, the roads around Winthrop were messy with a mixture of sleet and snow. But inside the comfortable space at 130 Main Street, products were labeled and orders were being prepared for shipping ahead of the holidays at a brisk pace.

Mutchler needed space after online demand for his products skyrocketed, but her husband suggested using the old retail space as a store.

She was hesitant, because having a store was another commitment to her growing business. She had searched for the Main Street space because the location she was using in Wayne had become unavailable.

“We tried it,” she said, “and it really worked.”

Now that that hurdle has been cleared, Pickle’s Potions is opening a lab in part of the former Foshay-Carlton building the street, expanding her business to also include a small farm in Wayne, where she grows some of the ingredients used in her products. . .

But in the pre-Christmas retail rush, Mutchler didn’t have time to move into space.

“Sometimes it’s hard to remember that it all came from me,” she said. “It’s like when your child is successful and you say to yourself, ‘Oh, my God! Where do you come from?’ It’s like that.

Even with the awards and recognition she’s won, including having her Hoof Healer foot balm on the recommended product lists by digital media company Buzzfeed and a solid sales record, Mutchler said that she had never imagined becoming an entrepreneur and business owner.

About a decade ago, the self-confessed skin care junkie started making balms and balms for his friends and family. When her daughter was born with eczema, Mutchler began to look for alternatives to the steroid creams her doctor had prescribed for her.

“I started learning all about herbalism and oils,” she said, “and started reading science articles on what works on eczema and natural products.”

At that time, clean beauty – skin care and cosmetics made from ingredients usually derived from nature – was not yet mainstream. But while Mutchler, a mother of two, searched for good products that worked, she couldn’t find much that wasn’t a combination of shea butter and beeswax.

Founder Kristin Mutchler last Thursday at Pickle’s Potions & Lotions in Winthrop. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

She continued her education through a series of online botany and herbalism courses, and obtained an advanced certification in organic cosmetic science. Today, it is part of a global market for natural skin care products that was estimated by Grandview Research at $ 10.8 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow over the next decade.

“So after that,” Mutchler said, “I’m able to formulate things that are high performance but still natural. “

Mutchler, who had studied nursing and was then a teacher at Winthrop Grade School, dipped her toe in the retail pool when a friend suggested she sell her products at the Wayne Holiday Stroll, an annual event featuring featured local businesses, artisans and artists.

At the time, Mutchler didn’t have a brand or logo, but her husband, Gary Hunt, did design something. She sold everything she made and found that people liked the idea of ​​natural products.

“After that, I kept chasing him, because it was like the little seed of the business,” she said. “I was just incredibly passionate about it.”

From that point on, Mutchler began to expand her product line, which she sold through a store on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade and vintage items, and through her own website. Hunt stepped in, occupying booths at craft shows and manufacturers’ markets across the region.

But in 2019, it was clear that she could no longer divide her time between teaching and her business. She spent her time after school making, packaging and shipping her products. She figured she could always go back to teaching if the business didn’t work out, but if she lost momentum in her business, she could never get it back.

It was a big step. Mutchler’s salary was his family’s main source of income. Hunt, who is English and cannot work in this country, is a stay-at-home dad.

In June 2019, at the end of the school year, Mutchler left the known world of her work and ventured into the unknown world to work for herself full time.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my God. No one better break bones! she said laughing. “Please don’t hurt yourself!” “

WINTHROP, ME – DECEMBER 16: This Thursday, December 16, 2021 shows the exhibits at PickleÕs Potions and Lotions in Winthrop. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

At its core, Mutchler is a problem solver. Much like the original Eczema Elixer, most of its products were developed at the request of someone looking for a solution.

This is when Mutchler enters his research mode, researching scientific papers on natural ingredients and assembling and refining formulations. When done, she turns to her volunteer volunteers, who try the products and provide feedback. Mutchler then fine-tunes the products, if necessary.

This part of the process can take a while. When developing her willow bark pain reliever ointment, she spoke with a homeopathic doctor for six months, discussing the recipes, formulations and what should be in the ointment.

She chooses ingredients that don’t have high reactivity because she wants her products to be safe enough that a person with sensitive skin can use them without fear.

“It’s like a secret mystery I discovered when I created this awesome moisturizer that people love,” Mutchler said.

And when that happens, all the time spent on intensive research and perfecting the product simply falls away.

While research and development are his joy, the business side of his business is not.

“That’s what’s difficult,” she said. “Taxes and business are not that fun.”

The exterior of Pickle’s Potions & Lotions in Winthrop. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

The idea that she has employees always surprises Mutchler. That December day, Andi Webb stood at the back of the store’s back counter, applying labels to the containers at an easy pace, while Heidi Benavides stood at the front counter performing other chores. labeling and helping customers as they arrived to pick up a few things.

Mutchler said her goal was to have one employee by 2021. Instead, she had three.

Benavides has been a long-time client and started working for Pickle’s Potions in June.

“I like everything about the job,” she said.

Webb, an herbalist who has had her own small business as a holistic wellness counselor for five years, said she enjoys being part of a small business and watching it grow. Among his duties are social media management and business management.

“We have so many amazing things to come,” said Webb, adding that “2022 is going to be amazing”.

Mutchler said product development continues and plans to launch some CBD products during the year, as well as a chest and neck cream and a range of products for very sensitive skin that are fragrance-free. added.

What won’t be among them are real pickles.

“I get people who come here looking for pickles,” she said.

The name comes from his childhood nickname, Pickle. Because Mutchler had started making products for his family, they still called them Pickle’s Body Butter.

“Because he grew up so organically – there was never a business plan or branding strategy – the name kinda stuck,” she said. “And now I feel like it’s too late to change it.”

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