Small Business Profile: Micaela and Dawn Marie, Owners of Drifter Organics - San Francisco
Hi Micaela and Dawn Marie! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Micaela: I'm a blogger, photographer, graphic designer, and small business owner with a passion for holistic and sustainable living and wellness. I started my blog in 2008 when I was 14 (!), so nearly half of my life has been on the Internet. I love it, though!
Dawn Marie: I'm an animal-loving Northeast to West Coast transplant who loves to cook healthy meals. I lived vicariously on the Internet through Micaela for years, but delved in when we started Drifter Organics.
What led you to begin Drifter Organics?
Micaela: I've had autoimmune issues all my life, the most memorable being eczema. I remember my mom bandaging up my hands after I'd scratch them till they bled. I often wore gloves at night to prevent me from scratching. I also had a lot of digestive issues ever since I could remember, such as frequent bloating and stomachaches. I was diagnosed with leaky gut in 2014, which meant I had to not only revamp my diet, but my skincare regimen as well—your skin absorbs everything you put on it, so if you wouldn't eat it, don't apply it!
Dawn Marie: While Micaela had to eliminate a lot of foods and skincare products from her life, I did a lot of research on natural skincare and found there weren't a whole lot of options that were truly clean on the market. I started following a few natural beauty blogs and dabbled with making my own creations Micaela could use. Micaela's skin is very dry, so I started off experimenting with a body butter that had a base of shea butter. The general recipe is the same as the body butters we now sell.
What are the origins of the brand's name?
Micaela: Drifter Organics is an offshoot of my blog's name, Oh My Drifter. One of my favorite films is Breakfast at Tiffany's and in the film's main song, Moon River, there is one line that goes, "Two drifters, off to see the world / There's such a lot of world to see." That line always resonated with me because I have so many interests. I'm a blogger, photographer, (sometimes) videographer, graphic design student, business owner, entrepreneur, (sometimes) illustrator, (sometimes) model, and holistic health nut. I'm not just one thing/interest/occupation. I'm a lot of slashes. I'm a drifter. Similarly, "Drifter Organics" is for anyone who doesn't want to rub anything on their skin they wouldn't trust eating. It's not just for stereotypical hippie-dippie health nuts or people who live off the land in the middle of the woods. It's for the artist, the dreamer, the doer, the business owner, the city dweller, everyone who is a mixture of those, and everyone in between.
How did you decide to start a business as a mother-daughter team?
Dawn Marie: It came about pretty organically (no pun intended) because the reason I started creating my own skincare was to make something Micaela could use. Micaela has had her blog since 2008 and has a strong background in social media marketing. We have a good relationship and live under the same roof, so wasn't too difficult to get together and start a business.
Can you go a bit into your conception process of your products?
Micaela: Right now, our main gig is skincare. We have four core body butters, two body butters that we switch out seasonally (one for spring/summer, one for fall/winter), and one lip balm. On the lifestyle front, we have art prints, a t-shirt, a tote bag, and an ebook that all have to do with natural living. We may come out with different skincare products in the future, but for now, we're keeping it simple.
Dawn Marie: We started out with body butters because that was the first recipe I tried when I created my own skincare for Micaela. As Micaela said, we may branch out and launch different skincare products in the future, but it took us so long to develop a good body butter recipe, we're not looking to take on another huge project anytime soon!
How do you source your ingredients?
Dawn Marie: Nearly all of our ingredients are sourced from the West Coast because we try to keep things local and sustainable. In order to find suppliers, we took to Google and also talked to a lot of our contacts in the wellness industry for advice. We've had the privilege of visiting and meeting all of our suppliers since they're so close by!
What are some of the successes and challenges you face in running your business?
Micaela: The biggest challenge for me is learning to manage my time. I love what I do so much—and I want to do SO MUCH—that I can often work, work work, and forget to take a deep breath and relax. I've had a lot of burnout issues over the years and as I get older, I'm learning the importance of balancing my work and downtime.
Dawn Marie: Keeping up with the paperwork! We have zero employees, so all the responsibilities of the business fall on us. It's nice that we have a super intimate family of just the two of us, but I don't think we'll ever learn to love paperwork. Maybe when we get bigger, we'll hire someone who likes paperwork to handle all the admin stuff. ;)
You launched your line on Kickstarter; do you have any tips or tricks for somebody thinking about starting a campaign?
Micaela: Preparation is so key. We prepared for months and months and felt like we were prepared, but running a Kickstarter campaign is like running a perpetual marathon for 30 days. It'll become your full-time job that month, so make sure you block off enough time to be able to devote to your crowdfunding campaign. I didn't take any classes at SCAD (I'm an online graphic design student) that quarter, which enabled me to focus a lot of my attention to the Kickstarter campaign.
Dawn Marie: Don't be afraid to ask people to contribute just $1 to your campaign. People tend to think if they don't have a substantial amount to contribute, it's not worth it. We had a lot of friends and family contribute $1, $5, $10, and $15 and we made a few hundred dollars off of that—a true testimony to every little bit helps!
How do you connect with your customers and community?
Micaela: We use social media as a platform to communicate with our customers. As a photographer and graphic design student, I'm a visual person, so Instagram comes very natural to me. Social media is a great way to authenticate the business. People are very nosey and want to see your face and your day-to-day activities and stuff. ;) Most recently, we use Instagram Stories to share behind the scenes photos and videos, which is super fun.
What are some other natural skincare brands that you are excited about that we should know of?
Micaela: For natural skincare, we tend to be super simple and make our own face masks, scrubs, and (obviously) body butters, but we're constantly buying supplies from Mountain Rose Herbs, which is a herbs, spices, and DIY supply company. Most of their stuff is certified organic, too, which is ideal. We also love Vitruvi for essential oils. They are certified organic, based in Canada (better skincare regulations than in the US), and have the most aesthetically-pleasing branding. I mean, their diffuser is insanely beautiful.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Dawn Marie: America used to be 100% handmade and local, but the Industrial Revolution changed that all. While some mass-produced goods do serve a purpose, shopping small and buying local supports artists who make a living doing what they're doing. The items are higher quality and have a story behind them. And it makes you feel good supporting someone's livelihood rather than supporting the existence of sweatshops.
You list some amazing ingredients on your site! Do you have a few favorites and what do they do for your skin?
Micaela: I love Serenity Now and Jar of Cozy (our fall/winter seasonal scent which switched out with Barefoot in the Park!).
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Micaela: Natural skincare and holistic living have the connotation of being hippie-dippie or super bland and boring. Our mission is to make a product that is (besides 100% truly natural and organic) feminine but still modern that appeals to multiple generations—an age group as wide as ours. It's all about reframing your perspective and being mindful about what you wear, eat, do, and spend your money on. Natural living can be fun and colorful and quirky and full of life and laughter and the hustle and bustle of the city. Our tagline "Nature Looks Good on You" speaks to the whole package of mindful living—how we're feeding ourselves, what/who we're surrounding ourselves with, and what we're putting on our skin.
Dawn Marie: People don't realize what they put on their skin is just as important as what they eat. People will easily spend $50+ on a product that is "natural" or "100% pure," when really, the ingredients are purely synthetic. (In the US, the FDA does not regulate skincare, so when it comes to advertising on labels, anything goes.) It's been rewarding educating people on the importance of natural skincare and there is nothing that brings me more joy than people using our skincare and tell us their skin irritations improved or completely subsided.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Micaela and Dawn Marie: In a world that is male-dominated, it's important for women to stand up for their rights. It's very difficult for one person to change the world, but in supporting each other, we become a force more powerful than we could ever be on on our own.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Micaela: Photographer Cindy Sherman's self portraits addressed so many controversial topics, such as stereotypes, social status, the male gaze and the female persona. I admire her for making herself completely vulnerable as the subject for her photographs. Modern day, I admire Alisa Vitti for being the first woman—who I know of—who created a business about balancing hormones in a holistic way. I'm also inspired by various bloggers, vloggers, designers, podcasters, and entrepreneurs who are out there pursuing their dreams—and killing it.
Dawn Marie: I love women who pave their own path and create a precedent for women to come. One of those women is Lucille Ball, who revolutionized the entertainment industry and paved the way for future women in comedy.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Micaela and Dawn Marie: We're making a promo video for Smile Balm. We had so much fun creating the concept and designing the packaging of Smile Balm and this video has been an idea of ours for a while. We're filming this month and the video should be out in the fall. Other than that, we also have our Fall/Winter 2017 Lookbook.
How do you manage a work/life balance?
Micaela: Ah, this is something I struggle with every. single. day. Since I work for myself, the more hours I put in, the more I accomplish. I feel like society really pushes—and overly glorifies—the hustle life, but I've come to learn (through many burnout sessions), it's not about working harder, it's about working smarter.
Dawn Marie: I've learned to become more flexible in my schedule. With work, I'm naturally more of a compartmentalizer (blocking off a specific amount of time to work, then turning off when that time is up), but when you run your own business, being able to integrate work with your other daily tasks becomes vital.
What is your personal skincare routine?
Micaela: After I wash my face with warm water in the morning and at night, I give myself a facial massage by rubbing a butter or oil of my choice—often our Basic body butter or coconut oil—in a circular motion on my cheeks, temples, eyebrows, forehead, and any part of my face where I hold tension. I apply a moderate amount of pressure and really work the butter or oil in until my face feels tingly. It feels amazing. Every time I shower, I use a loofah sponge (and sometimes dry brush beforehand), to aid my skin in exfoliating. I also try to stay out of the sun during peak hours.
Dawn Marie: I wash my face with warm water twice a day. In the evening, I use jojoba or grapeseed oil on my face—sometimes mixed with an essential oil, like geranium, ylang ylang, or eucalyptus. Twice a week, I use a clay mask on my face to rejuvenate my skin from the free radicals that fly around in our daily lives.
What are some of your favorite places in San Francisco?
Micaela: I love the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. The pastel colored homes set by the beach are so special. Also, Billy Goat Hill Park has the best view of San Francisco in my opinion. It has a wooden swing where you can feel like you're soaring over the city. For food, Gracias Madre is delicious. They are 100% vegan and (almost) 100% gluten-free and grow their produce on their own farm in Sonoma.
Dawn Marie: Lands End for hikes. It was the first place we hiked when we moved to San Francisco and has one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge (Micaela and I are all about the views here!). Conservatory of Flowers is a fun, low-key activity. It's located inside of a greenhouse that is heated to 80+ degrees, so Micaela and I love to go during the winter when it's cold out. Song Tea & Ceramics sustainably sources their tea from Asia and has a beautiful atmosphere for tea tasting.