Small Business Profile: Elizabeth Leipold, Co-Owner of Scratch Goods
How did Scratch Goods start?
Mo and I are best friends from high school. We started making soap as just a hobby because we wanted to clean up our own beauty routines. We were eating pretty clean and then the next place you want to purge and detoxify is the products you’re using on your skin. We started out making a cold-processed soap, which is our bar soap that we make now, as a means of getting rid of sun-ripened raspberry shower gels and things of that sort. We did that and then shampoo, and it just really was a snowball into quality products that we could feel good about using, but also could afford to buy. You can buy an organic eye cream that is $90, but you’re not going to use it liberally and you probably won’t repurchase it -- you’re not going to do it the way you should. It’s going to be a special treat that you use sparingly and that’s not effective skin care, at all. That like saying I’m going to have two bites of a salad. We wanted to have products that we could afford to buy on a regular basis, and we found there was a vacancy for that, so we started to make our own. During that time, it was still pretty much a hobby, but we really enjoyed it and felt like people were wanting good quality products, because they kept coming back. About a year and a half ago, we found this store and that’s when we began having experiences with our products, not just buying them as retail items. Now we have the mask bar where you can have a fully interactive experience -- it’s educational, interactive, and customized, but also, relaxing and good for you. We really promote self care and taking a holistic approach to all of the areas of your life.
What is your background?
My background is in education and finance. Maureen’s background is in chemistry, specifically food science. She was working in a food lab doing private label product development when we started this. That’s when we really started reading labels and thinking if I don’t want to eat that, I probably shouldn’t put it on my skin. Also, we were learning about how lowly regulated the beauty industry is; you don’t have to list your ingredients, you can use things that are carcinogenic. We just think that’s insane.
What inspires the products that you make?
Our products are inspired by two things; one, our customers saying you need to make this or that and that’s how a lot of product development happens, and two, they’re largely driven by our local partners and collaborating with them on things that are beneficial for skin care. Our collaborations are not gimmicks or meant for marketing. Every partner we use, their product has a function and a reason that we use it. For Dark Matter Coffee, caffeine is going to tone and tighten, and lighten dark spots from acne, aging, scarring. Caffeine from coffee, specifically, is really great for you skin because of the acids and we love Dark Matter because of how conscious they are of their sourcing. They are going directly to Central and South America to source their beans, they know the growers, they know the drying process, they’re bringing us new experimental varieties all the time, so we can try new things. We really try to work with people to create awesome collaborations. Flowers for Dreams has a really great social program, giving back every month, which is also something that we’re really conscious of. They use a lot of local and organic farmers when they can, just really trying to revive an industry that also had a vacancy for something that’s affordable and high quality at the same time. We are working with them on new collaborations as well.
What are you trying to learn right now?
Everything. I was a terrible student growing up, but I’m a good learner. We’re also interested in learning about everything our partners are doing and knowing how they’re running their businesses. Learning about all the other cool gigs around town is really intriguing and it's fun to see how the wheels turn behind the scenes, and those are the parts that nobody gets to see when you’re looking on Instagram.
What are you most proud of?
Probably the ability to build our idea from our kitchen to a place that is a retail store. It is still exciting every time we get an order, or someone leaves a nice comment on Instagram -- that stuff makes me happy and feel like this is right. I’m proud of was has been created out of not a lot.
How do you take time for yourself?
I should be better at it than I am. I try and do a foot soak every week, and we’re also starting a meditation night on Sunday nights that will be self-care focused. We have a couple of different people who are leading it, so I think that taking an hour to stop and reflect and drink tea is going to be a nice sanctuary for me and everybody else.
Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate?
There is no way to survive otherwise. In the world that we live in, I don’t think there is a way to be successful without your female counterparts. Whether they’re in your industry or not, you need other people to listen to what you have to say. It’s a different thing to run a business as a woman than as a man, no matter what. Any community that feels like they’re not treated fairly needs to support other communities. We all need to support one another because we’re obviously being confronted with stuff that’s looking to tear all of us down.
What is your advice for someone who wants a business like yours?
Like raising a child, it takes a village. Round up your village and see if they’re into it. There really is a lot of love and labor that goes into it. Be forgiving of yourself when you stumble and fall, because you will. Let your community lift you up -- and lift them up. Whether you’re in your own idea or looking to collaborate with someone else, it’s always about teamwork. Nobody succeeds alone.
What is one thing that has surprised you in your path?
I think how kind and encouraging everyone is, and how Scratch Goods is now bigger than us. Everyone pours a little bit into the brand, and it’s no longer just my personality, so it is neat to see how other people are building it as well.
Favorite female creatives?
I’m a big fan of Martha Graham. Grace Jones is the queen of the universe to me. I think that she can do no wrong and I love how she is so fearless. She doesn’t care about anything and she never did. The fact that she is so much herself for her own being and I love how she embodies the warmth and acceptance for everybody. You know that she would be awesome in person. I also love Beyoncé. I think she is a visionary for what she has created her brand to be, and even though her brand is Beyoncé, it is still it’s own thing. She’s created something that is creative and innovative. Yes, it’s mainstream, but I think she also tries to give a voice to things that otherwise wouldn’t be heard.
Favorite Chicago places?
Dark Matter Coffee, The Allis is lovely, Gather Home + Lifestyle, and the Conservatory -- both Lincoln Park and Garfield Park.
Top three items of clothing in your closet?
Black Timberlands, my Le Coeur watch, and Sir & Madame apparel.
I’m trying to wake up early even though it’s cold and dark. I do a mix of three things in the morning: eat breakfast, morning yoga, and shower. I do those in some rotation depending on how hungry I am. If I don’t do that, I’ll get up early and go to Soho and workout and use their steam room.
Favorite travel destination?
Somewhere warm. A beach or the rainforest. Somewhere hot, warm, and with nature.
Vintage coats. I have a lot of them.