As an amateur soap maker, I was really excited when Senior Economic Development Specialist Jack Johns and Project Coordinator Camille Silda invited me on a retention visit to Choices Natur Kosmetik. Not only did I learn about the company’s philosophy and incredible growth, but I also got to smell some really delightful aromas in the process.
As is the case with many entrepreneurs, Choices started out in the creator’s basement. This past June, Helga Soave opened a 2,000-square-foot storefront in Shelby Township. Her primary focus was on selling wholesale, but since her boutique has opened, retail sales have doubled her wholesale revenue. Soave credits the uptick to Macomb County consumers’ desire for healthy and natural products.
According to Soave, while the cosmetic industry suffered during the Great Recession, organic body care saw an upward trend, and the market for organic products continues to increase. Choices’ revenue is up an impressive 200 percent from last February. The company is looking to hire more staff and intends to open several other retail locations and a manufacturing site.
Mickie Wolf, the company’s cosmetic chemist, handles product development. Soave found Wolf through Macomb/St. Clair Michigan Works! and is working with them to add another employee. Soave has also been working with the Small Business Development Center to explore franchising opportunities. Our staff at Macomb County Planning & Economic Development has been collaborating with the company for several years, providing site analysis reports when they began their search for a commercial building.
In an effort to create a healthy lifestyle for her family, Soave found that she couldn’t find the type of chemical-free products she was looking for, so she began to make them herself. She uses natural and organic ingredients and essential oils. She adheres to the European Union Cosmetics Regulation, which is more restrictive than the United States’ regulations.
Soave credits her current success to the Beaumont Hospital farmers markets, which gave her the opportunity to interact with customers, gauge her prices and evaluate her packaging. Today Beaumont is one of Soave’s wholesale clients.
Choices is the only bath care company in the United States that enables customers to create their own custom blends. Soave, who previously worked as a chemist and an esthetician, saw that people with many different skin issues were being treated with the same products. This gave her the idea to let customers choose their own essential oils to build a combination that best suits their needs.
“We use exactly what you need, so it fits,” said Soave.
Each customer’s scent combination is stored on file, making it easy to reorder next time. The store also strives to be environmentally friendly. Many of their products come in reusable glass jars. When you run out of product, instead of buying another container that may end up in a landfill, you buy a pouch to take home and refill your jar.
Choices is a very welcoming environment. There are sinks in the middle of the building so customers can try soap scrubs to find which ones they like best. The essential oils are available for smelling and trying new combinations. Soave encourages customers to read the back of each essential oil to learn more about it. The staff is also willing to answer questions and provide guidance.
The natural product line, customized merchandise and environmentally-responsible focus set Choices apart from other bath and body product manufacturers and retailers. This is definitely a Macomb County business to watch.
Caitlin Gerds-Habermas is an associate planner in Business Outreach and Communications for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.