The Art Of The Slow Business
Good Medicine Beauty Lab is a third-generation skincare company based in Southern Utah and owned by Alicia Overton, Karen Hudson, Cris Coombs, Lara Wright, and Whitney Dunn. As I learned more about the five partners and their shared business philosophy, common threads of sustainability came together on nearly every topic of conversation. These women have created the ultimate sustainable business by clarifying and committing to their reason for being, valuing relationships over everything, honoring the source of their ingredients, and conveying their deeper connection to customers and their local community.
Clean beauty has become a booming industry in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. But for Good Medicine Beauty Lab, clean beauty isn’t a new concept; it was the fundamental idea that catalyzed the brand years ago. Inspired by the medicinal properties of unique desert plants, the skincare line was initially founded in the 1960s by a family-owned spa in St. George. “Our rich history in spas has been a huge influence on how we make our products and create accessibility and affordability,” says partner Ms. Overton. Beyond the products, the value of self-care aligns with the brand’s purpose to incorporate wellness, love, self-care, and wildness and creates a strong sense of customer loyalty.
The Good Medicine Beauty Lab brand somehow manages to be time of-the-moment and timeless, enchanting and utterly sensible, all at the same time. If you’re curious to find where their products are made, you won’t find a manufacturing plant or office building. True to their name, Good Medicine Beauty Lab products are personally handcrafted in a lab by the five owners, who describe their daily operations as something out of a dream: early mornings are spent harvesting local ingredients out in the surrounding wild desert, and afternoons are for creating and mixing in the lab. The genuine excitement and passion in their voices made me determined to understand their secrets to success because I knew they couldn’t be spared from ubiquitous business realities and challenges.
While their exact formula for success simply can’t be replicated, I found a few key ingredients to share: business principles focused on sustainability that were inspired by the brand’s history and products themselves.
Relationships are fundamental in creating a positive work environment, and the energy in the work environment impacts the quality of products. The partners agree that the relationships between themselves are critical to the success of their products. “The products just wouldn’t work if there were contention or problems between us—it has to be this positive environment,” says partner and master mixologist, Karen Hudson. Because of this, the partners take time to discuss important decisions and deliberately created a work environment that is a “judgment-free zone,” a safe space where every partner works through the process in their own way. And each partner maintains a unique realm of expertise. “Because we all bring different talents but share the same goals for the company, we have the utmost respect for each other and trust in one another,” Ms. Hudson says.
“We’ve created a business that is very honest, very open, very full of love, and it’s every bit as important to develop and nurture these relationships as it is to create the products because they fuel the energy,” Ms. Hudson says. Even after years of working together, it’s clear the partners are still excited and energized by what they do each day and the relationships they’ve built with one another.
Establishing a strong vision (and sticking to it) is essential to successful business and powerful partnerships. With countless skincare trends constantly coming and going, it’s easy to shift focus to the latest and greatest. But Good Medicine Beauty Lab’s products have been perfected and proven through decades of experience. From the very beginning, their focus was on celebrating beauty and powerful desert botanicals by bringing clean products to market that are proven effective.
As the clean beauty industry multiplies in size, there are countless opportunities to compete and quickly turnaround new offerings. This often can be tempting, but the Good Medicine philosophy, like their products, transcends trends. “We say, let’s not reinvent the wheel, let’s be the wheel. If you’re following trends you aren’t creating something timeless, and we never want to stray from the core of what we’re about,” Ms. Overton says.
Take your brand beyond business to meaningfully connect with customers. The owners of Good Medicine are constantly looking for ways to infuse their brand with meaning, proving that the beauty of the company isn’t skin deep. “It’s never just about skin care,” Ms. Overton says, “it’s about connecting with our customers in a real way that celebrates the things that make us beautiful, the things that make us come alive.” And that goes far beyond the brand’s actual products. From its’ dedicated and longstanding fan base to its newer social media followers, all Good Medicine Beauty Lab customers seem to be connected by the greater message that’s truly timeless: embracing the beauty within. Stories of solo road trips and late-night adventures gathering sand in the desert find a natural place in the brand and contribute to its timelessness and universal appeal.
As new research emerges proving that consumers are increasingly more likely to support purpose-driven companies, brands stand to gain significantly by engaging followers in conversation that extends beyond a given product. According to a recent Accenture report, millennials alone are estimated to represent $1.4 trillion in spending power by 2020. This growing segment of consumers is looking to support products that stand for something greater than any particular business, recognizing they make a statement with their dollars. In the case of Good Medicine Beauty Lab, spending your dollars here is a statement for sustainability, wildness, freedom, sisterhood, and celebrating the divine within all of us.
Socrates said: “The way to gain a good reputation, is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” The strength of the Good Medicine Beauty Lab brand comes from what the founders are—built on strong relationships and committed to a shared passion and purpose.
Prioritizing passion and discovery proves invaluable. A significant part of developing the brand was discovering and recognizing the unique energy of each product, and how the partners themselves influence the products. There is a resounding agreement that passion and love have to be cornerstones of the business. It energizes the work they do each day, enriches their relationships with each other and customers, infuses every product, and it’s shared beyond the product details in deeper conversations around lifestyle and purpose.
Because each product has been refined over years and the ingredients are so fresh and mostly local, the partners only harvest at the time nature says an ingredient is ripe. That means some products are only offered at select times throughout the year.
Along with active engagement through social media and the Good Medicine Beauty Lab blog, the lab in Ivins, Utah is open a few days a week for local visitors, and partners infuse the experience with teachings about the local environment and plant life. “We have this deep knowledge of these beautiful local plants, and it’s fun to share that with the community,” Ms. Hudson says.
Loyalty creates financial sustainability. With an established customer base historically concentrated largely in spas and local communities, the partners have adapted to engage in new ways and bring the product to new customers. Loyalty is created through excellent service and genuine connection.
Despite their already massive (and still growing) following, the partners have maintained a high-touch, personal customer experience. “Our customers reflect back to us the love we put into the products,” Ms. Overton says. By being deliberate and selective about the growth opportunities they pursue, the partners are able to continue making genuine connections with their customers. This not only builds loyalty through exceptional customer service, it also allows the partners to make real-time adjustments and decisions based on customer feedback.
“It’s very difficult to buy skincare online,” Ms. Overton admits. “Understanding how a product will work for your skin is critical; one thing we wanted to be different was the actual experience of trying our products. It’s difficult to judge a product based on one use—we wanted our customers to not only try new products but see and feel the transformation in their skin, so we created deluxe sample sizes that will last weeks.”
Core to the business is ensuring an amazing experience and making every customer feel important. Which is not difficult to do because the partners genuinely love their products, and their efforts have a positive financial impact as well. “Pouring time, energy, and love into our customers drives loyalty and actually makes a big difference to our bottom line,” Ms. Overton explains.
Eschew the extreme and consider the tradeoffs associated with growth and scale carefully. Instead of identifying as “owners” at all, the five women view themselves as caretakers of their products and their brand. While there are technically five partners in the business, all agree on counting the brand itself as a sixth partner. This recognition acts as a powerful unifier in decision-making, and since there is resounding agreement on the values guiding the direction of the company, every key company decision is made unanimously.
As product demand continues to grow rapidly, the partners have carefully considered their vision for the future and admit it changes frequently. Most businesses naturally pursue growth, and the partners have recently evaluated expansion opportunities that would require more traditional corporate infrastructure to support scalability. However, maintaining deeply personal connections to the products and customers remains a core value that contributes to the brand’s success and is considered in every expansion decision.
Sustainability is a core business responsibility that applies well beyond environmental considerations. At such a critical time in our world, it’s a business imperative to make decisions that positively impact our shared environment. “We have a sense of reverence for this beautiful landscape,” Ms. Hudson shares. That reverence permeates all aspects of the brand—it infuses the products, inspires the broader conversation, and guides important business decisions.
“Decisions of corporations have a massive impact on our environment, and even as a smaller business we make a big difference”, Ms. Overton says. “All of these movements are local first. And while we can’t source everything locally, we invest and research the small communities providing select ingredients from to ensure we are sourcing from transparent, family-owned companies,” she explains, “that’s important to us.” Good Medicine harvests as many ingredients as possible locally, taking only what they need from the surrounding desert and relying on trusted suppliers who share common values.
Sustainability is no longer a fringe option reserved for the consideration of more progressive companies or new startups. It’s become an imperative for all businesses, large and small, to consider in the face of technology enabling fast trends, employee burnout and turnover, initiative overload, growing competition, and suboptimal productivity. Sustainable business transcends environmental considerations—it applies to how decisions are made, what infrastructure is built to support a business, how growth is pursued, and how a business engages with its’ customers. The women of Good Medicine Beauty Lab have created a beautiful example of sustainability and what it can mean to have business enrich our lives by bringing purpose and meaning to work.