Jaime Schmidt is the founder of Schmidt's Naturals, a personal care company most known for their natural deodorant.
Jaime's story with Schmidt's Natural starts similarly to Three Ships - by handmaking products in the kitchen. In the beginning, Jaime travelled to farmer's markets selling her natural deodorants but it didn't take long for Schmidt's Naturals to take off. In 2017, Schmidt's Natural landed in big retailers, such as Target, Costco, and Walmart. The fast growth of the company then led to Schmidt's Naturals being sold to Unilever.
Today, Jaime continues to work on Schmidt's Naturals while exploring new passions and endeavors. Let's dive into this exciting and inspiring interview!
Tell us a bit about yourself, and what inspired you to start Schmidt’s Naturals.
I was one of those kids who never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. This continued post-college, and I quickly found myself working my way up the corporate ladder in human resources. I was secure in my finances and benefits, but felt unsatisfied and wanting more autonomy and creativity in my work. I uprooted my life to Portland, where I made a commitment to soul-searching, determined to discover my passion and uncover my untapped skills.
After pursuing a series of hobbies and side hustles (everything from wood carving to interior design to trying to grow loofah sponges), I finally figured it out when I was thirty-one years old and seven months pregnant. A DIY shampoo class awakened my passion for making and selling natural personal care products.
What started as creating products for me and my family quickly turned into selling at farmers markets around Portland. Recognizing the strong business potential in what I was doing, I decided to scale my hobby to a full-time business within months of starting out. I went all in on deodorant, where I saw the biggest opportunity. I was determined to make a product that was unlike anything in the deodorant aisle, with new ingredients, scents, and branding. I was hearing heartfelt testimonials from customers that fueled my motivation and served as validation for what I was doing. For the first time ever, I was finally connecting with my work on a deep level.
We love your story about how you started creating your line of products right from your kitchen, since we at Three Ships have a very similar story. Can you share with our readers what that experience was like for you?
My batches started as 20 deodorants made on my stovetop. In just a few short years, Schmidt’s was producing batch sizes of 20,000 in a full-scale manufacturing facility. The company moved into 4 different spaces over just 2 years to keep up with the growing demand!
Manufacturing in house brought added responsibility to an already high-pressure startup environment. There are considerations like sourcing raw materials, which requires building and maintaining relationships with suppliers. Also, running a factory means a larger employee pool to manage, plus navigating the complexities of equipment and machinery. The hardest part was inventory planning, as demand is nearly impossible to forecast when you’re scaling quickly. It basically becomes a balancing act between not wanting to run out of product and having too much capital tied up in raw materials or finished goods.
How were you able to grow Schmidt Naturals and when did you start seeing real traction?
The farmers markets were a great opportunity to get in front of my customers and solicit feedback, and even just one deodorant sale was a success in my mind. It didn’t take long before I caught the interest of retailers and landed wholesale accounts in reputable local chains that quickly established my brand as a legitimate player. Distribution continued to grow nationally and into international markets, thanks to the power of customer word of mouth.
When Schmidt’s was featured on Fox and the Today Show in 2014, we received a huge influx of web traffic and online sales. We immediately put resources towards leveraging these new supporters by building out our social media presence, investing in PR, and pitching bloggers and editors. It wasn’t long before our online sales were nearly half of the company’s revenue, and the income brought in by those website sales was instrumental in creating cash flow for the business, allowing us to scale our manufacturing and operations teams. In the meantime, Schmidt’s continued landing major national retail accounts, and in 2017 we gained enough traction to be sold on shelves at Target, Walmart, and Costco.
What is your biggest challenge as a business owner? What is your favourite part of being a business owner?
The ability to make entrepreneurship fit with the other pieces of your life can be challenging, as you’re constantly dealing with demands of the business that distract from friends, family, and other things. Being as intentional and flexible as possible in integrating the business into your lifestyle will help protect your mental health and insulate your relationships from outside stress. At the same time, the demand for work-life balance is one of my favorite parts of being an entrepreneur. It forces you to establish routines and to prioritize what’s important. Bridging the two worlds by engaging feedback from friends and family about your business can be fun, too.
You recently sold Schmidt’s to Unilever (congrats on the acquisition!), and then launched your own investment firm. What was that process like? And why did you ultimately decide to sell?
I didn’t start my company with the plan to sell it. In fact, it was never much in my thinking as the business grew. But when Unilever and other companies started approaching us, it made sense as a next step for the brand.
The landscape was growing increasingly competitive, and I knew Schmidt’s would benefit from the backing of a company like Unilever which brought new distribution channels, enhanced consumer insights, a strong supply chain, and more. Also, our fast growth and expanded distribution into mass retailers had brought a need for outside capital, and we’d begun to explore funding options.
Most importantly, my next life chapter was calling, and I was eager to apply all I’d learned to supporting other entrepreneurs looking to follow in my footsteps. I’m still working with Schmidt’s but in a capacity that has freed up time for things like my investment fund Color, writing my book Supermaker, and other projects.
If you liked this interview, you might like our recent interview with Beatrice Dixon, Co-founder of The Honey Pot Co.