We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Lea and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
There are several factors that contribute to the success of Olive Tree. In my observation, the skincare industry lacks clean, natural product lines that are American made, handcrafted, and affordably priced. The average consumer can scarcely afford the natural cosmetic brands sold in department stores and by multi-level marketing companies. And oftentimes, more affordable national brands contain few high-quality ingredients and often contain potentially harmful chemicals. My goal in creating the Olive Tree Body Care line has been to address these issues. Every Olive Tree product is handcrafted in Crowley, Texas using safe, natural ingredients derived from plants and minerals. And I never use parabens, aluminum, sulfates, silicones, or phthalates. I always strive to keep costs low; I am driven less by profit than I am by a desire to deliver a product that will improve the quality of life for my customers. And I am happy to take special product formulation requests from customers.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
A number of local artisans sell bath and body products, but they typically specialize in one product, such as soaps, scrubs, or beard oil. I am definitely a generalist, with almost 50 different Olive Tree products, many in a variety of scents and sizes. I love getting special formulation requests from customers who are struggling to find an affordable, effective product that is safe and hypoallergenic. My eczema cream is just one example of a product that I developed after a special request. I am proudest of my natural aluminum-free deodorant formula, which is my best selling product. I have many customers who switched to Olive Tree deodorant after their dissatisfaction with other brands, and my deodorant is now carried in brick-and-mortar stores around the nation and sold internationally on my website and on Amazon. I am excited to announce that I am developing a mineral sunscreen formula that will be available later this year. One of my earliest struggles as an entrepreneur was limited workspace. I started out in a small home office, which held my supplies; and I overflowed into my kitchen and dining room for production and storage. I outgrew this setup after a few years; so we moved to a home with large workroom, which provides the space for manufacturing, storage, and packaging areas. One challenge that I face is the lack of working capital that large corporations have. I can’t outsource marketing, packaging, or graphic design, and I don’t have full-time employees to share the workload. Thankfully, I receive valuable feedback from beta testers and design input from friends and family members. And I enjoy wearing lots of hats. I may spend one day focused on product research, the next day developing a new formula, and the following day creating the graphic design for the product label. I manufacture, package, and ship all my orders, with the occasional help of seasonal interns. I’m always finding ways to streamline costs while still delivering products of the highest possible quality.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a friend were visiting Fort Worth, I would want them to fully experience the “cowboys & culture” spirit embodied in this great city. I would take them to the Fort Worth Stockyards to see “where the west begins,” and we’d have to get some ribs at Riscky’s, Fort Worth’s oldest barbeque joint. There are five world-renowned museums in the Cultural District, so we would visit some of those as well. Craft beer is a big business in Fort Worth, so we would visit the Near Southside neighborhood, which is home to several breweries and lots of gastro pubs. HopFusion Ale Works would be an essential stop; they brew a wonderful stout called Coco Añejo and the best nitro cold brew coffee I’ve ever had. If we wanted a meal with our drinks, we’d stop at Cowtown Brewing, which has a great selection of craft beers and top-notch barbeque. We would also plan to attend one of the musical offerings at Bass Performance Hall in downtown Fort Worth. Finally, we would have to stop for coffee at Love Local Coffee & Art Shop. Local art and artisan goods grace the walls and retail section of this beautiful store, and baristas serve up an outstanding cup of coffee made from DFW-sourced ingredients, including cacao beans roasted in Oak Cliff.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Olive Tree would not have succeeded without the support of my husband Michael. His career provided the income to allow me to gradually grow my business from home while I was homeschooling my children, and his moral support has kept me motivated. I have many friends who beta test new products and promote Olive Tree in their social circles, which has grown my customer base substantially. And my retailers are amazing! Their brick and mortar stores have helped extend Olive Tree’s reach to new customers. I am especially thankful to Dr. Karim Jamal, the owner of University Car Wash in Fort Worth. He is a big supporter of local businesses, and he was the first retail establishment to carry Olive Tree products. His gift shop area carries a number of product lines from other local artisans as well.