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Meet Bernadette King of Ojai Sugar Sustainable Skincare in Ventura County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bernadette King.

Bernadette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Ojai Sugar has been growing organically “word of mouth” since 2010. I was always interested in beauty and skincare from a very early age. Perhaps, growing up in a family of six girls encouraged that. Living in Northern CA as a young adult, I acquired a heartfelt appreciation for nature and its profound beauty which led me to explore the world of plants and to experiment in the creations of my own tonics and formulas.

I worked to understand the purpose of plants before I could create a process formulating results-driven skincare naturally. My passion was to craft a line of skincare products that will enhance and preserve ones’ own beauty. The mission: clean, natural skincare. Our passion is to help people connect with their unique beauty through a creative process that nourishes our skin and stimulates our senses.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My path has had many trials and tribulations. However, that was a good thing because I worked hard to learn from my mistakes which have brought us to where we are today. I laugh at this when I think back to my first conundrum when I was approached by a local retailer to carry our products. I didn’t know about “markups” or “margins”. I was driven by my passion not the business model. I have learned a lot since then.

Suppliers were an early challenge in our journey. I needed to understand the importance of how and where these plants were being grown, harvested and processed. Over time, we’ve narrowed our supply chain to a reputable few based on quality, consistency and availability. Working with plant-based materials can create fluctuation with the “end product” with the color and consistency. However, the more educated consumer understands this and does not expect the Cosmetic industry’s norm; “uniformity”. In fact, many embrace the unique qualities of a small batch custom beauty brand.

Packaging was a challenge and what works best when you are using ingredients such as therapeutic grade essential oils that are not meant to be stored in plastic. We launched our line initially with body xfoliants and with that focused on “safety” in the bath or shower and went with plastic jars. We did a reset six years ago and went with 100% recyclable glass for all our products to protect the integrity of our formulas and to do our small part to be environmentally friendly.

A more recent struggle was learning to mix oil and water, formulating a lotion from scratch ingredients! Lotions are notoriously known to be mostly water–typically 85% with highly processed nature-derived ingredients or chemicals formulated in cosmetic labs. We not only created a luxurious lotion, we were able to stay true to our mission. Our formula is a cross between a body butter and a body oil but in a lotion that glides on easily regardless if your skin is wet or dry.

Ojai Sugar Sustainable Skincare – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As a boutique beauty brand, we are not alone with the explosion that has taken off in the last ten years with this niche of all-natural skincare. Not only are we one of thousands but, we chose to launch our line with body xfoliants which can be perceived by many as a DIY category. So, I guess you can say we started our skincare line with a bit of a challenge. We knew going into it we would have to be patient and spend time educating the market on our value proposition–why Ojai Sugar–what differentiates our product from all the other body scrubs out there?

Ok that’s a fair question and we came to the market prepared to answer. First, we created unique hand-poured blends of therapeutic grade essential oils inspired by the beauty and diversity of Ojai and California. Next, we learned how to eliminate the pool of oil that sits at the top of the jar that can spill and create a mess and leave the customer with very little oil by the time they reach the bottom of the jar. Our body xfoliants have a consistency like a thick wet paste that will stick to the skin not spill in the shower and yet still deliver outstanding moisture to the skin. The aromatherapy is an added benefit. We must have done something right because three years after our launch–we caught the attention of the Owner of Olive & June–three salons based in the LA area. They have been using our LemonGrass x-foliant in treatment ever since.

We are known for our clean and simple, high-quality skincare. We walk that “fine line” of standing by our mission of using only organic, unadulterated plant-based materials. We strive to deliver a product that you can trust that will make you look and feel confident about the skin you’re in.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Wow that’s a good question. It’s our repeat customers that push us forward to grow our brand and pursue our dreams. Initially, my marker was to give it five years. If we don’t see growth in numbers, there may not be a place for us in this market. Good thing–that wasn’t the case so I guess you can say we succeeded!

I think of success the same way I think of a challenging hike. When I get to the top of the mountain, I like to turn around and look back to remind myself of how far I’ve come. Yes, we have grown in numbers but, success is the personal interactions I have with our customers in our local community and beyond at events and the Ojai Certified Farmers Market. There is always something that comes along, whether it’s our customer’s glowing feedback or when a new retail partner reaches out wanting to bring our products to their store that pushes us forward. We know we are bringing something unique to the market.

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