- August 14, 2015
It all started in the kitchen of a one-bedroom apartment. Then it expanded into a two-car garage. Now North Port-based Lolablue has grown into a bath, body and beauty goods company with its own warehouse and retail space.
Along the way, Lolablue founder Jamie Lovern has grown into a determined and diligent entrepreneur, learning lessons about everything from the subtle value of packaging to finding experts in fields that aren't her strengths.
At first, Lovern just wanted to make soy candles for herself and to give as gifts. Requests soon poured in for more candles, and she realized she had a business on her hands. By 2020, Lovern has added several more products, including soap, deodorant, sugar scrubs and lip balm, using ingredients that aren’t bad for the environment or humans.
In recent months, Lovern has contended with pandemic-driven supply shortages. She’s also been busy fulfilling a major order from Whole Foods Market to stock the company’s Florida stores with Lolablue soap. The opportunity could propel Lolablue into the hands of thousands of people and help Lovern build an even bigger audience of loyal customers.
When she founded Lolablue in 2003, Lovern had 12 years of graphic design experience. After graduating from Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota with a degree in fine arts, she designed packaging for an area company. She also worked in the creative art department at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Those experiences came in handy as she designed packaging for Lolablue. The packaging — with its consistency of colors and branding — helped the company stand out in the early days. “We would be at events or the farmers market and people would come up and think we were a big company,” says Lovern. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, we look like we’re bigger than we are.’ It was a huge asset for us even landing wholesale accounts when we were so small working out of a garage. It definitely has helped build our brand and get more eyes.”
‘Whole Foods is just such a perfect partnership with our brand and our products. Our target market is their target market.’ — Jamie Lovern, Lolablue
In 2007, Lovern went full time with the business. She continued to grow the company by selling at markets, starting a website and landing wholesale accounts. By 2011, Lolablue moved into a warehouse space. This March, it expanded again, moving into a North Port facility with room for manufacturing and a retail store and space for fulfilling wholesale and online orders.
Lolablue’s wholesale accounts include about 50 spas and mom and pop stores. Online sales come in from across the country. It’s key, Lovern says, to be on the cutting edge of features that can improve the online shopping experience. Lovern is tech-savvy herself, but she also seeks out regular insights from fellow entrepreneurs who sell online.
Growth for Lolablue has been consistent until 2020, a year of much greater growth because of the Whole Foods order. “This year, we will see a big jump in revenue,” says Lovern, who declines to disclose 2019 sales figures.
Lolablue launched at Whole Foods in September after the grocery chain ordered soap for its 30 Florida stores. The soaps are in Sarasota stores, and the company has already gotten reorders from Tampa and Fort Lauderdale stores. “Whole Foods was my dream come true,” says Lovern. “Whole Foods is just such a perfect partnership with our brand and our products. Our target market is their target market.”
Lovern would like to sell additional products at Whole Foods in the future, too. She’s constantly at work on new products, which she creates herself. She uses books and videos to do research and then develops and test formulas to create something new. Next on her list is developing a shampoo bar and bath bombs.
The Whole Foods order was a high point of 2020, but the year also brought challenges. Amid the pandemic, online sales increased for Lolablue but retail traffic decreased during shutdowns. To push online sales, she created gift baskets and offered them at a reduced rate to give back to loyal customers. “This year, that was something everyone wanted,” she says. “That was really where I saw a big shift. I was selling them like crazy.”
A major pandemic challenge also came in the form of supply shortages. The company had trouble getting some raw ingredients, and in one case, that led to innovation when Lovern combined what she had on hand to make coconut patchouli soap. She sold the soap as a test batch, and it became an instant success. Whole Foods even requested it for two new locations.
Lolablue also had to adjust when the Ohio manufacturer who prints the company’s logo on glass for candles shut down. Lovern couldn’t get glass for almost three months. Again, Lolablue shifted to keep the sales coming. “Thank goodness we make soap,” says Lovern. “It was definitely an eye-opener to say, ‘Thank goodness I have these other avenues of revenue coming in.’”