BHB Case Study: Nicole of Salt & Seaweed Apothecary

Chloe Tate

Sometimes we crawl forward in our business, making small, incremental changes here and there. Oftentimes, those changes are visible, but sometimes they’re nuanced and customers hardly notice. That isn’t the case for Salt & Seaweed Apothecary

But the changes we’re talking about today? These are quantum leaps forward. Like an Olympic-pole-vaulter-on-serious-steroids kind of quantum. Dr. Nicole Sullivan is a Brick House Branding graduate who decided to burn the whole house down and rebuild from the ashes. The result is Salt & Seaweed Apothecary… and 13 new wholesale accounts in the last six weeks!

Read on to learn more about how she evolved her brand from homespun to tres chic.

Getting to Know Salt & Seaweed Apothecary

Nicole of Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: Why and when did you originally launch your company?

Nicole: In 2010, I put my health practice on hold to work exclusively with a stage IV throat & tongue cancer client. I was devastated when he passed away after 18 months of therapy & emotional support, leaving me mentally & physically depleted. I knew I had to find a healthy way to rebalance my life, and fill my love-bucket or I couldn’t be my best for my family or be of service to my clients.

I’m such a believer in “creativity centers your being,” so it was no surprise when I had an epiphany as I got naked with my first bar of handmade soap. I was immediately smitten, and my first thought was “THIS IS IT!!”

I traveled extensively to learn everything about formulating & manufacturing handcrafted skincare, completed the Advanced Soap Maker certification with the HSCG and launched my product line in April 2012. I’m beyond grateful that I’ve found a passion in something so therapeutic and beneficial, it’s made me whole.

Lather and Love of Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?

Nicole: When our family decided to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, it was the perfect opportunity to reassess my business. I had a large & loyal, but mostly local following, and I knew that many of them would no longer be my target market once I changed the direction of my business, so I decided to hand over the baton to someone else and start fresh. I wanted to focus on a niche market, a new name, incorporate luxury ingredients, and upgrade my packaging. My niche market became PNW driven with local & sustainably foraged ingredients.

LBC: What significant realizations about the nature of branding did you discover through Brick House Branding?

  • Rebranding is not for sissies – it’s a long and time-consuming effort. BUT, if done right, your efforts will be well rewarded. 
  • It costs a small fortune to do a really good rebrand, but it’s totally worth it. 
  • A brand is not just a logo – it’s everything from the colors you choose, the fonts, the language you speak – it all has to flow through your business/website/social media/customer service and beyond. 
  • Pre-Rebrand: you’re the little fish in the big fishbowl. Post-rebrand: you’re the big fish in the little fishbowl – if you niche down right and hard. 
  • Everything has to be cohesive, photography has to be professional, and the copy has to be sterling. 
  • You can’t do it all yourself, you need to tag in the professionals on the things you suck at. 
  • No sales, EVER. 
  • Your customer is Queen. Be fabulous at customer service, 100% of the time.

Serum from Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: How did you allocate the workload? Did you tag in professionals for some pieces and DIY other facets of the brand redevelopment?

Nicole: I love to DIY everything, so I tried my hand at everything. I hired a graphic design artist to create my logo (hand-lettered) and my packaging. I got so overwhelmed with the photography piece it almost drove me over the edge – finally, I hired someone to do it and OMG, it was painless! She did an amazing job and it was so worth the investment! I designed my own website, even though it took me 6 solid months. When I considered tagging someone in, I knew I would have to do most of the copy/story-telling myself, so I decided I could to tackle it myself, with a Shopify guru on standby. When I got stuck, she shared a lot of helpful tips & tutorial links.

Bars of soap from Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?

Nicole: In the summer I was enrolled for BHB, I was in the middle of moving house, prepping for our international move, and on summer vacation with my family. I remember being in the Georgia mountains on a hike during one of our call-ins – the timing was definitely not ideal, but I made every effort to stay on top of classes, homework & calls. I wanted to be armed and ready for my next business venture.

It was hard not having control over the creative process, or the length of time everything took. I kept thinking, what if I didn’t love the logo? I had to love it, or I wasn’t going to be happy. After the packaging design, I had two different print companies, one for custom designed & printed boxes, the other for my labels. It was difficult matching the packaging colors between the two.

Foil – as much as I LOVE it – you have to order 500/item, so depending on the number of products you make, it can get pretty pricey. It’s also limiting in the fact that not everyone does foil or does it well. That being said, I LOVE my packaging, logo and foil, I wouldn’t change a thing!. I think that I probably would’ve chosen differently if I’d known the limitations in the beginning, but I’m so glad I didn’t, it all worked out really well in the end.

It’s a huge adjustment for me not to be able to add a product at will, I have to get the graphic artist to design packaging for that item, wait until I reorder all my packaging and then 500 of each – big deterrent. That’s been a little frustrating for me, since I’m so used to creating all my labeling in-house, making limited edition products so easy and fun. As much as my creative side totally rebels against this, I know it’s best practice to have a set amount of products and not chase “shiny new things.”

Nicole of Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?

Nicole: With my first business, it grew from a desire to create into a hobby, and then into a business to be able to feed the desire. Everything I created was natural, my branding fell in line with that, from the brown kraft labels to the templated website.

When I decided to start a new brand of skincare, I wanted to niche down to something that was a little less common, a lot more luxurious, local to me, using fresh, active & sustainable ingredients. I wanted to find a niche where there weren’t many competing brands. I set out to formulate a plant-based, effective, and aromatically heavenly skincare collection.

Rebranded packaging of Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?

Nicole: My customers from my previous company have all loved the rebrand. Where I live now, they have only ever seen my new branding and everyone has been super excited about it, they all comment on how high-end and professional it looks.

LBC: Can you share a recent win that you’ve enjoyed now that you’ve rebranded?

Nicole: I’ve secured wholesale accounts with 13 high-end boutiques in the past 6 weeks, I’ve also turned down a couple of wholesale applications – the stores didn’t line up with my ethos – #bossbabe.

Rebranded Soaps from Salt and Seaweed Apothecary

LBC: How did the Brick House Branding experience help shape your brand development process?

Nicole: Lela’s incredible knowledge, on-the-money guidance & intuition, along with her genuine, heartfelt desire to see my business flourish, have been invaluable. She imparts little nuggets of wisdom on the fly, always gives you the very best advice in your individual situation, and the resources she and her amazing team at Lucky Break provide are priceless.

After BHB, I went back through every module and made a checklist of the things I needed to complete, revisit or implement. BHB taught me how to set the parameters of my business from the very beginning, and implementing Lela’s strategies saved me a ton of time and money.

I can honestly say that participating in BHB with Lela, has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My newly launched business is beautiful, cohesive and pretty much a dream.

Salt and Seaweed Apothecary cremes

LBC: What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?

Nicole: Do the work, don’t miss a step. Get all the costs figured out before you take your first step and do everything in sequence. Know when to hand over the reins to another professional- it can make all the difference.

Know your numbers – most of us undervalue & undercharge for our handcrafted products. The best investment ever is Lela’s Price-O-Matic.

LBC: What’s next for your brand?

Nicole: I’ll be focusing on increased visibility locally & online sales, along with scheduled blogs and newsletters, neither of which particularly excites me, but they’re key for a successful business. I’m excited at how organically my wholesale side has grown, and the beautiful relationships it’s created. Every one of the stores I’m in are owned by women- I just love that!

Line of Salt and Seaweed Apothecary products

We *love* what Nicole has created with Salt & Seaweed Apothecary! Want us to be a part of your branding journey? Brand development just-so-happens to be our specialty, and Brick House Branding is our most celebrated program. Enrollment for the January 2020 of this 9-week brand development mentorship is open September 3-13. Mark your calendar, and join the waitlist to receive an advance “heads up” on enrollment!

About the Author

Chloe Tate

Once described as “relentlessly cheerful,” Chloe is a lover of all things colorful and practically every fruit known to man. She lives in Atlanta and divides her time between supporting Lucky Break clients, keeping shop at a local artisan market, and event planning for business conferences. She’s also working on the launch of her skincare line while finishing her degree in Organizational & Leadership Studies. True story: Chloe shares 50% of Lela’s DNA and is poised to inherit her obscenely large shoe collection.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *