Made in New England: Kimberly Cornwell of Celadon Road
Attorney by day and entrepreneur by night, Massachusetts local Kimberly Cornwell is on a mission to create quality, organic household and beauty products that are not only good for the environment, but also work really well. Celadon Road started with cleaning supplies, and has since expanded to offer 26 certified organic products—from laundry detergent and deodorant to hair oil and lip balms for kids. We spoke with Kimberly to learn about natural ingredient sourcing (some products are even edible!), business shifts and the power of networking with other women.
R.K.: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
K.C.: When I got pregnant with my first child in 2005, there weren’t a lot of organic skincare companies out there. My mother was a hairdresser, so even though we had no money, we always had great products. When I wanted to go organic, I couldn’t find the same quality that worked as good as conventional. They were either really earthy green and bare bones, or really high end luxury.
At the time, the company I was working for had to lay off about a third of the company and I saw a lot of my friends losing their jobs, so I thought I wanted to do something to give people opportunity. One day in April of 2008, I pulled up to Starbucks and it said, “Today is Earth Day,” so I thought, “Today is the day!”
We launched with cleaning products first, then expanded into skincare in 2012. I first started in direct sales and did that up until August 2017, when I found the model wasn’t fitting anymore. I’ve since switched to online and boutiques, and revamped the entire way I do business! Now I’m sort of reinventing who we are, and the next step is to go into boutiques and local grocery stores and such.
R.K.: What makes Celedon Road unique or something you want readers to know?
K.C.: I am somebody who really works hard, and part of why I started my company was to give back and create a company that really valued the consumer and their children. The first product I formulated was a baby wash because my son was 18 months old and they were giving you Johnson’s Baby Wash [at the hospital]. Every product I sell, I tested and used with my family first!
R.K.: How do you source your ingredients and come up with the product combinations?
K.C.: I’ve gotten really good at it, but at first I was ridiculous! I don’t manufacture them all myself, but a lot of these really good manufacturers have formulators on hand so I can tell them what I want it to look like and ingredients that can and can’t be in it. Then it’s a constant back and forth of samples. For instance, I wanted my body butter to have a coconut scent, but I didn’t know how I could make it organic since there isn’t a coconut essential oil. Then I realized I had a coconut lip balm that had organic coconut flavoring, so I thought I could use that to flavor it. I was actually written up in the New York Times a few years ago for having “edible products.”
R.K.: What’s one product everyone should have in their home?
K.C.: That’s tough! Our number one selling product is our laundry detergent because it’s really economical, it smells great and it’s good for the environment. It also works really well on sensitive skin and people with eczema. You only need one tablespoon, too! The organic deodorant took us five years to make it perfect. One day I went to play tennis for three hours in 90 degrees, and I smelt my armpits and was like “Oh my god, it worked!” I literally test everything on myself before we go live with it.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
K.C.: There are a few challenges I’ve found along the way, both business challenges and product-related challenges. I realized things take a lot longer than expected and you have to have the patience but you get better at it. Capitalization is always an issue, and as woman in wellness, we tend to do it all on our own and don’t get the funding we need. I funded this business personally, but if I were to go back, I’d look into other ways to get funding. We think we can do it alone in the kitchen, and we think too small. I’m learning now how to think bigger and to go bigger. You can’t really do it alone, and entrepreneurship can be a really lonely road. Rely on these women networks who can help talk you through it and talk you off the ledge when times get tough!
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
K.C.: There have been a few benefits. Organic really was on the periphery in the United States when I started, and consumers were really wanting these products so that’s been helpful. Also my network has been a huge help, and there are a lot of business services available to entrepreneurs out there. There’s this huge push to support local and small business, especially in Rhode Island!
R.K.: What would you love to see in the New England wellness scene that you don’t now?
K.C.: I would like to see more of these local events on the farmer’s market front. Maybe a local summit for these companies to come together. More marketplaces for us to showcase our brands would be great!
R.K.: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
K.C.: There’s a great local brand Beautiful Day Granola in Providence who does organic granola. They’re a nonprofit who employs refugees to make this amazing granola. I also love Nettie’s Kettle Corn and The Backyard Food Company!
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
K.C.: I haven’t relied on one person or mentor. I am an avid reader of personal development and business books, so I take something from each and use that. You can get a little overwhelmed with all that’s out there, but somebody once said, “Learn for your next step.” So if you’re going to do a new launch, learn about product launches.
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
K.C.: I really hope Amazon sales start to take off and we start to show up in regional boutiques and stores versus just being online. When you’re able to touch and feel and see the product, it really can sell.
R.K.: Here at the W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
K.C.: I am a giver. I love to help people out and give whether it’s business advice or legal advice. I’m always helping women and entrepreneurs, and I find I’m always surrounded by women who are givers so we have this amazing give philosophy and you get so much in return. I have this amazing tribe of women business owners! Once you do something really nice for someone, it solidifies your friendship. Don’t be afraid to do an act of kindness.
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