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Lani Lazzari started Simple Sugars when she was 11 years old. She’s now 18 and has just graduated from high school, and is taking a gap year before attending George Washington University to work full time on her business.
Simple Sugars manufactures and sells all-natural skincare products especially for sensitive skin. Simple Sugars products are sold nationally online at www.simplesugarsscrub.com in select retailers. Simple Sugars products have been featured and loved by beauty editors at top magazines such as Lucky, Teen Vogue, Allure, and SELF.
MO: Can you talk about how you started Simple Sugars before even reaching high school? Where did your initial inspiration come from and what are some ways that you were able to establish credibility at such a young age?
Lani: I was inspired to start Simple Sugars because ever since I was a baby, I have suffered from horrible eczema. I couldn’t find a single product that I could use on my very sensitive skin. So, I decided to create my own. I did lots of research and came up with a scrub that took away my eczema. That year, my mom asked me and my brother to make homemade Christmas gifts for our friends and family, and I decided to give out my scrubs. People started asking to buy them and I realized that I had a great opportunity to start a business. But, I had to work really hard to establish credibility at such a young age. It took me years to build it up, and it even continues to be an obstacle today. There were – and still are – a lot of people who thought I was just a cute little girl, but really I am a serious businesswoman. I just had to work to get the results to legitimize myself, my products, and my business, and then people had no choice but to take me seriously.
MO: Can you share your early days of building a business from scratch and what kind of help and support your received that made the biggest difference during the development stage of Simple Sugars?
Lani: My mom has always been my biggest supporter. I never could have gotten started without her (especially because she had to chauffer me around to all my meetings for the first 5 years. Additionally, I have been very fortunate to work with a great team of freelance professionals who have given me great advice and helped me to afford services I really needed. In the beginning, when my budget was basically nonexistent, a lot of them were even willing to help me out by trading scrubs for their services, which helped me to get Simple Sugars up and running.
MO: What was it like to hire employees? Can you expand on why you would like for Simple Sugars to be one of the best companies in America for women to work for and how you plan to achieve such an inspired goal?
Lani: I was inspired to make Simple Sugars into one of the best companies in America for women to work for because of an experience I watched my mom go through. She was a very successful pharmaceutical salesperson, but when she went on maternity leave with my younger brother, she was passed over for a promised promotion. As a young woman, I was very discouraged about one day going into the corporate world. I was determined to create a company where women wouldn’t have to choose between being successful at their job and having a family and life they love. When I was finally able to hire employees, it was one of the most exciting moments for me in the history of Simple Sugars because I was able to finally see this plan in action. At Simple Sugars, we are deadline-oriented instead of being focused on how many hours per day you can work, providing flexible schedules for people who need them. This means I can provide jobs for people who would not be able to work otherwise. Now that I have a team, I get to see this in action when I come to the office every day, and it is really exciting for me.
MO: Tell us a bit about your products. What sets them apart from other brands and what are some of your personal favorites? Is there anything new on the horizon that you’re excited to share with our readers?
Lani: Simple Sugars products are all-natural sugar scrubs especially formulated for sensitive skin. They are an exfoliant that you use in the shower or bath to moisturize your skin. What makes them different is the fact that they are a high-quality, luxury product that smells great, while also being all-natural and safe for people with even the most sensitive skin. The line consists of 5 facial scrubs, about 20 body scrubs. Additionally, Simple Sugars has just launched a brand new Men’s Line, SMOOTH for Men (www.never2smooth.com). We are just about to release our fall scents, Pumpkin and Cranberry, and we have some very exciting (but top secret!) new things in the works for 2013. Currently my personal favorites are Almond Body Scrub, Lime Body Scrub, and Green Tea Facial Scrub, but that pretty much changes on a daily basis.
MO: Can you talk about how you’ve scaled the business from starting at home making small batches for family and friends to having to meet the demands of a growing customer base?
Lani: I started out making scrubs in my kitchen. Six months later, I convinced my parents to help me remodel a (very tiny) room in my basement to become the Simple Sugars HQ. Scaling the business was very interesting for me because of my age. I tried to keep the business in my house for as long as possible, because back then I didn’t even have a driver’s license to get me to an office! I had literally taken over my entire house by the time I finally moved out in 2010. I really needed more space, but I tried to work with what I had for as long as possible to keep my overhead costs low. Eventually, it became almost impossible to work with the space I had, so I moved into a small corner of shared warehouse space. It wasn’t pretty or glamorous, but it was cheap and it was bigger. That also allowed me to begin hiring employees. I remember when I first moved in it felt huge, but then only 1 year later we had completely outgrown it and needed to move once again. Now, we have a bigger and better space, but we have almost outgrown that already!
MO: If you had an unlimited budget and access to resources, what kind of marketing campaign would you put in place?
Lani: If I had an unlimited budget and access to resources, I would buy (or sponsor, to start) a sports team. Preferably the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Pittsburgh hockey team.