Todd Cooper and his business partner Ejyo Remington were developing a product that would use a petroleum jelly-like substance as a base, but they did not want to use petroleum-based ingredients. So, they sought an alternative. After conducting extensive market research, they found that there was a need for a natural alternative to petroleum jelly. Many body care products in America use ingredients derived from crude oil, and Todd and Ejyo believe that can lead to a number of harmful side effects. The idea behind Waxelene was born.
Waxelene contains only natural and organic ingredients made of beeswax and natural and organic oils. Waxelene can be used for everything from soothing and moisturizing chapped skin to removing make-up and styling hair.
Todd had used the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as a resource to start his first business in Oregon. So, when he decided to start a business in San Francisco he contacted the SBA and was referred to SCORE. SCORE is a nonprofit dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because they are a network of volunteers and their work is supported by the SBA, they are able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost.
At SCORE, Todd met with John Gellert whose background in the cosmetics industry made him an ideal match for Todd’s burgeoning business. Once John had helped Todd with the business plan, he referred him to Don Weil.
“I took a few business courses in college like BA 101 and accounting 101, but I don't have a degree in business. So I went to the SBA and got the free informational packets,” said co-owner Todd Cooper. “It was much easier than getting an MBA, I just asked people with MBAs. Even today, we make sure that Waxelene has a great advisory board.”
Waxelene got an SBA loan for $10,000 through the SBA Express program. Under this program, a borrower can get a loan of up to $350,000 from a participating lender, similar to the 7(a) Guaranty Loan Program. Waxelene benefited in particular from the provision that lenders are not required to take collateral for loans up to $25,000 in this program.
With Don’s honest and straightforward help, Waxelene has also raised over $300,000 from investors. “You must listen to what people tell you, even if it is not what you want to hear,” Todd recalls. Today the business has five full time employees, and sees one of its biggest challenges as managing growth at its San Rafael factory.
Waxelene has been in Whole Foods since June of 2011. “Waxelene will be in every pocket in America. It works much better than anything else for chapped lips and dry skin, even eczema.” Waxelene’s squeeze tube is exclusive in Whole Foods for 2013, thanks to their Local Producer Loan Program, which offers low interest loans to local producers who sell in the store.
Todd and Ejyo are in talks with international distributors, but their products can already be found in other national distributors and retail companies such as United Natural Foods, CVS pharmacy, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Pharmaca, Natural Grocers, and Urban Outfitters for Anthropologie.com.