Brenda Brock, founder, formulator and CEO of Farmaesthetics, is the daughter of a seventh generation farming family from Texas with roots steeped in herbal traditions. Brenda capitalized on her experience and training to launch her company, which creates, designs, produces and wholesales 100 percent natural, fine herbal skincare products.
Brock’s technical background in chemistry stems from her pre-nursing studies and her employment while in school at the University of Texas at Austin. Her love of folklore, storytelling and writing led to a change of majors and a move to New York City, where she studied and enjoyed a 10-year career as a produced playwright and actress.
If her name is familiar to some, it may be because she enjoyed a four-year role on the ABC-TV daytime drama One Life to Live. She was nominated twice for a Daytime Award as Best Actress.
Despite her acting success, Brenda longed for her rural roots. She gave up acting, moved to Rhode Island, restored an old Victorian farmhouse, and began growing herbs and flowers and making skincare preparations. She put into practice a life-long passion of using the rural traditions of American “kitchen chemistry,” to create a full line of proprietary formulations that also include the sophisticated science of cosmetic manufacturing.
Brenda sold her first herbal products during the summer of 1999 at her friend’s organic farm stand in rural Rhode Island. She created a seasonal line using pristine organic harvests from ocean-side farms. Farmaesthetics products were a big hit with her customers. Brenda realized there was a year-round demand. So she took her “recipes” to dermatological laboratories and successfully re-formulated her products for large batch production while retaining their 100 percent natural status and achieving a certified two-year shelf life.
Brock clearly recognized that she had a business opportunity. She originally raised seed capital from friends and family but soon realized she needed professional guidance to take her passion for natural, herbal skincare products to a successful business operation.
Brenda admits she didn’t know what she was getting into and needed help figuring out her costs and where to store her products. She turned to the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center for assistance. An RISBDC consultant met with Brenda and her husband Bill to develop Farmaesthetics’ first business plan. She learned about cost of goods sold and financial projections. With a solid business plan in hand Brenda confidently met with potential investors and eventually received a loan from Citizens Bank that was guaranteed by the SBA.
Brock admits that the assistance she received from the RISBDC helped her move the business from her kitchen to 250 square feet of space in an old trolley barn in Newport.
Farmaesthetics has since received additional funding backed by SBA to help Brenda grow her business. Today, the business is located in 2,500 square feet in the same old trolley barn in Newport and is the company’s “World Headquarters.”
Brenda’s achievements include being named Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People and Ideas Behind Green Design in Beauty,” and one of the “Five Entrepreneurs at the Forefront of the Natural Beauty Revolution” by Luxury Spafinder. Farmaesthetics products made the cover of Cosmetic/Personal Care Packaging Magazine for their leadership position in “green” packaging design.
Farmaesthetics has also been named to Women’s Wear Daily’s “It List” of “The Green Brands Defining Organic Skincare.” Brenda is a repeat guest on “The Martha Stewart Show,” including “The Entrepreneur Show,” and has been named one of Martha’s “Natural Beauty Gurus.”
Farmaesthetics products are sold in the finest spas and independent retail stores in the USA. The company is now poised to expand their distribution and bring the Farmaesthetics brand to the global market.
For her demonstrated success and growth potential, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Brenda Brock, CEO of Farmaesthetics, as the 2013 Rhode Island Small Business Person of the Year.
Vision. Responsibility. Inspiration. Integrity. Success. Individually, these words can be applied to any number of different things and people. Once in a great while, however, a person comes along that incorporates all these ideals not only into their own way of life, but into their business’ way of life, and its employees and their way of life too. Such is the case with Cheryl Snead, President and CEO of Banneker Industries Inc. Cheryl took over a small machine shop with a leaky roof in Lincoln, Rhode Island in 1991, and has since transformed it into a supply chain management power, now headquartered in North Smithfield, R.I., with facilities in 5 states.
Snead, the first African-American woman Mechanical Engineering graduate of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, entered in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Business Development Program and went to work obtaining government contracts that were sole-sourced to companies that were certified minority and woman-owned. For five years, Snead and Banneker pressed forward, until Snead’s vision saw the new path that Banneker would take: Supply Chain Management. Snead realized that one of Banneker’s great strengths was not just machining pieces of metal into finished products, but also managing the required materials through the entire process of manufacturing. She saw that they would be able to do the same thing for numerous other commodities as well and that this would in turn give Banneker a leg up as it added value to its customers. A strong relationship with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems got the ball rolling for Snead and her company and spearheaded their move into the uncharted waters of Supply Chain Management.
One of the many attributes that stands out about Cheryl Snead is her ability to inspire those around her. Constantly reaffirming her belief in her employees is something that makes Banneker Industries such an attractive place to work. Employees marvel about how positive the work environment is there each and every day. Snead’s leadership by example helps drive Banneker forward and towards achieving its goal set forth in its mission statement: “Team Banneker is committed to understanding and exceeding the needs and expectations of all our Customers by working together to drive business excellence.” She believes, and her employees all agree that Banneker is not about just one person, no matter who that person may be. It is about the Customer. Each employee is responsible to the Customers, and Banneker preaches integrity in all that they do. “We do what we say and say what we do,” is at the core of Banneker’s way of doing business and it is obvious that it resonates with its customers.
Vision. Responsibility. Inspiration. Integrity. Success. It is clear that all of these terms apply to Cheryl Snead and Banneker Industries. Her vision to take Banneker from its humble beginnings to a leading Supply Chain Management company, and her ability to lead and inspire those around her pushed her business forward to overwhelming success. Her employees mirror the ideals of the past winner of the SBA Rhode Island Minority Small Business Person of the Year in their work and have taken the foundation that Snead laid for Banneker. Together they built the wildly successful, people driven business it is today. Starting small in Lincoln, it didn’t take long for Snead’s team to gain regional and national recognition for their efforts. Snead was also awarded the SBA New England Women in Business Advocate of the Year, and in 2008, Banneker was named the SBA National Subcontractor of the Year. Is this the manifestation of Snead’s vision of what Banneker Industries would be? In many cases, yes. However, as Snead will quickly point out, they are never done growing as a business and making themselves better.
While Snead and Banneker’s work will never be done, it is clear that her keeping to core values from Day One, is the driving force behind Banneker’s success. Her want to have her company mirror the innovation, legacy and inspiration of its namesake has driven her and her business, and will continue to do so them in future.
Today it’s lean times financially for many small businesses, and for some it’s simply become just a great labor to remain profitable.
Jeanne Salisbury had met challenging times before. While raising five children, she apprenticed for 14 years at her sister-in-law’s printing business, Rapid Printing in North Providence.
It’s a laughing matter now, she recalls, but it was humbling at first, for Salisbury knew very little about printing and less about computers, never mind that she had never turned one on. Over time she grew enough in her trade to consider starting her own printing business.
She eventually did, purchasing a Minuteman Press franchise in Pawtucket. Then the recession hit hard in 2008. Through diminished returns, her enterprise struggled but survived. This year was worse. The end, despite her hopeful nature, appeared near. Rather
than closing doors, though, she called the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Providence for help.
Salisbury was referred to the Rhode Island chapter of SCORE: a team of business professionals who mentor at no cost to new and established small businesses. Steve Gareau, a SCORE mentor, called on her Central Avenue business.
According to Gareau, who draws his vast experience from various concerns as a business owner, he simply gives a gentle nudge to those that have gone astray. “I help people figure out what they want to do,” he said. “Focus, stay to plan and be diligent,” he tells them.
Coined by him as the “funneling effect,” ideas are dumped into an imaginary funnel and what comes out is a more focused view of the direction to go. “What they feel in their hearts and minds is the strength of their direction,” he believes.
Salisbury was looking to consolidate her debt, and had also considered, reluctantly, laying off her only employee who had been reduced to part-time. The numbers weren’t adding up.
“Steve’s pep talk lit a fire under me. The things he told me were pretty simple and basic,” she said. For starters, Gareau suggested hiring a salesperson to bring in new business, and she did. And signage and marketing were also a big concern. “I have a great storefront but customers were driving down the street without seeing it. We actually went out to the street and looked at the building and he gave me some great ideas.”
“Rapid Printing had such a strong local customer base,” Salisbury recalled. “I didn’t realize I had to market.” In this economy, she’s certain marketing has become more of a necessity. “If you don’t market, you won’t make it,” she said emphatically.
In addition, as a customer convenience, Gareau recommended extending business hours. Minuteman Press is now open later, until 6 p.m. on weeknights, and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Reaching out into the community through improved sales and marketing is paying dividends. Revenues are up 300 percent. “We’re just doing phenomenal,” Salisbury said. “To make it work out there you have to go get it.”
“Bad times are really when your expertise comes out,” Gareau added.
Minuteman Printing provides full-color printing and copying services, from business cards to brochures to wedding invitations and signs.
This August Salisbury marked her fifth anniversary as a small business owner. She recognized the significance of the occasion and how far she had come to reach the milestone, hoping for many more to come.