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Meet Erin Lea of Olive Tree Body Care in Fort Worth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erin Lea.

Erin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have always loved all things science! As a child, I was frequently outdoors collecting rocks, insects, and wildflowers, or I was poring over books about earth science and biology. My love of science and nature led me to pursue a degree in geology and geophysics, after which I began a career as an environmental scientist. At one environmental company, I dealt with hazardous chemicals and was even on a hazmat team, conducting emergency spill response all over Texas. I also helped clients in a variety of industries to stay in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations. As much as I enjoyed environmental science, I wasn’t enamored with the corporate culture. I needed less bureaucracy and fewer personal limitations. As the daughter of entrepreneurial parents, I witnessed firsthand the freedom that comes with owning a small business. I wanted to choose my own adventure, so to speak. The best type of job for me would be one in which the product development possibilities are limitless, I get to wear many different hats, and I get to utilize my science background. Founding Olive Tree Body Care provided that opportunity!

I transitioned to cosmetic science somewhat accidentally. In 2010 my sister, who lives in Portland, Oregon, sent me some handcrafted soaps from a local market. As I began using these soaps, I noticed that the eczema on my hands was clearing up and that I no longer needed a moisturizer on my skin. I began to research natural skincare, and I realized that the cause of my previous skin problems was due to the sulfates, parabens, and other irritants commonly found in mass-produced bath and body products. In 2011 I tossed out all my commercially manufactured skincare products, and I began formulating and creating plant-based soaps, shampoos, deodorants, and moisturizers. This was one of the best decisions I had ever made for my family’s overall health and well being, and I couldn’t wait to share these products with others!

I began selling my products at local pop-up markets, and I created a website to reach a broader audience. In 2016 Dr. Karim Jamal, owner of the University Car Wash in Fort Worth, became my first wholesale client after approaching me about carrying Olive Tree Body Care in their gift shop. I now have wholesale clients at several local shops and in stores around the nation.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would say that it has been relatively smooth. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband whose career has provided the income to allow me to gradually grow my business from home while homeschooling my children. And I have great friends who beta test new products and promote Olive Tree in their social circles. My retailers are amazing and have helped to extend Olive Tree’s reach to new customers.

One of my earliest struggles was finding the space to operate within my home. I started out in a 10’ x 10’ home office, which held all my supplies; and I used my kitchen to manufacture my products. As a result, the kitchen was rarely used for cooking, and we ate out more than I would have liked. I outgrew this setup after a few years, so we moved to a home with a converted 2.5 car garage, which became my workshop. This has allowed me the space for manufacturing, storage, shipping, and packaging areas, all in one room.

My biggest struggle is functioning as a sole proprietor while competing with big corporations and multi-level marketing companies. I don’t have a marketing team or the capital to outsource packaging and graphic design. I don’t have full-time employees to share the workload or to give feedback on ideas. Luckily, I enjoy wearing many hats. I may spend one day focused on product research, the next day developing a new formula, and the following day creating the graphic design for the product label. I manufacture, package, and ship all my own orders, with the occasional help of seasonal interns. I’m always finding ways to streamline costs while still delivering bath and body products of the highest possible quality.

Please tell us about Olive Tree Body Care.
Olive Tree strives to deliver safe, natural products at a price that the average person can afford. I spend a lot of time analyzing the ingredient labels of my competition, and I am shocked at the exorbitant prices on products that contain so few high-quality ingredients and that often contain harmful chemicals that you will never find in Olive Tree Body Care.

Something I believe I do well is customer service. I will address any client’s issue personally. I will go above and beyond to make my customers happy, and I love getting reviews that reflect their satisfaction with both my service and the product. I am driven less by profit than I am by a desire to deliver a product that will improve the quality of life for my customers; this is as much a ministry as it is a business. I once received a letter from a customer whose husband had come back from military deployment in the Middle East with a chronic heat rash. He was unable to endure any exposure to sunlight and had resorted to working only night shifts at his new stateside position. He began using Olive Tree eczema cream, and his wife soon reported back that his skin condition had improved so much that he no longer had to work night shifts. This letter brought tears to my eyes. Testimonies like these are what motivate me!

Olive Tree is a bath and body product line that I have created using a variety of natural therapeutic ingredients, including:

Aloe vera

Plant oils, including castor, sweet almond, coconut, and olive oils

Nut butter, including shea and cocoa butters

Minerals, including magnesium, kaolin clay, bentonite clay, and sea salt

Essential oils distilled from a variety of flowers, leaves, barks, and resins

Ingredients that you will never find in Olive Tree Body Care include parabens, sulfates, silicones, aluminum, and petroleum by-products, namely phthalates and mineral oil. I often tell my customers that Olive Tree products are safe enough to eat, but they probably wouldn’t taste great!

I created Fort Worth Soap Company, a subsidiary of Olive Tree, as a way to celebrate the diverse and wonderful city that I call home. I package my natural artisan soap in a label that captures “cowboys and culture,” and it is a popular item for tourists or anyone looking for a Fort Worth-themed gift.

We are excited to have an exclusive partnership with Coffee Mug Shaving (coffeemugshaving.com), where you can find the finest quality badger shave brushes, stands, and straight razors, along with Olive Tree shave soaps and beard oils.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite childhood memories took place while living near the Red River in a rural part of Montague County. My siblings, cousins, and I spent many hours building forts and secret clubhouses out in the woods near our homes; and we also spent many hours swimming and fishing in the Red River. We spent our summers constantly immersed in nature, and I loved it!

Pricing:

  • price range: $3 – $30

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Erin Lea, Jessica Collins

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