Entrepreneur and founder of Schmidt’s Naturals, Jaime Schmidt, said that the business actually started as a hobby, at a time when her life was at a crossroads. “I was exploring several different DIY projects, living in Portland — it’s a very creative city — and I was really looking for a way to fit in. And I found it through making natural personal care products,” Schmidt said. “It was really a great city for selling at farmers markets for street festivals, and I was having fun doing that. Once I started hearing customer feedback and rave customer testimonials, I recognized there was a real business need for what I was doing.”
The opportunity came at just the right time for Schmidt, who was in the market for a new job. She said, “I had been soul-searching for several years, just looking for a passion and a new excitement in my work.” Broke and living on social security at the time, Schmidt said she began making clean and natural products for herself, and soon recognized the business opportunity that had presented itself.
When she first started her business back in 2010, social media was not as dominant as it is now, and Schmidt didn’t have a big budget for marketing. She says that she has her customers to thank for her success. “You know that customer word of mouth in the early days was so powerful,” she explained, noting influencers who were so excited about the product they would promote it on their channels for free.
Hype alone couldn’t have built Schmidt’s Naturals into the large-scale business it is now, and Schmidt says one other secret to her success was aiming for mass distribution, unlike many of her direct competitors. “Back then specifically, you think about natural products, they weren’t pursuing retailers like Target, Costco, Walmart. It was more of a niche more of like selling at Whole Foods. For me, I saw an opportunity to really go beyond that. To make my product reach as many people as possible.”
Schmidt also shared some words of advice for those who would like to follow in her footsteps: believe in yourself, celebrate your wins, and lean into the modern entrepreneurial trend of building in public, which advertises your authenticity.
“Keep an open mind about not only who your customer is and what your target market is, but also your potential,” Schmidt said. “I think it’s really easy to get frustrated and overwhelmed and intimidated and make assumptions about our capabilities as business owners and entrepreneurs. Belief in yourself I think is so key. That’s really what pushed me forward throughout the seven years of growth.”
She continued that it’s also important to celebrate every milestone. “Document the process as you go. It’s so fun to look back at the earliest days of the business. And see photos or see customer testimonials from the earliest just to remind yourself you earned it.”
She also said that while being real with her customers was always important to her, a lot of her business was done behind closed doors. Schmidt, who will be featured as a mentor to company founders on upcoming streaming series Going Public, advises new entrepreneurs to encourages new entrepreneurs to build in public. “Basically it’s just having total transparency as a founder, whether it’s building out to launch or throughout the growth of the business,” she said. Just as she got her start thanks to word-of-mouth advertising from hyper-enthusiastic customers, opening the doors to your business to the public can help foster the same kind of brand loyalty and enthusiasm from future customers of your own. “The benefits of it are getting community and customers who are hyped about your product who can be your earliest supporters. Invest your attention presenting yourself as an authentic, open founder.”