511 N. 8th St., Sheboygan
Industry: Natural home and skin care products
The natural skin care products made in a downtown Sheboygan shop have made their way into the swag bags given to celebrities at last year’s Emmy Awards, the 2015 Golden Globe Awards and next, the MTV Movie Awards on April 12.
“I feel excited that our increased exposure allows our products to be in the hands of people all over the United States whether they’re a celebrity or not, but of course I can’t help but feel a little giddy over the idea that a celebrity would have my lip balm in their pocket,” said Caitlin Brotz, owner of Olivü 426, which also makes natural home products like room spray and soy candles.
In 2003, Brotz began making lip balm and whipped lotion that would help heal her boyfriend, who was badly burned while building a wood chip snowmobile track.
After obtaining her entrepreneurship certification from Collin County Community College in Texas and a business degree from Lakeland College in Sheboygan County, Brotz founded Olivü 426 in 2006, at the age of 23.
It is located in a 2,100-square-foot space, with the main floor used for the store, the basement used for raw material storage and the recently acquired upstairs space used for the production area.
Brotz named it Olivü 426 because many of her products contain olive oil, and Olivü sounds like “I love you.” The 426 is a tribute to her boyfriend, who died in a 2005 car accident. It was his snowmobile racing number.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought I’d be around in a year or two, including probably myself, but I was,” she said.
Nine years later, the number of products has grown from five to more than 150. Sales have increased by 12 percent since 2013, and the company’s Facebook fans tripled from 4,000 to 12,000 in a year.
Plus, Olivü 426 won the Retailer of the Year award from the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce in February, and Brotz is currently planning to expand the number of employees from nine to 12.
Among Olivü 426’s myriad products are lip balm, lotion, moisturizers, bath salts, deodorant, shower gel and sunblock. Individual products range in price from $6 to $30, and kits cost from $25 to $40.
All the products are handcrafted in small batches in the production area daily or weekly. Using original recipes formulated by Brotz, the general process involves measuring the ingredients, melting certain ingredients and heating the mixture to the right temperature before hand pouring it into containers.
“It’s not unlike cooking in your kitchen, or baking, or making chocolate,” Brotz said. “Each (product) really gets individual attention.”
Among the products made daily are at least 10 batches of lotion, 10 batches of soap bars and 200 to 300 lip balms.
The products are only available for purchase at the store or online, but some of the products are used in services like manicures and pedicures at local spas. About 40 percent of sales are from the website, and 60 percent are from in-store shoppers, many of whom come from Milwaukee and Green Bay.
Brotz likens Olivü 426 to Bath & Body Works meets the Build-A-Bear Workshop, because customers can customize their own products and even make products themselves.
For instance, a customer can select the oil, fragrance and herbs when making sugar scrub, and they can pick out the flavor, sparkle and color cap for lip balms.
“We have moms and daughters that come in, dads and daughters, grandmas and granddaughters,” Brotz said. “It’s really rewarding to bring people moments of joy either when they’re experiencing the entertainment value we offer or when they get to go home and use a product that works well and that they’ve been able to form a connection with.”