March 2016: Small Business Startup

A Wholesome Glow

Carmen Gendebien, Co-Owner of Glow Skincare and Spa, poses for a portrait with her lavender camomile milk bath at her farm in Lisbon. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

Carmen Gendebien, Co-Owner of Glow Skin Care & Spa, poses for a portrait with her lavender camomile milk bath at her farm in Lisbon. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

THE INITIAL IDEA

When Manhattan native Carmen Gendebien moved to Lisbon with her husband, Blake, to expand the family farm, she never thought that it would lead to an expansion of her own business, Glow Skin Care & Spa in Canton.

As her spa approaches its fifth anniversary in May, Mrs. Gendebien’s most recent project has hit the market: a luxury skin care line made with ingredients from the family farm.

“Our spa consultant couldn’t believe we were dairy farmers,” Mrs. Gendebien said. “She said ‘you’re doing this stuff. You’re growing these products. You could do this.”

Mrs. Gendebien took that advice to heart and spent a year working on the products before launching her new skin care business, A Wholesome Glow, in January.

TARGET CLIENTELE

A Wholesome Glow was designed as a national skin care line that would take the name of the north country and its scents to every corner of the country.

“What we really wanted to do was promote the north country and all the north country has to offer,” Mrs. Gendebien said. “When people in New York City get this, they’re getting a piece of the north country.”

Despite aiming for a luxury clientele, including spas, hotels and resorts, Mrs. Gendebien created the products for individuals as well.

“It’s very popular,” she said. “Women love it, women and men.”

Typically, apple- and blueberry-scented lotions and body scrubs wouldn’t draw men, but Mrs. Gendebien said she designed the products to have subtle scents and the fruits are north country agricultural products that she chose from a survey of local residents.

What makes the products popular among men, particularly those who work outdoors in Northern New York, are the other ingredients including cow milk, alfalfa, and oats. The products are packed with good moisturizers and exfoliates, Mrs. Gendebien said.

“I already have men hooked on the bath bar,” she said.

The luxury products are very affordable for locals, who receive 20 percent off on purchases, because they deserve it, Mrs. Gendebien said.

THE JOURNEY

After moving to Lisbon, Mrs. Gendebien wanted to explore her passion for skin care and open her own spa, but the closest licensing program in Syracuse.

She proved her dedication by driving five to seven hours a day during the winter down to Syracuse because it was the only season that she could take off from the farm.

It paid off when she emerged a licensed Esthetician after six months with added licenses in nails and waxing.

“I was kind of a one man show at the spa for a year and a half,” Mrs. Gendebien said.

As the spa took off and had more, it didn’t seem far-fetched to her to create her own product line because she has experimented with body scrubs and similar items at the spa.

In 2015, she began experimenting with ideas, starting with a three-product plan that became five. She converted a garage into her lab and their Amish house into a packaging facility.

“I have about 100 essential oils that I purchase just to play with,” she said. “It’s not manufactured somewhere. I’m literally making it on the farm.”

The process wasn’t without its complications, though, and Mrs. Gendebien had to hire two chemists to help her get the lotion and the body oil just right.

“The apple lavender was probably the most challenging to get the right mix,” she said. “I knew what I wanted. It was just a lot of research and a lot of working on the recipes.

Her experimentation resulted in the apple lavender lotion, blueberry mint body scrub, the bath bar, a rose and mamey body oil and the milk bath, which was her husband’s creation.

IN FIVE YEARS

A Wholesome Glow is already on shelves at Mrs. Gendebien’s spa, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York and the gift shop at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center.

As the skin care line hits its two month anniversary the product has been sold online as far as Seattle, Connecticut and North Carolina.

The next step for Mrs. Gendebien is to dive into the luxury resort and hotel market.

“I would love to get this into the hotel chain,” she said. “A lot of hotels are getting rid of Jacuzzis and putting in soap tubs.”

Mrs. Gendebien is proposing a minibar of wellness for the luxury tubs, featuring her products, to bring luxury products directly to the hotel’s customers.

She said that one resort has already expressed interest in the idea.

Her business plan includes future product lines as well.

“My goal is to have an SPF line by the summer, good SPF for farmers and a kid’s line,” she said.

Mrs. Gendebien also plans a product line just for men.

“The success of this will be the success of the north country,” she said. “We’re taking everyone with us.”

­— Karee Magee