Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle
Products: Natural skincare
Founder and CEO Cassy Burnvoth is using tallow -- beef fat, for the uninitiated -- to manufacture naturally effective moisturizers, deodorants, and "Fat Sticks."
As a long-distance runner, Burnvoth has long been into being fit and eating healthy. That lifestyle later transitioned into wanting to utilize pure and natural healthy skincare products. "Your skin is your largest organ and most of the products on the market had chemicals," says Burnvoth. "So I started making my own as a hobby and I came across an article on tallow, and how amazing it is to moisturize your skin."
After some research, Burnvoth says she began testing recipes with tallow (rendered beef fat) she bought from a girl on Etsy. "I felt passionate about what I was doing and I began sharing with friends and family, all of the lotions and cleansers I was making," she says. "I started with $10,000 and built my first website on Squarespace and launched it to see what would happen. I still had my job as a mechanical engineer but there weren't many other engineering jobs available in Lake Tahoe -- where I was moving -- so I wanted to see If I could do this on my own."
Fatco gained traction and Burnvoth brought in her husband, Tim, who is in charge of operations, and Julia Requarth to handle the marketing. It didn't take long before they learned the online tactics that helped the brand gain a foothold in a new market. "I had a really good first year, and around November, I got 600 orders on Black Friday," says Burnvoth. "I thought we could do more marketing to the Paleo and Crossfit community, so the following year we moved into a dedicated facility."
The line soon got picked up by Target and other retailers. "We made everything in-house, but by 2015 we had to outsource some of the manufacturing to Texas, just to keep up with demand," says Burnvoth.
Since Fatco's products are primarily made from tallow, Burnvoth has sought environmentally responsible sources and supply chains. "There's a great sustainability aspect to using tallow," she says. "Nothing goes to waste."
The company sources its tallow from Fatworks in Colorado, which works with about 25 small family farms. "We like the fact that as we grow, so does our supply chain and we support farmers and ranchers who are regenerating the land," says Burnvoth.
While Fatco markets to the Paleo and Crossfit crowd, she also notices that Millennials are also a growing market for 100 percent natural products. "Millennials are conscious consumers and transparency is very important to them," she says. "We want to have that level of transparency with our customers towards our products and where we source from."
Fatco products are having success in Target stores, and Burnvoth says she wants to get into more retailers. "We want to be in more retail stores, but the beauty category is really tough," she says. "Most buyers don't have an open mind and are often afraid to take that leap with new products. Our products are available in a lot of other channels that do really well for us."
Challenges: Education. "We're doing what feels like all the right things," says Burnvoth. "We're spending the money to go to all the tradeshows and educate people on our products. Over the last three years, we've been attending lots of trade shows and have had interest, but it's often difficult to close the loop and get buy in from the buyers at the retail level."
Opportunities: Direct and online sales. "The beauty of the position that we're in, is that we're living in a time when we don't need retail accounts in order for our business to survive," says Burnvoth. "While we'd love to be on more retail store shelves, we don't need them to survive. If more come along, that would be really great, but right now we're focusing on the online channels that do well for us."
Needs: "We really need to get the beauty industry to recognize this ingredient [tallow]. REI, for example, said that they wanted their personal care products plant-based and vegan-friendly," says Burnvoth. "The problem is that the market is much larger and most retailers don't understand the true benefits of tallow-based products."