Industry: Lifestyle & Consumer
Products: Cleansers, toners, and moisturizers
Long before "organic" and "local" were buzzwords, Lily Morgan founded the original organic Colorado skincare company.
Morgan -- chief organic officer of Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care -- isn't a Colorado native, but sometimes she feels like one. "I dropped out of high school when I was 16, and moved here to be ski bum," she says, reminiscing about the years she lived in the basement of a Holiday Inn in Vail, where she worked as a maid to fund her hobby.
In the 1980s, though, it was time to get a grown-up job. Morgan graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver and founded the Senior Assistance Center, where she worked for the better part of three decades. Morgan launched another company in the '80s: a natural skincare business with roots tracing all the way back to her childhood in Michigan. "My dad is a sixth generation American apple grower," Morgan begins. "His family had been growing apples since before the American Revolution."
Morgan was struggling with adult acne, and synthetic solutions weren't clearing up her skin. So Morgan "turned to the land," she says, and began experimenting with natural skincare products in her house in southeast Denver.
"I wanted to make really clean products without chemicals," Morgan says. "This was way before the organic movement." When Morgan couldn't source organic lavender, rose, calendula, and chamomile, she started growing the ingredients she needed for face products she'd begun making for acne-prone skin.
Morgan's first product was Balancing Oil Free Skin Conditioning Serum. And her first customer was Margaret Isley, co-founder of Natural Grocers. "I had one product, and she had two stores," Morgan recalls. Things took off, Morgan continues, when Wild Oats picked up Morgan's line. "They brought us everywhere," Morgan says.
By the early 1990s, Morgan had procured a 15-acre farm in Henderson, and was growing organic flowers and herbs, essential ingredients for the growing line of skincare products Morgan manufactured in an on-site FDA regulated lab.
Morgan still uses the same fabrication process she's used for decades. "Usually we tincture the herbs," she says, explaining, "That collects the properties -- the chemical constituents -- that you want."
Creams, Morgan adds, are "no more than a homogenization process." And aside from a homogenizer and semi-automatic labeler, Morgan's products are handmade. Morgan's award-winning Rejuvenating Enzyme Mask, for example, uses honey, papaya, and pineapple. "We mix that by hand in certified organic stainless steel vats," Morgan says.
Morgan produces six lines of cleansers, toners, and moisturizers. The company was founded on its acne-prone products, but has grown to include lines for consumers with normal-to-oily skin, sensitive skin, dry skin, and sun-damaged skin. There are also anti-aging offerings.
Products are packaged in nonporous glass containers. "It's clean; it's recyclable," Morgan says, adding, "When we move to our new site, customers will be able to bring used bottles to us, and we will sterilize them for refilling."
That new site Morgan mentioned is an 80-acre farm located in Keenesburg. After relocating in mid-2017, she'll continue growing organic ingredients on her new farm, and she'll open an event center and a visitor-friendly facility for consumers who'd like to see the manufacturing process firsthand.
"We wanted to create a more engaged customer process while elevating sales in all of our retail stores," Morgan explains. Lily Farm Fresh Skin Care products are currently sold in about 100 stores: Natural Grocers, Whole Foods Market, Lucky's Market, and Alfalfa's Market, plus a handful of shops in California and New York. "But 90 percent of our wholesale business is regional, in Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico," Morgan clarifies.
Once she's settled into her new digs, Morgan plans to grow her product line, too. "We want to start getting into the gift market, and are coming out with packaging for that," she says, before unveiling plans for a few new products: a cream, a clay mask, and bath salts.
Challenges: Construction! That's been Morgan's biggest challenge since breaking ground on her new 5,200-square-foot manufacturing plant and farm center.
Opportunities: "The opportunities are endless in terms of what we can grow and the products we can make," Morgan says. She is focused on consumer engagement, and sees a chance to enhance her business with philanthropic offerings and events that "get people more involved in agriculture," she says.
Needs: "We'd like more customers, of course," Morgan says. "And we'd like to team up with more organic growers and manufacturers, too, for a collective feel."