Stephanie Morimoto sees major potential in the intersection of health, self care and personal care — so much so that her brand, Asutra, focuses on “active self care.”
“We want to help people take care of themselves on purpose,” she said.
Asutra’s lineup includes products meant to help with pain, stress, sleep, energy, focus and other goals, and spans aromatherapy mists, bath salts and skin care.
In 2019, the brand inked a partnership with Venus Williams, who is an investor and chief brand officer. Last year, industry sources said Asutra surpassed $4 million in net sales.
This March, the brand began rolling out its pain and sleep products nationwide with Target.
Here, Morimoto, Asutra’s chief executive officer, talks Asutra’s roots, future and the blurring of personal care and health. This interview has been edited and condensed.
How did Asutra begin?
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Stephanie Morimoto: Asutra was founded in 2015 primarily focused on a line of organic yoga mat cleaning sprays. I did not found the business — I bought it in 2018. By then, the catalogue had expanded to a variety of self care products like aromatherapy mists, body scrubs, bath bombs and skin care. I got connected to Asutra because I was a customer — I was using those yoga mat cleaning sprays.
I had been thinking for a while about doing something different. I spent a lot of my career helping women start small businesses, consulting with really big businesses and on education [teaching English in Japan and running fundraising, partnerships and marketing for education nonprofits]. What I wanted to do was combine the mission we were working for in education, which was to create opportunity for everyone, especially those who may not have as much access to it, and the stuff I loved about entrepreneurship. I thought it would be really cool if I could find a small business where the founders were ready to move on but didn’t have somebody to hand it over to. I could buy it and then build it to the next level. Now, I set out to do that.
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After doing a bunch of due diligence I decided to move ahead with the purchase and relocated the business from Texas to Chicago, my hometown, so I could contribute to the economy here.
How do you think about building your team while keeping the brand’s broader purpose in mind?
S.M.: Our broader purpose is active self care. Self care has become such a buzzword, and our view is that it’s not just about taking a bath or having a skin care regimen. It truly is about creating different practices and rituals in your life to rest, to rejuvenate, to take care of your health, so you can be at your best.
Women often are trained to take care of everybody else before themselves, and it wears us out. I want to get the message out there that we as women don’t have to feel guilty about taking time to invest in ourselves. We need to be healthy, mentally, physically, spiritually, if we’re going to contribute and be our best in the world.
When rebuilding the team from scratch in Chicago, we put that mission first and foremost in the job description and in our hiring interviews and we look for people who really resonate with that mission.
Our top core value is one team, one goal. We’re all about having each other’s back. All diving in, all hands on deck when necessary when there’s a big customer order or a big project that we need to work on together. And if somebody needs to take time off or somebody is having a tough day, somebody else is right there.
We want our mission of active self care to apply to ourselves. That’s a work in progress. I’m not going to lie, it’s not perfect all the time, especially with COVID-19. Our guiding light is take care of yourself first, we will figure it out on the work side. When you invest in folks like that and recognize the humanity and what they need, when they’re able, they step up.
Who is your main customer and how do you see your customers shopping?
S.M.: People tend to come in trying a few different things. Their first purchase is often from our magnesium healing collection for pain relief or sleep, or our skin serums because Venus Williams, our part owner and chief brand officer, talks about them. A lot of our customers come to us because they’ve read something Venus has written or said, or they’re searching for a solution, like a natural solution for sleep, and they find magnesium and then they find Asutra.
They are mostly women, 65 percent women, 65 percent are between the ages of 25 and 54 and 55 percent have a household income for $100,000 plus. But we see a whole range.
How do you think about product development with products in so many different, but overlapping, categories?
S.M.: That active self care wellness mantra is still our core guiding light. We do have a grid that provides a framework around helping people active their minds, their bodies, their souls and their different self care routines — showering or bathing, exercise and exercise recovery, boosting your mood at different times. Then we look at the intersection and figure out where we have whitespace. We also look at ingredients. We try to be as plant based as possible, we stick to cruelty free, we look at the Environmental Working Group to make sure we’re using the cleaner, safe ingredients. And we look at ingredients that we think could be interesting to provide functional benefits.
We’re finding people are really hungry for those natural alternatives for pain, you’re starting to see the demand grow. In the next couple of years, we’ll have a lot more people who say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to take Advil or NyQuil. What else can I do?’
What’s next for Asutra?
S.M.: We launched at Target March 28. We started at Target online in August, they’re launching us nationwide with our two top-selling pain products, spray pain away and melt pain away, and three sleep items, our lavender mist your mood, our lavender sleep mask and our sleep on the go set, on the shelf nationwide.
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