Corrie Colbert and her husband, Neil Stuber, moved to Montana from New York City and started making Hurraw! lip balm in 2008. In January of 2010 it was launched nationwide. Like many useful products, the idea was inspired by a need.
Searching for a lip balm that combined the qualities she valued, Corrie could not find anything that was exactly what she wanted. Following a time-honored tradition, she decided to invent the product she had in mind and Hurraw! was born. The name came from Corrie and Neil’s passion for a vegan and high raw lifestyle.
The pair had very specific ideas regarding what the product should be like. It had to be organic, using cold-pressed, high quality oils, and it had to be smooth, long-lasting and appealing with no artificial preservatives.
Experience with the raw food diet had given her a strong background and knowledge base, and she did extensive research to find the right suppliers and ingredients.
“Sourcing honest, fair trade, organic, vegan and raw ingredients from reputable suppliers was difficult at best,” it says on the website. “We finally did it and we are thrilled to share the labors of our hard work with other balm lovin’ individuals. Your purchase supports legit fair trade, organic farmers and suppliers here in the States and around the World.”
The next step was to find the right combination. The couple mixed batches in their home kitchen and tested them on friends and family. They used blind tests and elimination. Once they narrowed it down to a few choices, then it was time for the product to sit for a year to make sure it was stable and didn’t get grainy.
Rather than being down time, the year was a busy one, as they got ready to launch the product. Neil used his graphics background to create the design and branding. Corrie did the formulations, photography, and website.
After “several obsessed years” it all came together and they launched Hurraw!
The flavors and colors are all natural, infused with raw seeds, pods, fruit zests, barks and roots. Even the little black specks in the vanilla balm are legitimate – coming from the real vanilla bean seeds.
“We get requests for flavors we can’t produce,” Corrie says, “like watermelon and pineapple. But the flavors we make must be natural essential oils or oils distilled or extracted from natural compounds.”
The high standards are universal across the production process. Every detail counts. Even the shape of the container was designed to accommodate the user. The balm was tested to make sure it didn’t melt when carried in the back pocket of jeans all day, and the oval shape created to be less likely to fall out of a pocket.
When ordered from the website, the balm arrives in a small pouch, which is a reusable, unbleached cotton tea bag, made in the USA. Even the stamp dye on the pouch is food safe.
Hurraw! has received rave reviews in such major publications as the New York Times, Women’s Health, Teen Vogue, Backpacker, Washington Post, Oprah Magazine and others. Their success story sounds easy, but it hasn’t been without challenges.
“I always thought we could be a small business in America, but it’s difficult,” Corrie says. “You either have to do it as a hobby or you have to go huge. You have to balance the two.”
One of the basic principles they follow is managed growth.
“We went slow and funded everything ourselves,” Corrie says. “We try to do everything upfront, keep our overhead low, and pay as we go.”
Today they employ five part-time people that work in the manufacturing and packaging. They make all the lip balm by hand in small batches to ensure quality control.
While the future includes the possibility of expansion, balance is still crucial to keeping the quality high and maintaining the elements that make Hurraw! unique.
“Having enough space, the right employees, raw ingredients,” Corrie says, “it’s all a puzzle.”
Her advice to aspiring companies is to know your brand, have a clear focus and a good design, make a great product and have excellent customer service.
If small business success is a puzzle, it’s one in which Corrie and Neil seem to hold all the pieces, and for that, the dry lips of individuals everywhere can only shout “Hurraw!”.