Small Business Spotlight: 103 Collection Connects Beauty with Nature
Things in life often don’t just line up perfectly.
But for Melinda Herron, founder of 103 Collection – an eco-beauty company rooted in nature – the inspiration for her company sort of did.
“I was in my 30s, and I knew I wanted to start a product-based business in which I didn’t have to physically be there every day. I was starting a family, and I wanted to be with my children and my husband,” said Herron. “At the same time, I started having a lot of negative reactions to the skin products I was using. Everyone was suggesting different things, but nothing was working for me. So, I thought why not just make my own?”
“My personal and my professional needs lined up; the opportunity kind of just fell into place.”
Herron started 103 Collection in 2015 with her husband Delfondo. And if the story behind the company is one of things lining up perfectly, the story of their relationship can’t be left out.
“My husband and I grew up within a mile of each other, but we didn’t know each other as children – we met as adults and found out later,” said Herron. “When we did find out, we saw that the street connecting where both of us lived was 103rd street.”
“103 has always been a part of us, so when we were thinking of names we wanted something unique that told a story which is part of us both. That’s how we came to 103 Collection.”
Herron has always had a passion for two things – entrepreneurship and beauty. At 14, she started in the beauty space by doing hair and makeup for her friends. Following high school, she attended cosmetology school before going to university.
“My foundation is in the beauty space, that’s where my heart lays,” said Herron.
Following university, she started an event planning company. Her business saw success, but required a lot of time and attention. With her family starting, she knew she had to find an alternative which allowed her to be at home more. As she explored options for her next move, she started having a lot of negative experiences with skin products.
“I was having allergic reactions and was so tired of trying new products,” said Herron. “It got so bad that there were times I couldn’t go outside because of hives or a swollen face. I thought ‘what can I do to change this?’ and decided to create my own product.”
Driven by her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for beauty, Herron and her husband began researching skincare products. They started by ordering different ingredients, mixing them, and seeing the results.
After noticing a lot of products used ingredients that they didn’t know, the two decided to find alternatives that were natural. Over time, they started to see positive results.
“We found that plant-based products were less likely to cause negative reactions,” said Herron. “So, we kept mixing different natural ingredients until we had a product that didn’t cause an allergic reaction.”
With a product in hand, they shared it with family and friends to see if it brought similar results. They loved it as well, so the two decided to sell their product online. With a simple website and traditional social media promotion, they started to reach people who weren’t part of their immediate circle. The results, however, remained the same – people loved it.
As they began seeing success online, the two started thinking strategically about their business.
“We knew we wanted to be in a retail store within the first five years,” said Herron. “Once we set that goal, we were very strategic about the events we attended and the connections we made.”
They started setting up at a number of trade shows, but with their goal in mind, the focus wasn’t necessarily on sales.
“We learned that as a small business, investments didn’t always turn a profit right away,” said Herron. “When we shifted our focus to marketing and connections, as opposed to sales, we saw more success – some shows we went to just for connections.”
With each event, 103 Collection grew – one meeting turned into two, which turned into meetings with large corporations like Target and Walmart.
“It was a lot of trial and error, but we started small and transformed over time by capitalizing on great opportunities,” said Herron.
Over the last few years, 103 Collection has continued that growth. Currently, its eco-beauty products can be found in several large retailers including Target and Meyers. Moving forward, Herron hopes to take it to another level by bringing it to additional retailers and growing the brand. And while 103 Collection continues to grow, their focus remains on more than sales – it’s on educating others about the importance of plant-based products.
“It’s important to understand why clean beauty is important, how it benefits the planet, and why people should be more educated on the things we put in and on our bodies,” said Herron. “A lot of people use products that are bad for them, and they don’t even realize it. A certain product may work great for some, but that doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. It’s not that the product is bad, it’s that people need to learn more about their skin type and what works for them and their skin.”
103 Collection’s journey started as part of the Polsky Exchange’s Small Business Growth Program – a program that Herron almost didn’t join.
“I was thinking ‘how could I possibly dedicate all this time to the program?’” said Herron. “I was convinced to join and promised that it would be worthwhile, and I’m so glad that I was.”
The resources provided by the program helped kickstart 103 Collection and prepare Herron for the success she’s seeing today.
“The program really set the foundation for us, got us to think bigger and broader, and provided us with really great connections and resources that we still use today,” Herron said. “It was life changing. I’m so thankful and grateful to have been a part of the program and I recommend anyone interested to take part as well.”
The Small Business Spotlight series highlights South and West side business that have taken part in the Polsky Exchange’s Small Business Growth Program. Learn more about these exceptional businesses.
Article by Darwin Minnis, associate director of media relations and external communications at the Polsky Center. Darwin has a passion for telling the stories of the people, products, and companies that are making a positive impact on their communities. Reach Darwin via email.