Welcome to the “Meet” section of my blog! This is a new feature in which I introduce you to someone in Atlanta who lives life with passion, has something noteworthy to share, has a triumphant personal story, and is in general a good person to know.
One such person is Sally Larsen, who I recently met through a mutual friend. We met on a sunny morning in September to talk about her skin care line, Sally B's Skin Yummies.
The number one thing you should know about Sally B's Skin Yummies is that it's all made with love.
Her skin and cosmetic products are whipped together in her studio kitchen right here in Atlanta, blended using natural and organic ingredients that are both good for people and good for the earth. From makeup and moisturizers, soaps to serums, insect repellent to underarm deodorant, Sally B's Skin Yummies give you choices of everyday products that are natural and cruelty-free, and aren't green-washed with slick marketing.
As interesting as the brand is, the woman behind it is more so. Her personal story provides shape, backbone, and soul to the brand.
Begun in 2005, this company was born because of her personal experiences.
In the 1970s, Sally earned an MBA and was one of the first female Vice Presidents at Wells Fargo. But after a life-changing diagnosis of bone cancer in her pelvis in the 1990s, this athletic and ambitious woman endured a month-long stay in the hospital, three operations, and six months in bed. During her slow and painful recovery, which was plagued with infections due to lymphedema, she made many changes in her life, became focused on maintaining good health, and experienced a mindset and lifestyle shift in which she empowered herself with information.
With no desire to take medicine and antibiotics constantly, she discovered that if she ate increasing amounts of organic and plant-based food, then she reduced the frequency of the infections caused by lymphedema. Consultations with nutritionists confirmed that what she put into her body was hugely significant to maintaining her well-being.
But something she didn't expect to learn as well was the significance of what she put on her body. Skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and it absorbs the ingredients of what we rub into it, mainly from our skin care products. Around 2003, as her curiosity grew and her commitment to health strengthened, Sally began dabbling with skin care recipes online. And after giving her nutritionist a jar of one of her homemade lotions, the woman asked her if she'd consider using organic ingredients in the lotion, like she seeks for her food.
So while running a separate home-based business, she started digging a little deeper for organic skin care ingredients and creating recipes. The question became, how to create a natural lotion that wouldn't need to be kept in the refrigerator and wouldn't grow mold?
She started working with a chemist to make more sophisticated products, not just oil-based moisturizers. After coming up with blends that worked and testing them extensively, she brought her growing line of lotions, soaps, and cosmetics to local markets and festivals, before christening her company Sally B's Skin Yummies ("Sally B" is an homage to her childhood nickname). Her new brand focused on re-creating the everyday products that consumers use, while replacing the laboratory-based ingredients with as many plant-based and organic ingredients as possible.
By 2005, she decided to move operations of Sally B's Skin Yummies out of her home kitchen. (If her husband put one more piece of cheese toast on a cookie sheet that smelled like shea butter, he would burst.) The hunt for a commercial kitchen at which she could also sell her products brought her first to the Irwin Street Market in Old Fourth Ward, and from there to a co-op she started with friends in Inman Park called The Collective, which they ran for four years.
At this point, her brand really began to grow through a series of fortuitous introductions. One day, someone walked in from the movie set for Hall Pass, and asked, "Would you like to send some goodie bags over to the cast, which stars Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis?" Sally agreed, and one of her goodie bags found its way to Kimberly Snyder, who was a nutritionist and author traveling with the movie. Kimberly fell in love with one of Sally’s lip balms and blogged about it. More than one hundred orders came in based on her endorsement of Sally B! This exposure led to more exposure, which helped launched the brand into the worldwide market.
By 2012, a permanent location was found in Buckhead neighborhood, in Miami Circle, at which Sally could have a showroom and a commercial kitchen.
The company now has an international and national presence, as well as a wholesale division which supplies boutiques and spas.
Sally speaks with genuine admiration for her team, which includes the recipe artists, in-house fulfillment, PR, and copy-writing. Together, they work to cultivate a brand that does more than create organic skin care and cosmetic products; they endeavor to educate consumers about the basics of skin health, ingredients to beware of, and innovations in the skin care industry.