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Coastal Salt & Soul: A Return to My Roots

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: May 29, 2014, from the June 2014 issue of GCI Magazine.

As I sat down to write this article, it occurred to me that, in many ways, writing an article about starting my own beauty brand is at once sublime and exhilarating. To be honest, if you had asked me five years ago if I was planning on taking this journey, I suspect I would’ve had a vastly different answer. But today, in 2014, the planning, creation and execution of this brand feels like the final turning point on my path, much as I know it has been for the many entrepreneurs I’ve helped guide through my firm, The Beauty Company.

My new beauty brand, Coastal Salt & Soul, is a return to my roots, and it is a story of ideas, luck and love. It’s an exhilarating joyride and a humbling reality check. It’s passion and creativity unleashed, and it’s also disappointments, setbacks, revisions and rewrites. I never thought I was immune to these experiences, but we all know there is a difference between watching a marathon on TV and actually running one. For me, this difference can be boiled down to having the prescience to jump on the idea when I realized it had the right elements, the right timing and, plain and simple, the right stuff.

From the downright visceral reactions I’ve received from every person who has seen the growth of the brand to the dedication of my team to the consumers who have eagerly tested the product and the concept and to my family putting up with me bringing yet again another bucketful of seashells home, Coastal Salt & Soul has shown me just how far ideas, luck and love can take us in the world of beauty branding—especially when executed with the right strategy, the right plan and a beautiful vision.

A Coastal Story (Ideas)

Coastal Salt & Soul can be traced to bright days spent by the beach and vacations seaside with my family. Lucky enough to be able to spend every summer with my husband and children on the California coast, I believe there is something about the sea that releases us from ourselves and allows us to truly open up to creativity. I also believe it is during these times that many of us are relaxed, happy and disconnected enough from the activity of our daily lives to have time to dwell on our dreams and ideas—and I’m no different.

Coastal Salt & Soul began with a feeling of wanting to bring what inspires me about living in a beachside home to my very-far-from-the-ocean house in Washington, DC: whitewashed furniture and vintage linens, scrubbed wooden floors and fresh ocean breezes, wild beach flowers in mason jars and warm sand sifting between hands and toes. I began collecting treasures from every coastline I visited, and soon my house began to resemble the beach aesthetic I was craving. People began to notice, and it was when my friends and family began to comment on how much my DC home looked like a beach cottage that the idea of creating a brand that brought this feeling, this inspiration, to women everywhere solidified.

I believe that for me, as with many beauty entrepreneurs, the ideas for Coastal Salt & Soul were always there—I was just lucky enough, as the founder of The Beauty Company, to be able to spearhead every element of brand development on my own—concept creation and testing, product development and strategy, and brand positioning and creative. Every detail of the Coastal Salt & Soul brand traces its lineage back to how I feel living, breathing and creating by the ocean.

The same is true of our products. It was always my idea to create products that women would love to use and that would share in this energy. From luxury hand washes and body butters to hand-poured candles and Italian-forged pottery, Coastal Salt & Soul brings what I like to call a “rustic chic” vibe to every room in the house: bathroom, bedroom, living room, tabletop and outside. All created to echo the natural surroundings of the seaside, we chose fragrances evocative of warm summer days in Santa Barbara, linens and patterns reminiscent of cotton dresses our daughters might wear while collecting seashells (including vintage buttons sourced from antique shops in France), and pottery patterns etched with the mark of Italian craftsmanship. No matter how small, every detail harkens to Coastal Salt & Soul’s seaside heritage, and they always will.

A Salty Story (Luck)

Although the idea of Coastal Salt & Soul feels like a part of my own soul, capturing it and bringing it to life through storytelling proved no less a challenge than I know it does for most brands. As much as I’d like to claim all of the brand elements magically melded together into the perfect combination, the truth is, even though I believe the idea for Coastal Salt & Soul was effortless, it took a lot of strategy, a lot of talent (in the form of my amazing team) and quite a lot of killing those brand elements that simply weren’t right for the brand before it all came together.

Just as I advise many of the brands who come to my firm for brand strategy intelligence, when it came time to truly tell the Coastal Salt & Soul story, I, like every other owner, had to let go of some things in order to collect some others. For example, at the beginning, I considered adding to the core line of Coastal products a limited color cosmetic collection, and it was only after carefully (and painfully!) culling through my true vision for this brand that I could see how color cosmetics simply didn’t (and still don’t) fit the brand’s profile.

I expected this part of the process to hurt, and much to my surprise, it actually felt … very, very right. And this is where the luck comes in. Not only do I feel lucky to have recognized this reality before pushing the go button on lipstick or eye shadow production, I also feel lucky because I learned to trust this feeling implicitly and heed its voice. Because the more I listened, the better the Coastal Salt & Soul story became, and the overall vision (and ideas) for the brand also became equally as crystal clear. I’ve said many times that a brand is a story well-told, and, after crying one or two salty tears of my own, Coastal Salt & Soul now tells the story I’ve yearned to tell—and frankly, it tells the story the brand has wanted to tell all along.

I firmly believe whether it is now or 10 years from now, Coastal Salt & Soul is a brand that is meant to be. My job as the founder is to release the potential that was always there with focus, with fun and with a little bit of salt to keep it real. And thankfully, with all the luck of finding that perfect spot on the beach for watching the sunset.

A Soul Story (Love)

At the heart of Coastal Salt & Soul is an emotion every one of us understands, yearns for and seeks: love. Specifically, my deep and abiding love for the seaside, which wouldn’t let me not create this brand. A California girl in my childhood, many of my fondest memories are linked to my time spent by the ocean, and as the kernels of this brand came to be, I realized that, in every way, the sea is my go-to place for comfort, solace and inspiration. I also recognized that in this feeling, I am not alone. For many of us, escaping to the beach or the ocean represents a return to a simpler way of life and to the things that really matter to us all: our families, our children and, to no small extent, ourselves.

As an entrepreneur who has owned four companies, and as the mother of three children, I know firsthand the sheer amount of personal sacrifice required to find balance while building a successful business. In my role at The Beauty Company, I have nurtured countless beauty brands through the very process I am now experiencing. I’ve also written many times on these pages about the elements beauty brands need to make it, which is why, for me, Coastal Salt & Soul is the penultimate stop on my journey.