Spotlight on Boise Female Entrepreneurs

March 3, 2019

Boise-based Businesses Bring Innovation and National Success to the Valley

By Lynn Canning

Photos by Kimberlee Miller

Saalt

Cherie Hoeger and Amber Fawson’s start-up, Saalt, has woken up an established, self-conscious category with a very modern directness.  They have reinvigorated a product that is relevant to more than half the population, yet generally does not make it into mainstream conversation.  Saalt is a period care company that manufactures a sustainable solution, a reusable menstrual cup.

It was during a conversation with her aunt in Venezuela that Cherie heard her relatives had gone months without period care products.  A mother of 5, Cherie thought of her own family and our society’s reliance on disposable products.  This revelation sparked objectives that led to the creation of Saalt: The need to provide a reusable product that was superior to what was currently available, married with a charitable goal to make the product available globally to women in need.

As they approached their new business, they recognized it was critical to develop an innovative marketing strategy that would take this product mainstream and communicate with customers via a candid and unabashed dialogue about period care.

To connect with customers, marketing communications are supported by a fun and approachable voice, one that is well-informed and as trustworthy as “your best friend’s big sister.” They created Facebook forums to share product news and operate as virtual focus groups so women could learn about the product and speak openly about their periods.

The team designed a product that was superior to competitive cups and offered benefits vs. other solutions.  Beautiful packaging was also a priority, and they diverged from the stereotypical colors and icons found currently on store shelves and instead present their product with imagery that is distinctive to their brand: beautiful, natural and modern.

Both women had small business success before partnering to create Saalt, and they love the business community in Boise.  Amber adds, “There is a thriving and energetic entrepreneurial buzz in the valley, and we are forever amazed at how accessible community leaders and business leaders are.”  They also appreciate the availability of talent, when sourcing employees and other partners.

February marked Saalt’s 1st year anniversary and they have achieved an impressive number of goals.  Customers have embraced their frank period talk, retailers have responded with goal-breaking orders, they have expanded into the UK and Australia.  Cherie and Amber can also be gratified by the social good they are spreading, having donated over 2,500 cups globally to women in need, providing a sustainable solution and seriously improving quality of life. Saaltco.com, @saaltco

FiftyFlowers

A born entrepreneur, Liza Roeser-Atwood was selling Avon door-to-door at age 9.  When she noted that perfume was a top seller, she was inspired to grab bunches of flowers in the neighborhood to make her own scents.  This early experience foreshadowed her talents and eventual success in being a trail-blazer in the global floral industry with her company, FiftyFlowers, headquartered in Boise.

After graduating from college, Liza signed up for a 2-year commitment in the Peace Corps, serving in Latin America.  Despite the inherent struggles of living in a 3rd world country, she loved the cultural experience and made the decision to remain in Ecuador where she got a job working at a rose plant in the renowned fertile valley of Cotopaxi.

She dedicated herself to learning all there was to know about the flower industry. Her title was “sales and marketing” but she did not limit herself to that function.  Instead she unleashed her natural curiosity and drive, eventually becoming an expert and developing a vision for new ways to sell flowers direct to customers.

She created her first business in 1998, Farm Exports, which focused on wholesale customers. Five years later Liza launched FiftyFlowers which innovated by creating new channels of distribution and delivering farm-fresh flowers direct to consumers’ front doors.  Intended primarily for DIY arrangements, a large portion of their business services brides who take on the floral arranging themselves.

FiftyFlowers has 50+ employees with their headquarters in Boise and offices/operations in Ecuador.  Being online based, Liza and her husband/business partner, Blu Atwood, could have chosen to run their business anywhere in the world.  They chose Boise because they fell in love with the outdoors and the community and felt it was the perfect location to raise their family and expand the business.

Liza’s journey is inspirational.  She graduated from college not with a degree in business but with the drive and talent to discover opportunity and apply new ways of thinking.  Believing in herself, she proceeded with a motto, “just keep doing” and “follow that shining star.”  Additionally, she advises aspiring entrepreneurs to hire smart people and build a team and culture that support and represent your business.

In Liza’s case, she devoted her talents to building a global flower business, hitching her star to a product that is beautiful and universally beloved for the important role it plays in our lives and the making of memories. Fiftyflowers.com, @Fiftyflowers

Red Aspen

The women Entrepreneurs who started the social selling beauty company, Red Aspen, had impeccable timing with the October 2017 launch of their luxe false lashes.  Lashes were on-trend and their fun, playful packaging and girl-empowering messaging attracted Brand Ambassadors and customers alike.  Red Aspen saw enviable success for a start-up.  They broke even in the first 6 weeks, made the decision to reinvest in the company, and then worked even harder.

Led by co-founders Jesse McKinney, Amanda Moore and Genie Reese, they have since expanded their product line to include 70 SKU’s that include an array of beauty products in addition to their lovely lashes.  Their business model combines e-commerce, social networks and social selling by their passionate Brand Ambassadors.

A driving force of the company is their allegiance to their mission statement: “Inspire women to stand up, stand out, and stand together by uniting passion with purpose.”  That sentiment is integrated into their work day and infused in their products and marketing.

Every single product is named after a real woman, women whose stories’ inspire the Founders and their customers. Their packaging is meant to delight, and with an average 5,000 orders a month, they ship same-day, wrapped in pink bubble wrap, with confetti and fun messages consistent with the brand’s personality.

They believe Boise was the perfect market to launch their business.  Here they have access to a talented workforce and a favorable cost-of-living that benefited the founders in the early, lean days when they were pouring their savings into building the business.

The trio began the venture very well prepared with a detailed business plan, defined objectives/strategies and various skills and areas of expertise.  Despite their preparation, launching the business was still like “jumping off a cliff,” with the need to be adaptable, learn new skills and generally figure it out as you go.  Jesse McKinney gave insight into the process, “There are things you do intentionally, and there are things that just happen by chance, with an element of luck.”

A key driver of Red Aspen’s success lies in their devotion to their mission statement and the culture they have created, one that is reflected in their marketing, products and family of Brand Ambassadors.  Their vision and intention was clear from the onset, and reflected in the company name, the Aspen tree…a tree that never exists alone, growing together as a group, connected by deep, entwined roots that nourish and enable all to flourish. Redaspenlove.com, @redaspenlove