Kasia Rothe and Monica Stakvel are sisters and founders of Rustic MAKA, a company that creates and sells natural personal care products. Known mostly for flagship Pachy deodorant line (“pachy” means underarm in Polish), Rustic MAKA also offers a line of body care products called Skora (“skora” means skin in Polish). The sisters take pride in using only simple ingredients in effective formulas. Their products are made from organic and vegan ingredients with no synthetics, no aluminum, no parabens, and no GMOs.
Why did you start your business?
It’s kind of a funny story! Years ago, when I (Kasia) was pregnant with my first child, I was laying in bed with my husband. He turned to me and said, “Honey, I love you, but you stink really bad! I think you need to do something about your deodorant.” Don’t worry – We’re still married! At the time, I thought it was my pregnancy hormones, but it never went away.
After having kids, we decided to live a little bit of a more simplistic lifestyle and really go back to basics and buy organic for a lot of products that we use around our kids and around our household. When I was thinking about battling my body odor problem, I thought, “Nothing on the market works for me.” I started researching ingredients and decided to cook up a few batches of homemade deodorant. I started using it and it started working great. So, I gave it to my sister to try. We decided to build the business from there.
How did you get the funds to get going?
We initially invested in the company ourselves, along with our parents. We haven’t had a need to take any loans or borrow more money. We’ve been operating on our profits. We do use our credit cards a little bit.
Have you heard of business credit?
Yes. At first, we were using our personal credit cards. But, we realized we didn’t want to continue doing that, so we took out a business credit card.
When we first sat down and talked about ways to properly run a business, having separate business credit was one of the things we agreed to do, along with legal filings like forming an LLC, to limit personal liability.
Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
Finding time. If we could have more of us, or if the days could be longer, that would be awesome. We’re at the point where the business is growing so rapidly, there might be a need to hire someone else. We need to figure out what needs to happen to make things run smoother. And we need to delegate and let go of certain things.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
To date, we’ve managed to turn our initial investment into a profit, though we don’t make enough to pay ourselves just yet. We’ve been operating on just that initial investment for the past year and a half, with just a little help from the business credit card. Whatever we make, we’ve put back into the business. We do also have a person we pay to help out with our accounting, bookkeeping, and taxes.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
No. We don’t have to rely on that. We pay as we go. It’s very important to us to just pay up front and be done with it. There is a vendor or two who will invoice us for orders, and we pay the invoices right away.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on?
For us, mistakes have been really more of learning experiences, because we both came in without a business background. We’ve had to become jacks of all trades, and we now have so much knowledge about all the aspects of running a business.
As an example, when we first started last year, we wanted to be at all these events. But, then we realized we needed to be picky and really ask the right questions before committing to anything.
What’s the smartest thing you did in your first year?
The smartest thing we’ve done is really determine who our customer is. I don’t think any business can sell to everybody. We figured that out early on. It was really crucial.
Also, when going after stores and retailers, we really developed relationships with them. It’s not about how many stores you have, but about the relationships you have with them. That’s been very important for us. It’s something we’ve done well.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
Hearing success stories. The passion we put into the product gets elevated. Feedback from customers about how well the deodorant works for them is amazing to us. It’s great when someone takes time out of their day to be excited about a deodorant. Body odor is a silly and embarrassing problem to have, but we feel like our products are actually changing peoples’ lives and making them better.
What does the future look like for your business?
We’re going to continue growing our retail base and, more importantly, take care of the relationships with our existing retailers and distributors. We’re going to concentrate on promoting our Skora body care line a little more, because now we’re known as “the deodorant girls,” but we have a lot more to offer.
We feel like this is the year that’s going to make us take off. We’ve been growing steadily. We want to become the standard when it comes to natural deodorant.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
When you are starting a business, you need to ask yourself if you are really passionate about what you’re doing. But then, even if you are passionate about it, you need to take the time to really plan. Not necessarily a business plan, but create a plan about how are you going to put your product or service out there for the end user to use.
Always put the best version of what you’re offering out there. If you’re selling a product, go the extra mile to create a beautiful label, for example. Make sure you have branding in place from the very beginning.
Be organized and always do things right from the get-go, because the more the business grows, the less time you’ll have. Make a plan for each day and stick to the plan, so you won’t get distracted. You’ll feel so much more accomplished at the end of the day. But, understand, as an entrepreneur, your day and your work is never done. Make sure you do take some time to take care of yourself.