Seasoned esthetician Holly Green, owner of Norabloom Botanicals & Beauty Lounge in Ithaca, N.Y., wanted people to see facials as more than merely cosmetic. So she pursued a certification in oncology esthetics and expanded her services to include specialty skin care treatments for cancer patients.
Late last year, she also added two products (a cleanser and a face cream) to her growing line of all-natural, organic products. Each one is designed to treat ultra-sensitive skin that’s been compromised by chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
A former art student, Green — whose body-care career started as a massage therapist — folds that passion into her business. “I use art every day to design labels and choreographing the treatments. To make it stand out, you really have to be different and unique,” she says.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently caught up with Green on one of her rare days off to talk about her mission, her goals, and her company’s growth.
ISBB: What inspired you to reach out to female cancer patients?
Green: It seems like women are really drawn to the business. I’ve always wanted — even out of high school — to be a nurse, but the timing never worked. I didn’t want facials to be seen as just cosmetic. Because of my body-care background, I’m a natural caregiver. I needed something to give it a little depth. I don’t have a personal cancer story, although I have family members who [do]. We all know someone who has cancer. So I decided to go through the training [in oncology esthetics].
The Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes was able to get a grant from our local community foundation to have me host two workshops a year. I host eight women — it happens to be women, but men are welcome — for a beauty workshop. We use my skin-care products and do a whole facial at the table. We talk about little things you can do, even for cracked nails or any side effects [from cancer treatments]. It’s a nice way for women to learn more about skin care. I’m surprised at what people don’t know, as far as the basics.
How did you get the word out about your services when approaching a new demographic?
I went to the Cancer Resource Center first. I also called my clients who are nurses and gave them a treatment, saying “Here’s what I’m doing now.” The Cancer Resource Center has been the best. They have a direct link to the hospital and they have a direct link, obviously, to folks who need some consulting. I’m also in a very small community. When one person hears about it, another person hears about it. Or, my clients might give a gift of a service or products. We’re in the Guide to Being Local put out by Local First Ithaca.
Because they are organic, how do your skin-care products differ from most?
All-organic products are better than the other stuff. Just being lumped into “natural skin care” is good enough for me. I don’t use parabens. I don’t use petroleum. And I don’t use phthalates. Even though they’re fillers and preservatives, they don’t serve the skin well.
We use a lot of botanicals. Each time we reformulate, we try to use local botanicals. Our products are getting cleaner and cleaner. We’re working with local lavender farms and local rose farms to get some of our herbs and plant materials sourced locally.
I love that we package in glass, so people can recycle or upcycle. Business-wise, we try to stay completely paperless, not only in the skin-care line. We don’t use brochures or catalogs anymore, and we email customers their receipts.
What growth in your business allowed you to hire three employees?
I started off as a tiny one-woman show and, as much as I liked that, it was kind of lonely. I hired a massage therapist. We pair beautifully together. Then I hired another makeup artist to help me with weddings. Then I hired a graphic design/PR assistant who helps with branding and the website. We are now growing out of our tiny little spot and looking to double in size.
The goal for Norabloom Botanicals & Beauty Lounge is … repeat customers and more one-on-one [relationships]. We had an opportunity to grow through a hotel, but it wasn’t feeling right. We wanted to stay smaller and be moms and have lives.
In a lot of salons, because of the high overhead, you have a client from 10 o’clock to 10:50 and then you’re done and onto the next one. There’s not a whole lot of relationship time. We like the opposite: We book our facials for an hour and a half. That really works well for someone who is going through cancer treatments. Because we’re smaller and our overhead is a little less, we can spend time with them.
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