Shannon McLinden of FarmHouse Fresh®.
Tell us about yourself?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making, selling, or planning what to make and sell, yet I have never had a career outside the ones I built. In grade school, I began crocheting and selling crafts in my neighborhood.
I continued this creationism as I got older — writing and publishing a self-help manuscript for teens, and during college I travelled to schools across the country giving self-help talks, holding workshops with kids, and coordinating book signings.
When I graduated with my MBA, I hadn’t looked around for jobs. It felt like I was finally free from time constraints to do and make what I wanted. I started designing websites, then one of my real estate clients asked to invest in my company.
I took on venture capital funding – hiring top designers, writers and a sales team, only to find I absolutely hated owning an ad agency.
It was the first career move where I was watching others craft headlines and design ads, and I realized my life had to include my own creations or it would kill my soul.
So, I sold the ad agency and began constructing and patenting an idea I had for a peel-and-stick sandal liner called Summer Soles.
I sold them online and sales grew to $250k in under 2 years. When my customers asked for foot-care products, I delivered a foot scrub to fix cracked heel problems.
It was picked by Oprah for her O List, business exploded and FarmHouse Fresh® was born.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Being an entrepreneur is all about following your passion and purpose. This is very hard to do! We are skilled at so many things. But finding what lights a fire in you brings palpable, immeasurable joy.
Build teams that combine spectacularly different skill sets. In my younger years, I prided myself on putting pen to paper and solving problems before calling a meeting to announce what direction we’re taking.
But now, our biggest asset is the team that converges on challenges. Ask yourself – “If you had to build a community on a deserted island, who would you bring?” I try to make sure our project teams have the widest range of skill sets so that the questions are tackled from 360 degrees.
I am always genuinely surprised by their wise insights. It’s refreshing knowing we could create and build practically any business together – they’re all very skilled at what they do, and incredibly nice people to be around.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
There are no silver bullets – we call them silver bombs. Consistent, deliberate, hard-work initiatives, with maximum planning and detailed execution will always be the answer.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
What balance? I love what I do so much that I truly rarely think of this issue! My husband and I share business articles and podcasts in our free time.
It’s a passion of ours. I truly love the business of growing a business. Sitting at a doctor’s office for even an hour is absolute torture. I want to be working.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
I started FarmHouse Fresh® in 2005, launching with one product – a sea salt foot scrub in three scents – that was selected for Oprah’s O List.
It was a solution I developed for keeping cracked heels away as a jogger. It used U.S. coastal harvested sea salt and U.S. grown soy oil.
So many bath and body products at the time did not focus on locally-grown U.S. harvests, and I loved the possibility of freshly-grown skincare.
As spas started to request products, and beauty editors and celebrities raved about what I was creating, our unique business model formed.
We planned, designed and built a corporate ranch with a commercial hydroponic farm, where we grow fresh botanicals daily to bring results to skin quickly.
Our headquarters is flush with natural light and indoor trees, includes a spa treatment room for testing and development, and is surrounded by acreage for our nonprofit farm animal sanctuary that our skincare company funds and operates using profits from all product purchases.
Rescuing neglected animals is a big driver for our company – we want skincare dollars to stretch farther than our customers could have ever dreamed possible. And truly make a palpable difference.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
We like to say we provide rescue for two. We rescue complexions and we rescue animals by actioning our customers’ purchases.
For our customers, personal wellness includes fresh ingredients in their smoothies and in their skincare. So we grow fresh greens daily, and our team of estheticians test and craft rapid-result skincare formulas that make a difference often in 1 use.
You can trust in the instant results our natural products bring, as they win numerous Spa Professional’s Choice Awards, voted on by skincare professionals at some of the most luxurious properties around the world.
But the soul-stirring stuff comes from giving back to those we love, and we all love animals. So together, we make every FarmHouse Fresh® product purchase bring healing and new life to animals who simply wouldn’t be here without us and our customers stepping up to help them.
Each product’s batch code is trackable on our website, so you can see the very animals you helped rescue with your purchase.
It was important to me to design a working environment that brought the outdoors in and embodies our dual passions for personal wellness and the love and care for neglected animals.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
We hit the ground running, doing all the tough work. For 18 years, we traveled the country building our booth from show to show and marketing our products to the spa and gift industry – sometimes multiple shows a month – very long days and weeks, but you learn everything you need to know from customers who are using your products.
I would start there all over again. It’s the lifeblood of the company.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Covid. Attacking every aspect of the business from cost-cutting to new channel growth, creating dropship programs for our wholesalers that had shut down, and making sure that not only would all our employees have and maintain their jobs, but we did everything we could to keep our wholesale partners selling too.
It was a herculean effort by every person in our company, and I’m really proud of us for what we accomplished during such a challenging time.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?
The pretty steady warm climate in Texas allows us to grow fresh greens daily in our greenhouse, which are turned into botanical extracts and used in all our products to bring glowy goodness to skin.
Texas is mostly sunny and warm with a short winter which creates a vibrant, active wellness community that enjoys the outdoors, spending evenings on the porch with friends and family, and healthful/mindful living.
Texas also happens to be one of the last stops for farm animals sold through personal sale, and when those animals that are sick, injured or have suffered from abuse come through, there is an active rescue community here that we’re a part of, working nonstop to bring healing and new life for those animals we can help.
In addition to bringing and rehabilitating animals in need on our own 501c3 Farm Animal Sanctuary, we also support numerous other animal rescue groups and initiatives here in Texas.
Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?
Sadly, Texas currently ranks #1 in the United States for the number of small animals euthanized due to pet overpopulation, so the need for rescue help for animals is never ending.
This is a very sad statistic and one that we are committed to trying to help by using profits from the sale of our products to save animals, along with supporting other rescue groups who are trying to do the same.
Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?
Fortunately, skincare has the ability to bring confidence and joy regardless of demographics. Our financial partner, Chase Bank, has a large presence here and so having a great regional team to support our growth goals has opened so many doors for us.
Many companies are not fortunate to have a credit line and a financial partner, and instead look for outside investments.
We’ve been able to fully follow our dreams, regardless of how big or unusual they are. Who would have ever thought a skincare company would run an animal rescue that can make such a substantial impact at scale?
It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?
Because our pillars revolve around joy – rescuing complexions and animals — it doesn’t matter to us how you vote, or whether you are affiliated with a religion.
Our customers feel the same. In fact, we receive social comments regarding “thank you for staying out of politics. I love your products and what you do for animals.
I don’t want to be lectured on other issues.” So we feel good about our core – radiating compassion though wellness – both for that of our customers who we get to serve every day, and for neglected animals who deserve a life of healing.
With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?
Our suppliers provide updates on raw material increases twice a year (lately) and we sometimes find novel ways to offset these increases – for example by printing with fewer inks, folding boxes differently, or negotiating larger buys.
When these efforts are exhausted we then have to consider price increases.
But we truly look at each product and ask ourselves – could we provide better value through some slight modification that would be appreciated by our customers?
At the end of the day, we are in business and animals are saved because our customers find value in what we create. So that is foremost in our minds.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
We’re continuing our close communication with our customer base, while bringing products to market that are specifically requested by our most loyal Farmie fans, and focusing upon line extensions as well.
It’s exciting to have our customers’ input at each phase. Our rescue operations are growing as our customers find more and more products to love. We’re constructing a larger building for events and activities.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
Visit our website at www.farmhousefreshgoods.com and follow FarmHouse Fresh® on social media.
We regularly post about our rescue animals’ journeys, new products, collaborations and more! We have a very fast-paced product launch schedule, so we are always launching new and exciting products.
You can also join our Farmtopia Rewards program to earn points and unlock glowing rewards every time you shop.
If you wish to donate or find other ways to give back, we have a link to do so on our website.
Follow FarmHouse Fresh® on Twitter or Linkedin.