Tell us about yourselves! How did you get started? How did you come to create Branch Basics?
A: I’m a mom to two precious girls and married my highschool sweetheart from Houston, TX. We’ve recently moved to a ranch just north of Austin. In high school, I was diagnosed with PCOS and suffered chronic, mysterious pain through college. After years of seeing medical specialists and a laundry list of drugs, I was desperate for relief and turned to my Aunt, Marilee Nelson, in the Texas Hill Country. After two months at Marilee’s, eating only real food, using safe products, and staying in a healthy home, my life was transformed. I was free of pain, my ovarian cysts disappeared, and I was able to get pregnant naturally, twice. :) I was also diagnosed with Chronic Lyme last year, but through clean living, alternative therapies and food-based supplements, I am almost completely healed from the pain and suffering brought on by this disease.
K: I’ve always been interested in health and wellness but it wasn’t until my co-founder, Marilee Nelson, started connecting the dots for me that I realized how being healthy is so much more than just exercising and eating a certain amount of calories. When my other co-founder, Allison Evans, and I went and lived with Marilee the summer after we graduated from college in 2008, our eyes were opened and our minds were blown. I immediately had a passion and mission to share what I was learning with others and wanted to put Marilee’s brain on the internet. Our products are a vehicle for our mission to help people create healthy homes and get rid of products and food with harmful chemicals. We started with cleaning products because it’s an easy change for people that makes such a significant impact on our health and the environment.
What makes Branch Basics different?
A: Branch Basics is much more than a cleaning product company. We are on a mission to raise awareness on household toxins - really everything we put in, on and around our bodies. By getting back to basics, people can experience the immense benefits of living a clean lifestyle. We sell a kickass cleaning product that actually works (!!) and can be used to replace virtually ever cleaner in the home. It’s different from other cleaners in that the ingredient list is free of absolutely all potentially irritating ingredients, even those found in most “green”, “non-toxic” cleaners.
K: As a company, our education. As a product, our clean ingredient deck and how well our Concentrate and Oxygen Boost actually work! Plus the fact that our two products alone replace dozens of cleaners and take care of every cleaning job.
What's the biggest transition or change that you have had to make since the beginning of the pandemic?
A: Because we live remotely and I have always worked from home and my kids are still too young for full-time school or extracurricular activities, we haven’t had to make many changes due to the pandemic. For us - and we are so fortunate! - the biggest transition has actually been a positive change and it’s that my husband gets to work from home and we are all together much more.
K: I’ve always worked from home and my children are young so it hasn’t been too much a change for us, but it was definitely challenging juggling it all when schools were closed and I didn’t have anyone coming to the house to help me. My husband’s a physician and never stopped going to work at the hospital so he wasn’t home during the weeks. I feel for all the parents working from home with kids or that they weren't able to work because they needed to stay with their kids.
Biggest challenge you have faced as co-founders? What did that teach you?
A: Due to supply and ingredient issues, we were forced to shut the company down in 2016, letting our then-9 employees go and letting our customers and investors down. It was one of the hardest things that the three of us founders has ever been through, and it taught us everything about the importance of perseverance, accountability, and transparency.
K: In 2015, we made the decision to discontinue selling the formula we were licensing and shut the company down while we worked to create our own formula we could be fully transparent about. There were many factors at play and it felt like the business was completely crashing down. We had to let all of our employees go, and we really didn’t know if we would be able to come back from it. We let our customers, investors, and employees down and it felt awful!! Thankfully, we are now stronger for it though because it pushed us to own our own formula, something we wouldn’t have had the confidence to do without a hard push. We’re also able to look back now and see the mistakes we made that led to the shutdown. Mainly not trusting our guts!
What's your biggest advice for those who are looking to start their own company?
A: There are so many positives to having your own company - the ability to follow your heart, do what you love, have the flexibility and usually tremendous upside should it be successful. However, it is also important to go into it with your eyes wide open, listening to the advice of those who have gone before you and understanding the sacrifice (mostly time!) that it will require of you. If you are doing something you are truly passionate about, the decision to sacrifice and persevere will be a no-brainer.
K: It’s totally ok, if not better, to learn as you go! Of course, you need to prepare and have a clear plan, but don’t get held back by the parts of starting the business that you don’t know much about. And focus on proving the concept before getting caught up in the details of how to scale. Once you have something people like, you’ll figure out ways to scale it. And remember progress, not perfection!
As you know – we think community is everything. How has your community helped you navigate your personal and/or professional life?
A: I don’t know what I would do without my Branch Basics family. While I love my job and what I do, a lot of that has to do with the team I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by. Successes are that much sweeter when celebrated amongst others and difficult times are that much easier to walk through when supported by others. My family is also blessed by our church community, which has helped keep our heads high and hearts full during this past year of isolation and transition.
K: My IRL community has always been protective and supportive, making sure I take breaks when I’m trying to do too much but also helping me juggle life so I’m able to pour into Branch Basics. I’ve also loved connecting with people that are a part of our bigger community through our social media. And talking with other founders and health and wellness influencers about the blessings and the struggles of our jobs has been so helpful for me and my mental health!
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