Gillian Stollwerk Garrett, known as Gilly to family and friends, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t making her own lip gloss, face masks and sugar scrubs. The Tenafly mother of three was a freelance copywriter for Estée Lauder when she got inspired to make her own chemical-free products. That first sugar scrub evolved into Gilly’s Organics, a line of all-natural beauty products. We asked Gilly how she turned her passion for skincare into a successful business.
New Jersey Family: What inspired you to start experimenting and making your own sugar scrub?
Gilly Garrett: Well, I’ve always been a mixer. I liked to make lip gloss out of broken eye shadow and Vaseline in my parent’s pharmacy as a little girl. Later, I made masks for my room-mates hair and faces in college. Then, much later after getting married and moving to NJ, I had mixed a lovely, healing blend of oils for dry wintry hair and skin. I was using it and got compliments. At that time, I was freelance consulting/writing for Estee Lauder. I enjoyed this client for years, but my lifestyle was changing and I was getting bored. The VP feeding me work was let go and I made a choice then to do something bold. I had already gone out on my own for writing. This time I said, “I’m going to make a product!” I used that fabulous blend of oils and added the perfect granule of sugar, and then my first product was born!
NJF: How did you go from experimenting making products to launching Gilly’s Organics?
GG: Once I made a few scrubs, bought the ingredients, bought jars, designed stickers and told people, I never looked back. I’ve looked to the side a few times, up to the clouds a bunch, but never fully back. Each year that passes, I get more confident in the success of my business and less concerned with what anyone else is up to. It still requires me to take time each morning to focus and set my intentions for the day. It requires constant learning, networking, mentorship, education, commitment and love. That’s part of the recipe.️
NJF: What was the hardest part of the product development process?
GG: I think product development is ongoing. With the scrub it was a few trials and it was done! The rest of the line I utilized the help of organic chemists. I knew what I wanted, but they are the brilliance behind it. I am currently working on some exciting new products to add to the line and I am almost ready to share!
NJF: How do you source your organic ingredients?
GG: In the beginning it was trial and error, but basically I’ve sought the best ingredients that have a certification from the US.
NJF: How did you start selling in the early days?
GG: I started online and at preschool fairs with only the sugar scrub for the first couple of years. Eventually, I created 8 more products and began selling in stores. I’ve had success getting into stores, often by being persistent. Sometimes it was easy, other times felt like it would never happen. I am currently in 12 Whole Foods in NY, NJ and CT, along with health food stores, dermatologist offices, wellness centers, and Englewood Health, too! I’ve found that the real work begins once they buy from me. That’s when I have to really hustle to keep it on the shelves!
NJF: What is the one beauty product you think every mom should have?
GG: Every mom needs a dewy toner for a pick me up, an all over exfoliator that makes her skin feel smooth and sexy, and a clean moisturizer/eye serum to hydrate the many faces of motherhood! Wait, that wasn’t just one.
NJF: What is Gilly’s Organics’ top selling product?
GG: Some products do better in different stores, but essentially the signature product remains the sugar scrub!
NJF: What was your proudest moment as a small business owner?
GG: I have lots of small wins that lead to THIS moment right now, which is having the means to repackage the line. It’s been YEARS of work to get to this moment. It’s here and I am proud of all of the little wins, the big wins, and even the mistakes. I am proud of the late nights in the past and the ones in the future. Did I just say that?! Wow, I must be sleep deprived. #burningthemidnightcoconutoil
NJF: How do you juggle Gilly’s Organics with raising kids?
GG: It’s different Every. Single. Day. Some days I am a master juggler, and other days I forget it’s a half day at school! I have a super hands-on husband, supportive friends (who usually remind me of those half days), and a small team that is passionate and helpful. There was a period of growing pains when my kids were like, “hey, where do you think you’re going?” Today there is an understanding that I will be there for them and when I need to be away from home for something, that it’s for my dream and/or my sanity. They’re getting older and that helps! I have a very committed yoga and meditation practice which keeps me centered, too. I think it takes a village whether you are an entrepreneur, working out of the home, or a stay at home mom! Sometimes I love the flexibility that entrepreneur life allows, and other times I think it places added pressure to be everywhere. Learning to say yes to what serves my family and business and creating healthy boundaries has helped with this juggle a lot. #workinprogress
NJF: You also coach entrepreneurs, speak about women’s empowerment and entrepreneur life, and host an online show. How do you manage it all?
GG: When something excites you, it finds you and you get it done! If I weren’t passionate about those things, I would stop. We have more control of our lives than we sometimes want to admit. I’ve been guilty of that before. You can take away things that don’t serve you. I invite you to try this with me in 2020!
NJF: What’s your best piece of advice for someone who has a product idea and wants to get it off the ground?
GG: Simple. Don’t wait! If it’s going to succeed (and this is where I love to coach women—on their mindset), then the little things will work themselves out. The packaging, the web site, everything! Everything evolves and you can’t wait for your business idea/product/service to be “perfect” because it never is.
NJF: What are your favorite things to do in NJ with your family?
GG: When they were little, my office was Van Saun Park and anywhere there was a carousel, a choo-choo and some ice cream! These days we like running and biking together, the NJ beaches, checking out local towns with old and new restaurants, and of course, the famous NJ malls.
NJF: What are some of your favorite mom-owned businesses?
GG: Don’t make me choose! Okay, fine in NJ I love iFundWomen, Founded by Karen Cahn, basically because they HELP the female founded businesses with capital! I’m also big fan of Remedy Organics, founded by Cindy Kasindorf—delicious and super healthy! And, in the nation, my fave is a popular one, Sara Blakely from Spanx because she is a total entrepreneur #girlcrush, amiright?