I fell in love with the Spinster Sisters soap from the moment I first laid eyes on them. And then I smelled them… Swoon. I go into their store and am smell everything. I am normally put off by smelly soap stores like those you may see at a mall, but the quality of natural essential oils in the Spinster Sisters products makes for quite a lovely experience. It is so fun to see, touch and smell all the products. My current obsession is their lilac soap. I am also smitten with their chapstick, which they just donated 100 of to our donation drive for Denver’s homeless. Their founder Kelly Perkins has been making naturally-crafted soap and products for over twenty years, and it shows in their quality, feel and scent. They recently opened a location in RiNo art district where my art studio is, which is how I first learned of them. And now they have already opened another boutique location in Cherry Creek. Way to go sisters!!
Read our full interview with Kelly Perkins at the end of this article.
ATC: Tell me about your background, both professionally and personally.
Wow – this is a BIG question. I grew up in Boulder, and went to CU. I am youngest (and cutest) of 6 kids, and all of my family still lives in Colorado. I started working in the corporate travel industry, as an agent and worked my way up to Director of Operations of three Call Centers (Denver, Fargo, Seattle), then went into Business Analysis working on operations efficiencies. In total, I spent 25 years working in corporate travel. During this time, I spent 10 years working for the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) in Corporate Travel Management, and finished my career with the USAP by spending a season at the South Pole Station. Unfortunately, mid-season I got very sick and had to be med-evac’d back to New Zealand, and have not been back since. I loved working with the USAP, and really hope I can get back to Antarctica someday. So beautiful! I left the corporate world a few years ago to concentrate on Spinster Sisters full time and haven’t looked back!
I’m a Colorado girl through and through, and love playing in nature and adventuring in the mountains with my husband and dogs.
ATC: What inspired you to open Spinster Sisters?
Way back in 1993, I read an article about Triclosan, which is a nasty chemical that is in almost all mass-produced skincare products. It has been banned outside of the US for many years, and thankfully in 2016 was finally banned in the US. At any rate, after hearing all the horrible side-effects of Triclosan, I made the decision to start being more conscious of what I put on my body – and know exactly what is in every product I use. The easiest way to do that was to start making products myself. That was back before the Internet was as informative as it is now, so I bought some books on how to make soap instead and made my first batch. I gave half of it away for Christmas presents that year. Soon, I was getting requests from friends and family to make them different flavors, and had a fresh rotation of soap going at all times. Fast forward to 2011, I was getting tired of sitting in front of a computer every day, and my excitement for my current career was fading. My husband suggested that I try selling some of my soap at a market, to see how it went. I did the Highland Square Street Fair, and shared a booth with a friend of mine, and could not believe how much I sold. Even better than that, I just had so much fun doing the market – surrounded by nice people, beautiful weather…how could you not love it? I did more markets (soap only), and started getting wholesale requests. By April 2012 we had added several other products to our offerings and it was too much to manage my career and the business. I am sure you can guess which one was more fun! I made the leap, left a comfortable job with a steady salary, and shifted my focus full-time to Spinster Sisters Co. I have never looked back. I have had such a great time building this company. I get to work with the absolute greatest group of women in the world every day, and I have the opportunity to educate people on what they are putting on their bodies, and the impact it can have. It’s seriously the best job ever!
ATC: That is so awesome! And so inspiring!
Spinster Sisters now has 3 Denver-metro locations – Golden, RiNo, and Cherry Creek North. Do you plan to open more? Do you plan to expand beyond Colorado?
I definitely plan to open more stores. I am looking outside of Denver right now – focusing on Boulder, Breckenridge, and other mountain towns. I am as Type A as they come, and I want to rule the natural skincare world! Outside of Colorado is in the plans as well. I just want to make sure we have our distribution capabilities in place before I I expand to other locations further than 20 miles away. I have learned so much just having the 2 Denver locations – RiNo and Cherry Creek North – away from our manufacturing facility in Golden. I still have more to learn, but we are getting there.
ATC: You started as a brand that sold at markets, other stores and online, was it always your plan to open brick and mortar locations for Spinster Sisters?
This was all the luckiest accident in the world. I was just looking for a distraction from my “day job.” When I started Spinster Sisters, it was really just supposed to be kind of a hobby. I had no idea the growth we would see. I started this company in my basement, and in fact we were still in my basement up until April of 2015, at which point the business had taken over our entire house. I had to find a way to separate work from personal, so moved the business into an office building that is kind of “off the beaten path” in downtown Golden. We moved in, and I thought we would have all kinds of room to grow and expand. We were there all day anyway, so I decided to open a shop. I had no idea how much I would love retail. It is so fun to talk directly to your customers, get their immediate feedback and ask their opinions on new scents, formulations, and products. I was surprised by how many people would make the trek to Golden, just to visit our shop! I enjoyed it so much, I decided to open more stores, and I am so glad I did.
ATC: How did you choose the locations in which your stores are located in?
I am not a mall person. Even before I started this company, I was a shop small/local person. I wanted to be in vibrant communities filled with people that had a similar focus. I carried that with me as I sought out and chose our retail locations – each area, Golden, RiNo, and Cherry Creek, is unique and wonderful.
ATC: What inspires you on a daily basis?
Gah – everything! My family, my friends, this beautiful state we live in, nature, the Sisters I work with every day, this amazing Denver maker community, the focus on health and wellness in Colorado, the focus on sustainability in Colorado, reducing / reusing / recycling, seeing the business grow, the interest in our area on natural products, the sunshine, the mountains, my dogs, my super cute husband. It’s all so inspiring!
ATC: Yay! I absolutely love it!
How do you find balance between work and play?
Honestly, I didn’t, for a long time. It was all about growing the business. I have gotten better in the last year or so – my husband and I travel, we play with the dogs, go to concerts, spend time with friends. I force myself to take most weekends off, and if I am going on a date with Sugar Buns (my husband), I try to leave my cell phone at home. It’s really hard for me. So much of me is wrapped up in this business, that it is hard at times to separate the work from the play. Especially when the work actually feels like play so much of the time!
ATC: I feel you 100%.. That is why I always ask this question, so I can learn how other makers and business owners find balance.
What motivates you professionally?
Seeing the business grow is really motivating to me. You get these glimpses of where we could go, which motivates me to make it happen.
Also all these great makers in Denver motivate me! You see their successes, and you want to be a part of it. We really support each other, which I think may not be the case in all communities. We call/text/FB each other when we have questions, problems, need support, need a laugh and/or a beer. It’s pretty incredible, and nice to know you have others around that you can call that have been through exactly what you are going through (or are going to go through it in the future), that can give you guidance, or a better perspective.
ATC: What is your personal favorite Spinster Sisters product?
This changes from day to day, minute to minute. I LOVE our Soap, but I am most proud of our Muscle Stuff because it is the product I worked the hardest on. I am super excited about our face care line – it has been really doing well in the marketplace, and we are working to continue to grow that. This minute – my favorite thing is our Solid Hair Conditioner Bar. I don’t want to toot our own horn, but it is pretty darn amazing. The best hair conditioner I have ever used, if I do say so myself!
ATC: Are there any new products that are launching soon that you can share with our readers?
We have a list on our production board that we are constantly chipping away at. Products to look forward to in the very near future include a face scrub rich with oat powder, french green clay, activated charcoal, and walnut hull; a sea salt spray for hair, and a CBD salve for muscle/joint pain. We have lots of great things in the works though. For me, the R&D is the fun part of this business – trying to get the exact right formulation on something – it is really fulfilling when you hit the mark.
ATC: Thank you so much! We are rooting for you all the way. And thanks for making us smell so good while we do it!