Online Exclusive: A Lip Balm Designed to Share
How Balm Chicky Balm Balm created its new, patented 'Friend End.'
By Marie Redding, Associate Editor
Balm Chicky Balm Balm is a line of natural, moisturizing lip balms created by Abby Schwalb and
Balm Chicky is a new lip balm brand that has a unique package -- it opens on the top and bottom.
Elizabeth Moskow, two friends who became business partners. The duo designed the brand’s innovative “Friend End” package -- a patented, dual-ended lip balm container that makes it hygienic to share.
The lip balm collection will be launching by Spring 2013. Schwalb and Moskow had expected to bring the line to market by the holidays, but ran into a few glitches.
The duo came up with the idea for the package, and the brand, because Schwalb said she hated when friends asked to use her lip balm because her lips are so sensitive to germs. Moskow shared the same concerns, and the two friends came up with the solution -- the “Friend End.”
The top of the container is traditional -- remove the cap, and twist the base so that the product is propelled upward. The bottom end of the container is a separate small compartment with a flip-top lid, filled with extra balm that can be applied with the swipe of a finger.
Once Schwalb and Moskow checked all existing patents and realized it was truly a unique idea, they dug into their savings to hire a patent attorney. They also hired a graphic designer to engineer technical 3-D CAD drawings – the first step in turning their idea into a reality.
Next, the duo set out to build a brand. The name, Balm Chicky Balm Balm, and the sexy illustrations used on the packaging certainly aren't targeting tweens. The brand’s image is reminiscent of a ’70s porno flick, but in a campy, humorous way.
Each flavor in the lip balm collection has its own 70s style character -- and suggestive names. Shown above are: Juicy Melons, Sweet Baby Ginger, Huge Cucumber, Wild Mountain Honey, and Hot Chocolate Love.
"Adults use flavored lip balm, too. We wanted to be different from all the brands that target very young users," says Schwalb. "We use a lot of innuendos in our product names, but it’s still fun and innocent. We don’t want to cross the line by being too shocking or offensive. But, we realize that our brand won't ever appeal to everyone," she explains.
The brand recruited artists to create a different character illustration for each lip balm flavor. For instance, “Juicy Melons” is a Farrah Fawcett type, and represents the melon-flavored balm. “Sweet Baby Ginger” looks like the iconic “roller girl,” and represents ginger-flavored balm.
“We wanted to engage consumers with the brand by giving personality to our products. Our fictional characters will come to life, beyond the packaging, by interacting on our website,” says Schwalb.
Finding a supplier to produce the “Friend End” package proved to be the most difficult part of launching the brand. "Our learning process was huge. We knew nothing about packaging, and began to understand that our design required injection-molding small parts, ” says Schwalb.
Balm Chicky's patent-pending Friend End package is like a conventional lip balm container on top, but it contains an extra stash of lip product at the bottom. The package is desgined so that friends can access the bottom -- or "friend end" by lifting the flip-top and applying the balm with a finger.
They finally found a China-based supplier, at an HBA show. "We would've loved to manufacture in the U.S., but we kept hearing ‘no’ from everyone – that our design couldn’t be produced the way we wanted. Finally, after searching for a year, the supplier we found was affordable, and understood the intricacies of the tiny injection-molded pieces that our design required. They were able to execute it perfectly," Schwalb explains.
Once they had a prototype, it was time for tweaking the design. "We paid attention to every detail. The hinge on the bottom compartment needed more flexibility, and we wanted the cap to 'click' when it closed," says Schwalb. They also added a small tab to the “friend end,” to make it easier to open the bottom compartment.
Next, filling became an issue. “Many different companies were able to produce lip balm in flavors we liked, but not everyone was able to fill our package. Some wanted to hand-fill, which would've been cost-prohibitive. We finally found a company to create our custom formulated product, and they do everything else, turnkey,” Schwalb says. “They produce the product, fill the packages, and apply our labels," she adds.
The Internet has been essential in helping the company get off the ground. Balm Chicky has over 600 Facebook followers, and they don’t even have actual products yet. They were able to create their graphics by finding freelance artists on various design collaboration websites. They even raised over $6,000 on the website IndieGogo.com, which was enough to pay for the company’s first shipment of inventory.
Schwalb says she knew early on that they had to focus on social media sites, especially Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. "We knew we wouldn't have a sizable marketing budget," says Schwalb. "Plus, when your friends 'like' or share, it means so much more than a paid ad,” she says.
Taking It to the Next Level
Balm Chicky’s packaging still requires a few more details before it appears on store shelves. The partners have to decide whether to shrink-wrap the entire product, or seal it with a label. They also added a sanitary seal to the “Friend End.” "We’re not sure yet how shrink-wrapping will look – but, one retailer has said that unless it's shrink-wrapped, consumers will find a way to open it,” says Schwalb.
The duo has a list of their favorite top ten retailers that they plan on contacting in the future. They also want to license the package design to other companies.
Right now, their main goal will be to build the brand by forming relationships, starting with the businesses in their own neighborhoods. Schwalb is originally from New Jersey, and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Moskow is originally from New York, and now lives in Boulder, Colorado. Both have realized that they live in communities that are very welcoming to new companies.
“The support has been amazing, especially in Portland. There is an amazing community here, of small business owners who all support each other,” says Schwalb. She adds, “This is the way we’ll continue to grow the brand -- for now.”