Start DC talks with Kristin Csehill as she grows her business, Criss Naturals.
I’ve shared the stories of entrepreneurs like Shizu Okusa (JRINK) and Warren Brown (CakeLove), who told me that they started their ventures on the side while working full-time, growing their businesses and testing the waters before making the leap to full-time entrepreneurship. Kristin Csehill, founder of Criss Naturals, is an entrepreneur at the very start of this journey.
In 2014, Csehill started Criss Naturals, her line of lotions made with all-natural ingredients and crafted to evoke travels and memories—“from the cloves of Stone Town…to the lavender of Paris perfumeries”—as the website explains. I recently sat down with Csehill to learn more.
I know that you work full-time as a defense contractor—what made you decide to start making lotion?
Throughout my life, I’ve had skin issues like eczema, so I’ve had a really difficult time finding lotion that worked on my skin. In 2013, I was diagnosed with a lot of food and chemical allergies and I had to start paying attention not only to what I was eating but the products I was using. I tried using other all-natural products, but they were so oily and just didn’t absorb into my skin. Especially at work, it was a problem—I can’t have oily hands at work!
I started to experiment and found a blend that is moisturizing and that absorbs. I was making the lotion for myself, and taking it with me when I traveled for work. About a year later, a friend suggested that I sell the lotion—that there were probably other people who needed it too.
I still have my full-time job and I do Criss Naturals on the side at this point. It takes a lot of money to start your own business!
That brings me to financing. Are you self-financed? Are there any finance tips that you can share?
Yes, I’m all self-financed right now. As the business grows, I may try to take out a small business loan, but I haven’t got that far yet.
Have you noticed anything unique about starting your own business in the DMV?
Yes! I didn’t realize how many small businesses there are in this area! There are a lot of small business associations. I worked with the Alexandria Small Business Association and they’ve helped with free social media training and publicity.
Part of the hard part about small businesses in the DMV, though, is that a lot of their networking events happen during the day and I have a full-time job, so I can’t participate. I really wish that someone here started something that was more after-hours or that wasn’t geared toward just IT.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you hope Criss Naturals will be in a couple of years?
What I’d really love is to do some online sales and have it be self-sustaining. Also, I’d love to have a boutique, and then ship globally. I want to stay true to the brand and its origins of providing all-natural skincare without making the ingredients and process too complicated.
What is your favorite scent?
My favorite is actually London. It’s not the most popular scent overall—Singapore and Paris are the top sellers—but London is my favorite. Scent and memory are very connected. So when I smell Criss Naturals products, the scent automatically transports me back to that time and place.
I made London using bergamot essential oil and orange extract because those are the bases for Earl Gray tea. When I think of London, I think about refinement and strolling through Hyde Park and then going to have tea afterwards. Each scent is a handmade representation of that city.
It is this experience I hope to give to others, via all natural skin care. That’s why Criss Naturals tagline is ‘define your skin’s journey’. People should be able to take control of what they use and put on their skin, and the experience they want to have.
Find Criss Naturals in these local stores. | Photos by G. Byrd.