Hello Alice COVID-19 Grant Awardee
Today, Santos runs an all-natural skincare brand named Spadet. But her previous ventures have been as varied as a holistic studio that offered wellness classes and a DNA sequencing consulting firm. These businesses may look vastly different, but they're all connected by a passion for problem solving.
In fact, Santos only entered the skincare world in 2008 when she couldn’t find a product to treat her daughter’s eczema. Determined to find a solution, she harnessed her biochemistry training to create an original remedy. The result worked so well that she shared the product with her friends whose children were experiencing similar skin problems.
“That got me started in creating this line," says Santos. "It’s about finding more problems and trying to find solutions for them."
That tactical mindset has carried her business through the COVID-19 pandemic. As stay-at-home orders halted business across the United States, Santos quickly pivoted her business to create unique, high-end hand sanitizers.
“I had to ask, ‘What product can I make that people would want to buy? What can I make that I can contribute to the world right now?’ I sell soap, but sometimes you can’t have soap and water available, so hand sanitizer was the next best thing,” Santos says.
Alcohol is a necessary ingredient in hand sanitizers, but it's also notoriously drying — a big problem in the skincare world. That's why Santos formulated her product to include extra virgin olive oil, a star ingredient that sets Spadet apart with a sanitizer that fits into the larger line of safe, moisturizing skincare.
“I wanted to create a product that was on-brand,” Santos explains. “I didn’t want to make a product that everyone was making; I wanted to make a product that solved the problem of the fact that alcohol dried out your skin.”
The sanitizer was an immediate hit, and Whole Foods Market, which already sells Spadet products in 25 stores across the Northeast, picked up her new product. But success led to inevitable roadblocks: bottles and sprayers were backordered, and the core ingredient, alcohol, doubled in price before selling out completely. For a time, Santos simply couldn't source enough supplies to meet her demand.
That's when Spadet took some of its existing products off the shelf to refocus limited resources like containers and ingredients on her new product. And with time and hours of online sleuthing, she was finally able to purchase new supplies like bottles and alcohol.
This experience provided valuable lessons for the founder, who learned the importance of acting fast, spending money wisely, and looking toward the future. But Santos also notes that grit and determination are what ultimately held her business together. “It’s hard to try to make decisions when there’s so many unknowns. But I think that the resiliency of entrepreneurs is what going to keep them going,” says Santos. “It’s the perseverance that will help them get out of this in a better place. Resiliency is part of your DNA. It’s part of mine. There’s going to be a lot of failures, before there are a lot of successes.”
There’s simply no stopping for Santos and her business. Spadet plans to use the emergency grant to purchase new equipment that will increase hand sanitizer production, making her temporary pivot a permanent change. And as businesses in some states begin to reopen, adapting to the changes of COVID-19 will be key to coming out of this crisis stronger than ever.