Your Neighbor, the Entrepreneur: Grace Lee

The latest in a series of posts about locals starting their own businesses.

Who’s answering these questions?
Grace Lee, founder and CEO of Nine Naturals!

Elevator pitch?
Nine Naturals creates safe, 100% plant-based, high-performing haircare and skincare products for women during pregnancy and beyond. We want to help women look beautiful while ensuring a safe, healthy start for their children.

Intriguing! Tell us more.
The average woman uses 12 beauty products a day—a routine that exposes her to as many as 168 different ingredients! Some of these commonly found ingredients, like parabens and phthalates, can be absorbed into the bloodstream and have been associated with diseases and health concerns such as cancer, endocrine disruption and behavioral disorders. Pregnancy is the stage when babies are most vulnerable to environmental toxin exposure. Women should still be able to use luxurious beauty products without risking their health or the health of their new baby.

When was it founded? Where did the idea come from?
I started Nine Naturals in business school at the University of Chicago where I won the school’s business competition. I was originally inspired by my pregnant friends searching for safe beauty products to use. Many of the products that claimed to be natural still contained harmful ingredients, and many natural products simply didn’t perform well. The shampoos didn’t lather well and the body products didn’t do much for their skin. When I developed the line, I focused on using natural, pure ingredients but also maintaining a high standard for beauty and performance.

Why “Nine Naturals” (as a name)?
“Nine” for the nine months of pregnancy! And “Naturals” because we only use plant-based ingredients in our formulations.

Who else was involved?
I have an amazing team of people, including my business partner, Amanda, as well as a seasoned chemist and manufacturer in California, a Harvard-educated dermatologist, and a highly talented New York packaging designer. And of course, my family has been very involved—my husband and my 21-month-old daughter, Charlotte, help test all of the products before they go to market.

How big is Nine Naturals now?
We are a fast-growing beauty start-up with a direct-to-consumer distribution through our company’s e-commerce site. We have a beauty product lineup of six different products (shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, body wash, belly butter and body cream), with more to come soon—including a sunblock and lip balm! Thanks to strong celebrity referrals, great PR and high customer re-order rates, we’re barely able to keep up our production to meet demand for our products. (#humblebrag)

Where is it headquartered?
Our office and showroom are at 189 Franklin. Come stop by! We love having people over to sample and buy products.

Does living in Tribeca inspire the company in any way?
I am inspired every day by all the fabulous pregnant women and moms in Tribeca. I want every woman to feel confident and beautiful during her pregnancy.

Any company hangouts around here?
Naturally, I am quite particular about the beauty spots I frequent. I love Hale Organic Salon. It’s the one salon where you can avoid the nauseating smell of chemicals! Joe, the owner and my stylist, and I have become close friends and work together on a number of projects between our two businesses. (And Hale sells Nine Naturals products!) Beyond beauty, my team can normally be found at Kaffe 1668 on Beach for business meetings or picking up late afternoon cookies at Locanda Verde —their chocolate chip peanut butter cookie is unreal.

Any testimonials from locals?
“I used the Nine Naturals shampoo and conditioner throughout my pregnancy and—as a blonde with a little help—plan to keep using it post-baby since it has all the nourishing ingredients I need for healthy hair, with none of the sulfates or nasty stuff that strips it.” —Carolyn Pressly-Ryan

“I have been using the Belly Butter since the start of my second pregnancy. After trying several other brands during my first pregnancy, this is the only product I’ll use from now on! My belly always feels moisturized and the smell is just right—not too strong and a really pleasant scent.” —Holly Stein

Previously in this series:
••• Offir Gutelzon, Keepy
••• Lisa Ridd, Smitten Films

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