In the first of an ongoing series on female entrepreneurs demonstrating leadership in the grocery industry, IGA today highlights new Red Oval Partner Mad Gab's, a woman-owned niche skincare brand supplying natural and organic body care directly to stores. Committed to bringing female leadership to business, each order fuels the company's Gabgirls program, teaching girls about meaningful work and business.
"As a woman in the grocery industry, it has always surprised me that majority of shoppers are female, yet so few women have senior leadership roles either in retail or consumer goods," says Heidi Huff, IGA Senior Director of Red Oval Partnerships. "With so many strong female retailers at IGA and now a focus on creating partnerships with strong, female-led companies, IGA is bucking the trends and opening up the industry for more female entrepreneurs to break through. We want IGA to be a place where our daughters want to work some day, and leading by examples is the best way to make that happen."
Heidi Huff recently spoke with Mad Gab's founder Gabrielle Melchionda about our new partnership, the company's role in preparing girls for leadership opportunities, and how IGA retailers can benefit from these fun and unique products.
Can you tell our retailers a little about how Mad Gab's was founded and what makes your products and business model unique?
I founded Mad Gab's in 1991 when I stumbled on a lip balm recipe while studying anthropology. After a lot of trial and error, I was able to create a natural lip balm that was neither greasy nor waxy. I started gifting it to friends and family, who convinced me to start selling it, and Mad Gab's was born.
Originally, I sold lip balm out of my car to Natural Food stores. The company's real break was when we were discovered by QVC, and our products started to receive publicity in national publications like Vogue and Elle. From there, our products eventually found wide success in souvenir, gift, tourist and resort industries. Today, we are a business run by a squad of five moms in Maine committed to making natural and organic body care products that are effective, attractive, and help fuel our GabGirls program, teaching girls about meaningful work and business. And we're in the midst of a strategic growth spurt to bring natural and organic body care products to a wide array of retailers across the U.S., including IGA stores.
Can you tell us a little about the GabGirls program?
Inspired by countless people who taught Gab vital business (and life) lessons, the GabGirls program was created in 2017. GabGirls formalizes decades of working with girls and young women interested in business and entrepreneurship. Today, each order helps us fund free workshops, internships and events to help young women explore meaningful work opportunities. Right now, for example, we're hosting Zoom sessions where we will discuss everything from job searching strategies, to feeling lost and unsure, to goal-setting and self-care.
How is Mad Gab's focusing on product innovations?
As an independent company, Mad Gab’s is fortunate to have ongoing conversations with our retailers, our GabGirls, and industry leaders who help us evaluate trends and product ideas. Whether it’s our DIY Lip Balm kits, or Holiday Moose Smooch, Mad Gab’s products are always unique and appeal to a wide variety of customers.
Why is the independent sector important for your business?
Mad Gab’s was built serving independent retailers, going back to when I was using the Yellow Pages to sell lip balm to small, organic grocery stores. Independent retailers gave us our start and remain the core of what we do today. We know what it means to run a small business. We’re honest. We’re responsive. We’re here to help our retail partners in every way we can.
How do you plan to help IGA retailers increase their sales in the category?
We believe in the power of authentic storytelling and relationships with our retailers and end consumers. Utilizing creative marketing and advertising, we’ve invested in creating content (videos, graphics, etc.) and creating pieces that can be shared on social media or in store to engage customers and drive sales. We look forward to working with IGA to get our products in front of IGA shoppers.
What is Mad Gab's doing to help retailers and shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Mad Gab’s has listened and worked closely with our retail partners throughout the pandemic, offering creative merchandising, lowering minimum orders, and helping educate about which products are specifically helpful to individuals at this unique moment in time.
To order Mad Gab's fun and unique products for your store, contact them directly at email@example.com.