From garage, to nationwide e-commerce brand, and ultimately L.A. storefront, former English professor and mother of two, Allison Ritto Almstedt, took a deep dive into monetizing her craft while staying true to her vegan ethics—launching Allison’s Goods in late 2019 and growing more than she ever thought possible during a global pandemic.
The success of this women-owned fragrance brand is a triumphant tale of how commitment to ethics can actually be the thing that saves a brand, even in the midst of having to overhaul one’s entire marketing and sales strategy.
IT BLOWS MY MIND THAT PEOPLE WILL BUY SOMETHING THAT IS SCENTED WITHOUT SMELLING IT.
— Why Almstedt started her business
— How she adapted her business to fit the needs of the pandemic
— The importance of catering to the most ethical vegan
— What sets Allison Good’s apart from big brands
— Almstedt’s plans for in-person workshops and going wholesale
“It blows my mind that people will buy something that is scented without smelling it,” said Allison Ritto Almstedt, reflecting with a sense of humor on the explosive growth of Allison’s Goods, her Southern California-based premium fragrance company that was just under six-months old when the pandemic forced the world online.
“April 2020 was bigger than Christmas had been the year before,” Almstedt said, “When that happened, I thought, ‘I think I’m onto something.’”
A few months later, Almstedt chose not to return to her day job.
“I was tired of having my schedule, progress and career dictated by other people,” Almstedt said, commenting on her decade-long experience in the corporate world and as an adjunct English professor.
Almsted first began brainstorming alternatives in 2019, starting with a vegan cheese company.
Realizing she lacked the means to rent a kitchen for anything food-related, Almstedt got creative with her limitations, asking herself what she could do that was a vegan, home-based business. Having always struggled to find naturally-scented products that didn’t go against her sensitive skin or her vegan values, Almstedt had found her opportunity.
If you ask about the ingredients of perfume at the mall, people have no idea.
Allison’s Goods is born.
“If you ask about the ingredients of perfume at the mall, people have no idea,” Almstedt said.
According to Almstedt, current regulations only require personal care products (lotions, makeup, etc.) to list ingredients. Scented products and fragrances do not fall under that category, and are therefore at liberty to use toxic and/or non-vegan ingredients in any quantity without disclosing it to consumers.
“Anything scented might just list a base ingredient followed by the word ‘fragrance,’” Almstedt said, “It could be synthetic, it could be natural. It could be vegan, or not.”
Late fall of 2019, Allison’s Goods, the quirky, gothy, ethically-driven, all-natural vegan home and body fragrance company, was born.
“I started with very basic kits for vegan candle-making, then started doing more from scratch as time went on and my skills improved,” Almstedt said, “First it was candles, then soap, then scented things that don’t burn, then diffusers.”
In the few short months her business existed before the pandemic, Almstedt relied on the plethora of vegan events and farmer’s markets in the Los Angeles area for marketing and sales of her candles, soaps and other scented products.
Towards the beginning of the pandemic, none of this was in my business books.
When the real world seemed to shut down, the online world was just getting started. Almstedt knew she had to dive into e-commerce or watch her brand dissolve alongside the indefinitely halted events she had once relied upon.
“Towards the beginning of the pandemic, none of this was in my business books,” Almstedt said, “In the classes I took, nobody ever covered pandemics.”
Time spent driving across the L.A. area and tabling at events quickly turned into time spent educating herself on the ins and outs of online marketing and supply chain management.
“If things hadn’t shut down, I wouldn’t have experienced the growing pains of scaling up,” Almstedt said, reflecting on how the crisis forced her to run lean and make tough but necessary business decisions without wasting time.
Keeping it clean.
Despite the inherent challenge of selling scented products in an environment where people can’t smell them (the internet), the transparency of Almstedt’s product labels and business practices compensated for any lack of a sensory experience.
Unlike most fragrance companies, Almstedt lists every single ingredient in her products and monitors her supply chain with a fine-toothed comb, building a deep sense of trust in her customers and offering them something they can’t find elsewhere.
“I’ve never shipped something and had someone write me and tell me they didn’t like it,” Almstedt said.
There’s always something hidden in the supply chain.
Vegan since the 90s, Almstedt keeps animal cruelty considerations and vegan values at the core of her business, remaining vigilant with suppliers.
“I have dropped suppliers when they won’t sign animal testing statements, despite having ‘no animal testing’ all over their websites,” Almstedt said, mentioning how she also switched soy wax brands—the foundational ingredient in her vegan candles—after learning the company she had sourced from used soybeans from Cargill, the food corporation that went back on its promises to stop contributing to deforestation in Brazil.
“There’s always something hidden in the supply chain,” Almstedt said, “It’s no longer an excuse to say, “‘I didn’t know.’”
Making her business better than herself.
Almstedt cites her own buying power as a business owner as the reason she invests so much time into ethical business practices.
“I’m not always perfect with my plastic consumption, but if I’m multiplying my impact with the products I sell to customers, I want to be as plastic-free as possible,” she said, referencing her candle’s hemp labels and sustainable packaging.
“If you cater to vegans, you have to cater to the most strict ethical vegan, even if you are not personally,” Almstsedt said, “I have to make sure the sugar used in my sugar sprouts is bone char-free, even though I might eat an oreo myself every once in a while.”
Almtedt cited Oatly as an example, the beloved brand now feeling the wrath of its connection to cocoa suppliers who profit from child slave labor.
“Oatly didn’t use slave labor,” Almstedt said, “but their supplier did.”
This is not your hobby; this is your business.
Ethics aside, Almstedt cites the hard-knock lesson of being real with herself as a pivot that allowed her business to scale in times of struggle. Turning over a profit through the pandemic required Almstedt to shift with the shortages and run lean—sometimes that meant cutting beloved creative products that just weren’t selling.
“One thing my mentor drilled into my head is that this is not your hobby; this is your business,” Almstedt said, “It’s very easy to get an idea from Pinterest and want to tinker rather than focusing on what’s selling and what works. If something isn’t selling, you have to kill it. It will hurt, and you’ll have lost money, but you’ll have learned.”
Instead of tinkering, Almstedt leaned into a silver lining of the pandemic: a sudden abundance of online courses. She invested in mentorship programs and online courses related to e-commerce and supply chain management—options that weren’t as accessible before the pandemic, with in-person coursework being more costly, less flexible, and harder to make work as a small business owner with two children.
The e-commerce boom for businesses also meant that Almstedt was competing with giants like amazon. Piggy-backing off of her success with product transparency, Almstedt invested energy into making packaging and unboxing into a consumer experience, something that large distributors can’t do.
“I wrap everything as if it were an actual gift, even if someone’s buying it for themselves,” Almstedt said, “This way, it becomes an experience rather than ripping a box open and throwing it away. That’s the personal touch I can do because I’m a small business.”
The future of Allison’s Goods.
Almstedt recently graduated from garage to storefront, opening doors to her first official business location in October. For the holiday season, Almstedt looks forward to leading candle-making, crafting and DIY holiday gift workshops alongside her gallery of aromatic gems.
Everyone’s VIP to me.
In the future, Almstedt’s vision is to see Allison’s Goods growing its wholesale presence and landing products in mom and pop shops as well as the local section of markets like Whole Foods or Monster’s Market in the Southern California area.
“That’s kind of the holy grail,” she said.
For now, Almstedt’s storefront is a workshop and pop-up space, with the option for private shopping to anyone who wants to take a closer look.
“If someone emails me, I’ll go meet them to open up the shop for them,” Almstedt said, “Everyone’s VIP to me.”
To learn more about Allison’s Goods and place fragrance orders in time for the holidays, check out Allison on vKind, social media, and on her website.