Pelindaba Group, LLC


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June 29, 2015 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


Sustainably Growing, Distilling and Handcrafting Lavender Products


Dr. Stephen Robins



Pelindaba Group, LLC


Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – June 29, 2015


CEOCFO: Mr. Robins, would you tell us the idea behind Pelindaba?

Mr. Robins: The original idea in the late nineties was simply to preserve some land I owned on San Juan Island (WA) as “open space”. Over the years, however, it outgrew this simple idea and evolved from just a sustainable agriculture project into a multilayered vertically-integrated operation when we decided to go beyond just growing lavender flowers and into distilling the essential oil from the harvested flowers and to start making our own lavender-based products. We then decided to also market and sell the products ourselves, by opening a few of our own retail stores and also selling at wholesale to various gift and specialty stores around the country. Given the growing success of these ventures, we decided to expand further, initially with a trial of licensed stores that has now expanded into franchising.


CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the special qualities of lavender?

Mr. Robins: It is a very good antiseptic, sedative, topical anesthetic, insect repellant and oil solvent, as well as being a flavoring for foods and of course a fragrance in many personal care products. These special qualities, alone or in combination, lend themselves to lavender being used in a multiplicity of product lines. Indeed, there are more things done with lavender than any other plant known in the western world, and with a history that goes back over two thousand years of use. So while most people know it just for its fragrance or its flavor in food, it has all these other natural properties that were in very widespread use before chemicals and pharmaceuticals came along.


CEOCFO: What is it about lavender that makes it so useful in such a wide variety of applications?

Mr. Robins: It is this wide range of natural properties of the lavender essential oil itself that we get out of the flowers by a steam distillation process that have led to its use in therapeutic products, personal care products, culinary products, household products, outdoors and in pet care, depending upon which particular properties of lavender one is interested in in each case. For example in pet shampoo, it is a natural, completely non-toxic shampoo that not just gives the pet not just a nice smell but its very powerful insect repellant properties make it a flea and tick repellant. For example, shampoo a dog once a week and you would not need to use any other kind of flea repellant. So it saves people from using the more toxic things that are available. So you have a pleasant smelling, completely non-toxic use of lavender for that particular property in that particular setting. It is also used to help people get to sleep at night. You just need a drop of the oil on your upper lip and you do not need sleeping pills. It is a pharmacological action of the essential oil, in this case a sedative. This is a natural drug property of lavender. The same with topical anesthesia. If you put it onto the skin it will stop any pain from a cut, burn, or insect bite or sting. Within less than a minute the pain is gone completely. It is also an antiseptic.


CEOCFO: Do many people outside of natural health field know this?

Mr. Robins: Most people do not know about all the many properties of lavender. Most people know it as just a very nice scent and that is why its most common use has been in cosmetic or personal care products. We and a number of other people over the last twenty years have been bringing back into public knowledge the awareness of all these other properties of lavender. We are finding that there is a highly receptive audience of people who prefer to have non-toxic products rather than chemicals in their houses or on themselves or children or pets. For example, the hydrosol which is the distilled water byproduct we get when we distill the oil out of the plant. A good way of summarizing the usefulness of these many properties is this — if you are looking to design the perfect household cleanser and disinfectant, you would end up with lavender hydrosol. It smells good, it is completely non-toxic, you can drink it, it is a disinfectant for kitchen counters or bathrooms, it is an oil solvent which dissolves grease and oil. Being non-toxic you can use it for bathrooms to kitchens to babies. Indeed, lavender is the only essential oil that can be used non-toxically on the skin. So while you are correct in surmising that most people are not aware of these many uses, we have seen that changing over the fifteen years we have been in this field and have been doing a lot of research. We went to France and England and visited farms and have done our own research here. We started introducing products and more and more people have come to hear about and use them, especially those who have been looking for a natural alternative to chemicals.


CEOCFO: Regarding the business side, are there many companies producing the variety of lavender products that Pelindaba provides?

Mr. Robins: In the overall market of products, there are relatively few people who are using lavender beyond its just being a somewhat popular fragrance in cosmetic products or personal care products. That is what most people know about lavender. We are one of the very few producers who are re-introducing the pubic to its many other uses. In our own stores we sell only lavender products for all those many uses. And as a lavender store we are unique. You will find some other stores that have some products with some lavender in them to some degree, whereas we are completely specialized. We are a retail specialty business and the largest of its kind. We are also very different from others who do lavender farming or make lavender products. We are completely vertically integrated from a corporate organization point of view. We grow our own lavender, distill our own oil from our own lavender and we make all our own products right here on the farm. As part of this vertical integration, and we also sell our own products as well. Nobody else does it to this degree with this wide a range of products. We are unique in that regard. We are organically certified which makes us even more special. As a proposition from a franchising point of view, if you are talking with people and you are selling them on why they should open a Pelindaba store, it is the long history of its use, its wide range of uses, and also that the competition is relatively non-existent.


CEOCFO: Are you the first to have taken this approach to selling lavender, with such a broad range of products?

Mr. Robins: Nobody else is out there with purely lavender stores or selling lavender-based products in any significant volume. We have found that to be successful in this business, being vertically integrated is the key. We do it all ourselves and in fact it is the selling of our value-added products that is name of the game. That is what helps and essentially supports the business economics of the farming, processing and manufacturing. That is why we make a big thing about being vertically integrated. We are growing as a product business because of the continued repeated steady demand. We have been growing about 20% annually over the last six years. Year after year it appears to be recession-proof, which not too surprising because it is a feel-good product — the kind of product people will buy for personal use. Also, our special packaging which is quite unique compared to most other lavender products you see. You can see this readily on our website. So it is a big gift business as well. We sell to gift stores quite a lot just as we sell to spas and restaurants and various specialty stores. Apart from wholesale, we have our own retail stores and a very active website that powers our rapidly growing online business. It is a comprehensive website. It has grown by demand as opposed to us pushing it to happen. It has been fifteen years of growing demand, people coming back and spreading the word. Our sales continue to increase.


CEOCFO: Does the fact that it is outside the mainstream create interest and value?

Mr. Robins: Certainly. There are people who prefer not to use supermarket or hardware store products if they can use a non-chemical and non-toxic alternative. That is a significant part of the audience, so when we sell our products wholesale to various stores as I was alluding to; these tend to be specialty grocery stores, spas and restaurants. However, people are using it for one reason or another in regular environments. You do not have to be in the herbal world so to speak to be aware or interested in lavender. That is the whole point, it is the breakout from its previously limited environment that you alluded to earlier in this conversation, to becoming much more mainstream. That is exactly the growth that is occurring.


CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach?

Mr. Robins: At this point it is primarily the US. We do some sales in Canada. We have the occasional one elsewhere — we have also sold to Japan and Singapore.


CEOCFO: If we spoke a year from now what might be different?

Mr. Robins: Right now, we have three of our own Pelindaba stores operating under that business name and that presence. Through franchising, we are looking for anywhere from three to six new stores within a year from now, opening up in different parts of the country by people who have bought into the franchising program, running as a franchise and accessing their communities in their area. That is what I see. We are poised for significant revenue growth.


CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Pelindaba Group today?

Mr. Robins: It is producing specialty products that are feeding into a growing market demand for non-chemical alternatives to products that are currently providing only chemical solutions. It is also in the gift business with a unique and very attractively packaged product line which fills a significant niche for people who enjoy giving gifts to others and sometimes for themselves. In terms of the longer term, beyond just in the one-year timeframe, we aim in a way to do what Starbucks did for coffee. Not on the same scale obviously, because many people drink coffee and not many people use lavender. The idea is to bring to people’s attention a product that is out there that can be very attractive for a number of reasons, and then surround people with the lavender experience rather than the coffee experience so that itself becomes something that they enjoy. This is all triggered by observation over more than a decade of the reaction that we get when people come into our stores. We have many visitors during the summer here on San Juan Island as it is a very popular tourism destination. We see and hear over and over again people opening the door to one of our stores and go “wow, this is unique”. That is the typical reaction, regardless of which store we are talking about. Whether it is the novelty or whether it is the attractiveness of the packaging or the desire to get away from chemicals, we observe the same reaction. It also appeals to many age groups and with people of multiple different interests. Indeed, in a way a Pelindaba Lavender store feels like a unique boutique but with the convenience of a department store. You can go in there for one thing and also get others — household products, therapeutic products, personal care products, food products, pet care products, and so on, as opposed to stores that focus on one particular product category. So, the practical advantages of a department store but with the look and feel of a boutique in the sense that it is an unusual, highly attractive, and evokes much positive emotion from its visitors. We keep looking at that and saying, “This keeps wanting to grow, so let’s allow that to happen”. More and more. People are asking us when we are going to have a store here or there. We have everything pulling us to grow in the direction we are now headed.


“A Pelindaba Lavender store feels like a unique boutique but with the convenience of a department store. You can go in there for one thing and also get others — household products, therapeutic products, personal care products, food products, pet care products, and so on, as opposed to stores that focus on one particular product category. So, the practical advantages of a department store but with the look and feel of a boutique in the sense that it is an unusual, highly attractive, and evokes much positive emotion from its visitors.” - Dr. Stephen Robins


Pelindaba Group, LLC


Stephen Robins

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