A State College-born soap startup cleans up

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Growing up in State College, Chloe Alpert and her mother labored to develop natural, good-for-you soaps that wouldn’t irritate Chloe’s sensitive skin.

Today Alpert is founder of SAVONBOX, a maker of luxury soaps and bath products. The company uses “over 300 proprietary formulas and designs that have been developed by my mother and me over the last 10 to 15 years,” she explains.

Soaps from SAVONBOX
Soaps from SAVONBOX

Based in Berkeley, California, the company maintains a presence in State College where a handful of employees handle East Coast orders and Alpert and her mom continue with R&D. The longterm goal is to grow on both coasts, notably with a larger Pennsylvania fulfillment center that could employ 20 or more.

SAVONBOX launched in December using a subscription model popularized by cosmetic and skin care-focused companies like Birchbox; you can also buy bars a la carte on their website. They offer 181 different luxury soaps with evocative names such as “Lilac and Lace” and “Night Blooming Jasmine.” Each features a vegetable-derived, vegan, glycerin base, which Alpert says is highly moisturizing and thus perfect for sensitive skin. The soaps — which eschew harmful chemicals and animal-derived products — are also formulated to offer specific aromatherapy benefits.

Wake Scrub from SAVONBOX
Wake Scrub from SAVONBOX

Besides the bar soaps, SAVONBOX offers body scrubs, bath salts, lotions, creams, masks and more, and is actively surveying its customers to guide further product development. But Alpert is careful about growth.

“Every new product we introduce to the market has a complex system to be solved on the back end: packaging, production, fulfillment and so forth,” she says. “It also takes money and infrastructure to scale, and scaling too quickly can be dangerous — for any company, not just us.”

She knows what she’s talking about. At only 24, SAVONBOX is Alpert’s second startup. She offers this advice to other young founders:

“First, startups are not fun,” she insists. “The point being that you really need to love what you are doing, and be compelled by the problem in order to stick with it. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and that’s okay. My second [piece of] advice is learn how to say, ‘I don’t know.’ … A good investor should recognize that you’re smart enough to know what you don’t know, and have the wisdom to figure it out.

“The final piece of advice is to make intelligent mistakes and learn from them,” she concludes. “The only way you’ll figure out what the right choices are is to make the wrong ones first.”

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