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Key Idea: Pay Attention To Spot Opportunity

Debra found Altoids in a health food store and a lightbulb went on in her head that there should be a strong breath mint for the health-food conscious.

Key Question:


The fact that  Altoids were being sold in health food stores was important to Debra's success.  She didn't have to convince the stores to sell a breath mint.  She only had to show how she was different.  

Selling a healthy breath mint in health food stores is a way to get in the flow and this is easier than swimming up stream. The health food stores define themselves by the product mix and pride themselves in making statements like: processed white sugar is bad. Debra is a health food expert and was shocked to see that a fine store where she goes regularly was selling a product that basically slaps the store's history in the face. She figured that the demand for a strong peppermint breath mint was so great that the health food buyer gave in and bought Altoids because they had no other choice.

Debra did not have to convince health food stores to start selling a breath mint. She only had to convince them to replace Altoids with her mint. This is what we mean by getting in the flow rather than swimming up stream.

Debra also talked about her interest in making and selling a product that is easy for people to understand. This is another way for her to "go with the flow." She has spent 20 years trying to convince her customers and potential customers that herbal medicine works and that certain foods are better than others. She has been swimming upstream, that is going against conventional attitudes. With the organic sweets, she is giving people what they want.

The breath mint, in a way, sells itself because it doesn't need a complicated explanation. Have you ever been in a health food store? So often there are little flyers and even hand-made signs explaining the benefits of products. The breath mint is simple and simple sells.

Think about it

Where is the next opportunity in your industry?  What product or service could you launch that would allow you to go with the flow that your customers are already in?

Clip from: St. Claire's Mints & Organic Sweets (EcoNatural Solutions)

Boulder, Colorado: Debra St.Claire started her business, EcoNatural Solutions in 1993 to begin manufacturing  a totally organic breath mint and a healthy candy for children and adults.  She is an herbalist, naturalist, and vegetarian. When she learned that there was beef gelatin in her favorite peppermints, she was so disappointed, she said, "I'll make my own!"

Today St.Claire's Organic Sweets are on thousands of store shelves around the world.

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St. Claire's Organics started as EcoNatural Solutions, Inc.

St. Claire's Organic Sweets, a global business

6235 Lookout Road
Boulder, CO 80301

Visit our web site:

Office: 303-527-1554

Business Classification:
food processing

Year Founded: 1993

Pay Attention To Spot Opportunity

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. Want some fresh ideas for growing your business or want to start a business? Stay with us for the next 30 minutes. We promise you'll find it time spent wisely.

When most of us are disappointed in a product, we shrug our shoulders and don't buy it again. Deborah St. Claire was disappointed and shocked to discover that her favorite peppermints contained beef gelatin, so she decided to make her own mints and become a competitor. From one of America's hotbeds for creativity, Boulder, Colorado, comes a story of St. Claire's Organic Sweets. You'll learn how passion put a new product on hundreds of store shelves.

I first saw this little tin in a Philadelphia gift shop. I was fascinated and decided to chase down the inventor.

DEBORAH ST. CLAIRE (St. Claire's Organic Sweets): Well, both of my parents were entrepreneurs. My father had a lumber company, my mother had a nursery, a greenhouse. I was the only child, so guess what? I didn't get to share the imprinting with many people; it all came directly to me. In fact, my father told me, `You're so stubborn, you probably won't ever be able to work for anyone else. You'd better learn how to make your own business.' And so when he died -- I was 22 years old -- I took the money that he had left to me and I started my first company, which was an herbal company. I made sachets and potpourris.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This is Deborah St. Claire, the inventor of Organic Sweets and founder of the company, EcoNatural.

DEBORAH: I had been tracking Altoids. I had been using Altoids since I was in my mid-20s.

HATTIE: Consuming them?

DEBORAH: Consuming them. Eating them. It was just a strong breath mint! Well, I like strong peppermint.

But, I'm an herbalist; I had been an herbalist for 25 years. And so, when I saw Altoids in a health-food store, which was my territory, I said, `Wait a minute. This industry needs a peppermint -- a very strong peppermint that is in harmony with its principles.'

HATTIE: OK. What's out of harmony with this product?

DEBORAH: White sugar, beef gelatin. For a vegetarian, this is not a good product.

HATTIE: So you were eating beef gelatin...

DEBORAH: And, I didn't know it. I just bought it because it was a strong peppermint.

HATTIE: Most vegetarians who would make that discovery would say, `OK, I can't eat Altoids anymore, that's off my list, and go get a Life Saver.' They wouldn't start a company.

DEBORAH: But I liked strong peppermints! Also, there was another reason. I was looking for a product that I could sell over and over and over again, that was non-spoilable, non-seasonal, that could be marketed to any country in the world even with limited education.

HATTIE: What got you to the point in your life where you were that definitive about a product that you wanted to make? You must have been doing other things.

DEBORAH: Right. I had been practicing herbal medicine for 20 years.

HATTIE: What does practicing herbal medicine mean?

DEBORAH: I was teaching herbal medicine, but I was looking around (and asking), "What do I do with my life now?" I had done gift products. I've done, you could call them... HATTIE: Medicinals?

DEBRA: ...medicinal extracts...

HATTIE: Is this like hocus-pocus or is this for real?

DEBRA: Oh no, this is absolutely for real. Absolutely. These plants work. They were our first form of medicine. They've been used for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.

I know how to create businesses; I know how to create companies; and I know how to design products. I was asking myself, "What kind of product could I design that is easy to sell, will sell over and over again, in markets all over the world and is low education?" With the botanical extracts, it's very high education. You have to educate people. Think of all the questions you just asked me.


DEBRA: It's like, `What is it? How does it work?' All of these things have to be told. But a peppermint -- Hattie, a peppermint is a peppermint.

HATTIE: I need one.

DEBRA: Everybody knows what a peppermint is for.

HATTIE: And we all need one.


HATTIE: And we all want them.

DEBRA: Right.

HATTIE: You don't have to convince us to use a breath mint.

DEBRA: Right. And it doesn't spoil. And you don't have to teach people so much.

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