When Larissa Warren was 16 years old, a drunk driver barreled through a stop sign and struck her vehicle.
The crash left Warren with permanent scars on her face, even after a couple of reconstructive surgeries. She attempted to use traditional skin care products and makeup to heal and cover the scars, but it only aggravated her skin.
That’s when she decided to create her own skin care products using natural ingredients. She launched Bee You Organics as an online store on Etsy in 2017 and has garnered hundreds of positive reviews and more than 2,400 sales from customers nationwide.
Now, she’s expanding Bee You Organics into a brick-and-mortar store at 1114 S. Perry St. that is opening Thursday in a space formerly occupied by Tsuga Northwest Arts.
“I’m excited to be able to meet my customers,” Warren said. “Some are just coming in for healthier products and some have stories like I have – they’ve been bitten by dogs or have been in car accidents, and I really love the whole aspect of getting to meet people and hearing their stories.”
The store specializes in certified organic skin care items for people with sensitive, acne-prone or troubled skin and for those seeking an alternative to traditional skin care products.
Warren, who was raised holistically, creates makeup, lip balms, serums and moisturizers using natural ingredients such as beeswax and essential oils. The products don’t contain water, alcohol or preservatives.
Warren said creating the products has been a trial-and-error process.
“I tell people it’s kind of like baking. I love baking. It’s really just a recipe. It’s trial-and-error and knowing what different oils do,” she said.
Warren launched Bee You Organics as a part-time online venture from her home while working a day job in property management.
“I just wanted to see if I had a viable product,” she said. “So, I bought $500 worth of packaging and ingredients, and opened an Etsy shop. It was just to kind of see if other people are interested in the products.”
Within two days, she had her first sale.
“I still remember it. I was super excited. From there, it just kept happening,” she said, adding sales were gradual. “The first year, it was about 100 sales. But, it was enough to show me that people were interested in (the products) and it was something they wanted.”
Warren participated in Window Dressing’s creative enterprise program, a project of nonprofit Terrain that allows potential business owners to test ideas with little risk by matching them with low-cost space for up to six months.
The program gives small, creative businesses a path forward to opening a brick-and-mortar store. It also offers training to grow their businesses through in-depth professional development courses, one-on-one coaching, business resources and camaraderie among peers, said Ginger Ewing, co-founder and executive director of Terrain.
“It’s been a complete joy to watch Larissa grow her business. We are very proud of her,” Ewing said. “She’s a really incredible example of a small, creative business in Spokane.”
Through the creative enterprise program, Warren realized Bee You Organics is a viable business and quit her day job in May to operate it full time.
She began selling lip balm at Tsuga Northwest Arts in the Perry District and participated in Terrain’s Bazaar marketplace in June.
When Tsuga Northwest Arts closed in July, Warren’s husband signed a lease to rent the building.
“I’m so happy now that I have (the store). It’s so much better,” Warren said.
Bee You Organics also features shampoo and soap containing natural ingredients from Flourish Botanicals, nature-infused jewelry from Hooray by Renee and artwork by Lori Kirby.
The store is having a grand opening event 12 p.m.-7 p.m. Thursday with live music, product giveaways and raffles.
“I’m excited to expand the business to be able to meet people in person and bring it into the community,” Warren said.