WAVERLY — On the surface, it seemed a little too easy.
A young wife and mother goes from graphic designer to makeup mogul after mixing up a natural cosmetics line in her kitchen. She’s practically an overnight sensation.
Some days, Krista Dolash doesn’t believe it, either.
“I had no idea; I wouldn’t have dreamed all this up in a million years,” said Dolash, founder of Root.
Her unprecedented success making and selling natural makeup and other products is for real; there isn’t a catch. She started Root in her kitchen, selling products online. She just opened her third store and continues to grow.
In 2013, Dolash was a mother of two girls. When she became pregnant with her son, she became a self-described “crazy label-reader,” hyper-conscious of everything her family consumed.
She quickly turned her eye to her “natural” makeup. She soon learned anything can be labeled “natural” and, as a result, many such products are “filled with scary chemicals.”
“I began researching how to make my own makeup, using nothing more than natural products,” she recalled.
First, Dolash gave her foundation a makeover. Foundation is used to even out and conceal the user’s skin tone. Typical ingredients in mass market brands blend chemicals, minerals, oils and pigments, including things like bentonite, titanium oxide and urea.
Armed with research on natural alternatives, Dolash created a foundation made entirely of minerals.
“It was just something I did for myself — a hobby, really,” she said. “It was just foundation.”
Not for long. Eventually, she tried her hand at other products, replacing store-bought items with her own creations.
Other women noticed the change, paid her compliments and asked questions. They wondered if she’d mix up makeup for them, too. They offered to pay her.
Dolash began developing a plan to turn her hobby into a business. Today, she can point to lessons she learned and glimmers of her stubborn streak.
“I refused to take a loan,” she admitted. “I couldn’t take a bank loan. I wouldn’t take a dime from my husband. If the business failed, it would only lose money I had made and saved for it.”
To earn money to fund her makeup business, Dolash made headbands from recycled fabrics, selling them on Facebook. She was able to save enough to launch Root in October 2013 from her home.
She served customers online, and such sales remain a major revenue stream.
“It has taken off in a way I just didn’t imagine,” she said. “I started with one foundation, … and now there’s other makeup, hair care, skin care and home products.”
In less than four years, Dolash scaled up from her kitchen to a production facility and downtown storefront. She opened her second store in Cedar Falls in July 2016 to test Root’s possibilities for expansion.
It worked: Less than six months later, Dolash opened a third store in Iowa City. Her staff has grown to about 30.
The meteoric rise came with a sharp learning curve, said Dolash. She realized the importance of maximizing time and other resources.
“We used to do custom color blending, but as we grew, that became too time consuming,” she said. “It’s good to have good people in place. I had to learn to not do everything on my own.”
She works long hours and pushes herself to continue innovating. However, accepting help and empowering her team has enabled Dolash to enjoy her some of her success. At work, this includes working directly with customers, her favorite part of owning Root. At home, it means spending time with her husband, Jake, and their kids, Campbell, now 6, Holland, 4, and Duke, who will be 3 in March.
While Dolash didn’t expect such rapid growth, she has always had a clear vision for what Root would offer: honest, affordable, U.S.-made products that are organic, gluten-free and vegan.
Root has caught the notice of hopeful distributors as well as mass market brands. Distributors would place layers of separation between Root and its end users. It’s possible accepting such offers might necessitate adding things like preservatives or artificial dyes to Dolash’s recipes.
Both notions are unthinkable to Dolash. She loves talking to customers who say Root’s makeup is the only kind that doesn’t irritate their skin. Both would likely be comprised if she allowed Root to become a big brand.
“It’s important to me to maintain a small-company feel,” said Dolash. “We answer the phone here. We know our customers. We make our products right here in Waverly. I want to maintain that.”