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Kristin Cotte Thinks Her Grapeseed Co. Is Naturally Better for Bath and Body

Santa Barbara skin-care company opens first retail location, just off downtown

The ranks of entrepreneurship may be highly male-dominated, but Kristin Cotte, the distaff president of The Grapeseed Co., is proving that in Santa Barbara’s booming business scene, it’s not just a man’s world.

For the past six years, The Grapeseed Co. has been providing Santa Barbara with a variety of quality eco-friendly bath and body products, using, yes, grape seeds, as well as grape skins. According to Cotte, the use of grapes in her products was a natural tie-in to Santa Barbara and the surrounding wine country.

“The ingredients we use are something the wine-makers are tossing, so usually people either find someone to haul their grape seeds away, or a lot of organic farms will put it in the compost and use it for the next season,” Cotte said.

“Either way, it is something that people are trying to get rid of — and it’s full of great anti-oxidants and vitamins, because the skins and the seeds are where the antioxidants are concentrated.”

Cotte originally got the idea for her company while on an extended stay in the Caribbean several years ago. She and her husband, Peter, then her boyfriend, were working in their native Boston at the time when they decided to quit their respective jobs, buy a sailboat and sail to the tropical islands. The couple ended up staying in the Caribbean for the next two years.

While there, Cotte says she became interested in the local tradition of creating soaps and lotions out of coconut oil, which was usually the main ingredient. It became a hobby of hers as her passion grew for discovering the unique aspects of bath and body products in each different region that she visited.

“While we were there, I began to study a lot about aromatherapy and making natural skin-care products,” said Cotte. “I knew there would be times when we would be away from stores for a really long time, so I just started experimenting with some really simple formulas to make my own products.”

Eventually, Cotte says they reluctantly had to move back to the real world, and ended up in Santa Barbara. Cotte was working in the special education department of the Goleta Union School District, but her passion for homemade skin-care products never faded. When her husband became interested in wine, that passion found a home.

“When my husband got into wine, I started learning about the grape seeds, and how good the seeds are for your skin,” Cotte said. “I thought, ‘This is the perfect ingredient that I can center a whole line around, and launch a business.’”

Although she continued to work as an educator, she grew The Grapeseed Co. through her Web site, as well as through wholesale and custom spa orders. Finally, two years ago, her once-small passion project had “ripened” to the point that it became her full-time focus. In fact, business has been so plush that on Saturday, Cotte celebrated the grand opening of her very first Grapeseed Co. retail store, located at 201 W. Carrillo St. just off downtown Santa Barbara.

The new location will feature classes, where Cotte will show people how to actually make their own products, which they get to keep, of course. There will also be parties available: little girl birthday parties at which girls can make their own lip balms “as well as ‘big girl’ parties,” Cotte said with a mischievous laugh.

As Cotte focuses on her burgeoning retail location in the present, she says that she keeps one eye firmly trained on the future. And right now, the future looks bright — and blemish-free — for the enterprising former school teacher.

“Right now, we’re working on more European distribution,” she said. “We just sent our first shipment to our distributor in the U.K. We’re also working on distribution in France.

“We are also making specific treatments for spas, and bringing that component into the store, so that people can come in and customize their own scents. But right now, the store is the main focus, and we’re all really thrilled to have such a great location for our loyal Santa Barbara customers.”

Click here for more information on The Grapeseed Co.

Noozhawk contributor Kevin McFadden can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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