In this episode of the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, you’ll meet Crunchi Co-Founders, Melanie Petschke and Kelly Kreusler. You’ll learn how their toxin-free journey led to building a clean beauty direct sales company with incredibly high standards around safety and performance. Through their mission, you don’t need a PhD to shop for your family as Crunchi provides a platform for Advocates to educate others about the importance of making safer choices. Listen in to learn from Melanie and Kelly, and the ripple effect their Advocate Community is creating by redefining the clean beauty movement.
Time based notes:
- 00:52 Meet Melanie Petschke & Kelly Kreusler
- 02:57 How Crunchi was Founded
- 06:18 The Early Days of Crunchi
- 08:37 Why Direct Sales was the Best Choice
- 10:12 Challenges in the Industry
- 13:02 Benefits of Direct Sales and How They Educate Customers
- 17:23 Education in the Crunchi Community
- 17:55 Authenticity is Critical
- 19:34 How Crunchi Differentiates
Clean Up Your Cosmetics with Crunchi
We had not one, but two special guests on our recent episode of the Modern Direct Seller Podcast: Melanie Penske and Kelly Kreusler, co-founders of Crunchi. They joined us to chat about their toxin-free journeys, and how that led them to build a clean beauty company with incredibly high standards around safety and performance, as well as a direct sales platform that they use to educate others. Read on to learn how their clean beauty movement has grown!
So, let’s just dive right in. Melanie and Kelly, would you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Melanie Petschke: Sure! I am a mother of two amazing kids and a wife. I have a bunch of animals. And, I am also a family nurse practitioner; I’ve been in practice for well over a decade. I love to go on adventures with my family. I love to travel. And, I have lived in 5 states and traveled to over 20 countries on 6 continents.
Kelly Kreusler: And, I am a wife and a mother of two boys and two big dogs. My background is in sales and business, and I’m a former pharmaceutical sales rep. And, I love the water. I love the outdoors. I love the beach. And, I’m a huge exercise enthusiast.
Okay, so you two came together and you founded Crunchi back in 2016—so it’s still a fairly young company. But, I feel like you should get credit for at least 10 years over the last two years because of everything you’ve accomplished, right? So, tell us a little bit about your story, how Crunchi got started, and why you chose direct sales.
Kelly Kreusler: So, Mel and I met just over 10 years ago. We actually had a mom’s night out, and we hit it off right away, because we had a lot in common. We were both pregnant with our second child; we had our first children already, who were both around two years old. And, we were both on a toxin-free journey, so we were learning about living a healthier lifestyle, and we were in the process of changing our products over, and our houses over, and our personal care, and our food, and all that stuff over. We became quick friends.
So, fast-forward a little bit to the start of Crunchi: One of the areas that we were trying to switch over to become more toxin-free was cosmetics and skincare. And, we could not find a brand or a company that was doing it well. We’d find one company, and we’d be like, “Oh, this looks great!” And then we’d go and try the product, and it was terrible. I mean, we couldn’t even spread the foundation. We would put makeup on, and an hour later, we’d be like, “Do we even have makeup on?” So, we grew so frustrated with the performance, and with what was out in the marketplace, and even the greenwashing that was going on, so we decided to take on the challenge of creating truly clean, high-performing cosmetics ourselves.
So, we started on this journey, and we teamed up with amazing formulators and makeup artist, and we worked, and we worked, and we worked, and we quickly realized why no one was doing clean cosmetics. Because, it was very, very challenging to create products with truly clean ingredients that perform the way that you are used to. But, we didn’t give up. We persevered. We stayed with it. We had a lot of people saying we should compromise here or compromise there so that we’d be able to get to market faster. And we decided, “No. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.” So, we really stuck to our mission from Day One, and although it was much longer and harder to get to market and to get to launch, it was 100% worth it.
So, just over six years ago, we actually launched out of my home. We didn’t have a website. We didn’t have an office. We didn’t have a fulfillment center. We didn’t have a corporate team. It was just the two of us. But, we had a vision for clean beauty. And, over the past six years, that vision has really come through. It’s been an unbelievable ride.
Amazing! I feel like every great story begins in somebody’s house, right? So, talk about the early days. What was that like?
Melanie Petschke: So, our office was Kelly’s home office, and our fulfillment center was her guest bedroom. We literally would just transform dressers into storage facilities and beds into assembly lines; it was very, very archaic at the beginning. But, it worked. And, it allowed us to grow organically. But, it was a really wild, wild start, for sure. And, we very quickly realized that the reason we had not previously found the products that we were looking was that they did not exist. And, other consumers had realized that, as well, so we gained popularity very quickly. There was a true need in the marketplace for clean cosmetics that performed.
Was there a moment when you were like, “Okay, this is the real deal”? Was there a time where you moved out of the house, or you brought on your first employee? Like, what were those moments when it finally felt like, “We’re really doing this”?
Melanie Petschke: I can think of a couple moments like that. I would say that the very first was our soft launch event that we held the December before we launched. And, it was the worst possible timing. Everyone was busy crazy with the holidays; people had probably already done their holiday shopping by the time we held the event. But, we managed to bring in a substantial group for that first event, and that night, when everyone left, we looked at each other, and we said, “I think we might be onto something here,” because there was such a high demand and such popularity just within that first event.
And then, I would say definitely when we did transition out of Kelly’s home, opened our first corporate office setting, and moved our fulfillment center. Those were big “Aha” moments for us.
So, you know that there are so many brands out there that are just ecommerce brands, and you could have definitely just put up a Shopify store and called it a day. Tell us a little bit about why you chose direct sales as a business model in a pretty competitive landscape.
Melanie Petschke: That’s a great question. We really did have the option to go any direction we wanted. We were looking at straight ecommerce; we were looking at going into spas. We really had a wide-open playing field. But, we kept coming back to direct sales. What it came down to is, products like these deserve to be shared person to person. There’s so much education surrounding the importance of clean beauty, and also just living a cleaner lifestyle in general, so when we thought about having a platform to stand on to share that important information, direct sales fit so perfectly that it was very clear that it was the best way to launch Crunchi.
I love that! And, I know that part of your mission is really around education and clean beauty. So, tell us what that looks like in practice. Like, of course there are clean beauty taglines that a lot of companies throw out there, but I’ve seen a little behind the scenes on your Instagram, and I’ve has a chance to try your products, and it seems like you have a different strategy than a straight, “Here, buy this product.” What does it actually look like to be a part of your corporate team?
Melanie Petschke: So, the challenge in the industry—as Kelly mentioned earlier—is that there is such a huge problem with greenwashing, especially today, because it’s becoming more of a an expectation that companies will produce products that are safer and cleaner for the consumers. But, there’s marketing language that is completely deceiving, and so you feel like you need a PhD in chemistry in order to shop for your family. The lack of regulation in the United States poses a huge challenge, because companies can market their products in so many different ways to hide the truth from consumers. So, when we launched Crunchi, we felt extremely passionate about sticking to that safety standard, and sticking to that performance standard, and making it clear to customers, and we are really proud to have unprecedented levels of safety and performance, as well as sustainability.
So, every one of our ingredients is hand-selected for both safety and performance. We go through an unprecedented, stringent screening process before we approve any ingredient to be in a Crunchi product. All of our products are toxin-free; they’re Leaping Bunny-certified; they’re non-GMO; they’re gluten-free; and they’re crafted by prioritizing certified organic ingredients. And, at this time, all of our cosmetics and skincare products are also manufactured in the United States with globally sourced ingredients—with an upcoming exception of some specialty pencils that we’re going to have manufactured in Europe. So, these are all very, very important to us, and really make up that high safety standard that we feel so strongly about.
And then, when it comes to performance, that’s the most challenging part, because it’s so easy to compromise there, especially when you’re working with such limited ingredients in terms of safety. So, all of our products must have the same level and the same standard when it comes to performance, and our standard is the same if not better than conventional products that are on the market.
I love that. And, you’re absolutely right. A lot of times, when you talk about greenwashing, or talk about some of these terms, I feel like the average listener isn’t familiar with why that’s important in the products that they’re using. So, I love that that education component is part of what you’re doing. And, your direct sellers are also kind of living it in their day to day, in the way that they’re interacting with their customers. So, maybe share a little bit about that. Like, what is it actually like to be part of your community? What are the benefits? And, how do they help educate their customers, as well?
Kelly Kreusler: So, we say all the time that it was one of the best decisions we ever made to become a direct sales company, because our Advocate Community is just absolutely incredible. We have attracted some really smart, savvy, intelligent, conscious, empowered people in our community, and one of the things that’s so great about them is that they are there to support you every step of the way. Maybe you are brand-new to your toxin-free journey. Maybe you have no idea what toxin-free living is. We have so much education to help you that Crunchi is actually a great place to be if you’re brand-new to the movement. But even if you’re seasoned, and you have a wealth of knowledge, everyone’s welcome within the community, and we all support each other in that journey. And, there are always new studies coming out, and new information coming out, so you really have the opportunity to become more educated just by joining the community and joining with Crunchi, but now you also get to share that with others.
So, with our direct selling platform, how we teach our Advocates to share Crunchi is really talking about the education first, and then talking about the product, and sharing that with people. So, let’s say you did an event, and you shared the education, you shared the products, and no one bought anything. The next day, let’s say they go to the grocery store, and they choose organic grapes instead of conventional grapes. You know that you had that impact. That’s one of the things that we love about the direct selling model and our Advocate Community, is that the impact that we’re having is so much larger than just Crunchi, than just our brand. We see that. And, it’s been absolutely humbling.
Melanie Petschke: It has been so incredibly rewarding. And, from my background, having the opportunity to work with patients in an exam room, and being able to impact them one-on-one was incredibly rewarding. So, that opened my eyes to the need for something like that in our direct seller community, in our world. And, being able to work with our Advocates has expanded that community. We often call it “the ripple effect,” because they’re able to reach so many more groups of people, and create their own communities, and expand beyond that, and it’s rewarding to watch, and it’s incredibly rewarding for advocates to be the source of that important information.
Kelly Kreusler: I would add that one of the things we’ve found is that our Advocates become trusted resources for their communities. So, it really builds long-term success and that long-term game plan as an Advocate, but also for Crunchi, which I love, because we really are providing that value, and teaching them to provide a value to their communities and to their spheres of influence.
I love that. And, I think leading through education is huge. I mean, I train my students all the time to lead with value. Like, don’t just show up, but be thinking about how you can serve your customers better and how you can support them. So, I love that at your core, leading with that education is such a big piece of how you’re training your Advocates. So often, direct sales can be counterintuitive, because we think, “We’re here to sell. We have this product, and we’re gonna go tell everyone about how amazing this product is, because we love it so much.” But, when you’re leading with that education, or that value, and you’re really contributing to the people around you, they’re gonna gravitate to the product, too. Like, it’s gonna come back around, and you’re gonna find success in that way.
Take Action: What is one area in your business where you could raise your standards?