Indie Beauty Profile

Michele Gilfoil, Planet Botanicals

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Indie Beauty Profile Michele Gilfoil, Planet Botanicals

Related tags Indie beauty profile Marine derived ingredients Shea butter Indie beauty Entrepreneurship

In her Indie Beauty Profile Michele Gilfoil, founder of Planet Botanicals, describes building an accessible personal care brand with sustainably sourced natural ingredients. And, while sharing her story and advice of entrepreneurship, she notes that building a brand can be both a solitary and satisfying venture.

Planet Botanicals is a brand that formulates skin care and body care with plant-derived ingredients from disparate locales, namely marine seaweed from Maine (where founder Michele Gilfoil lives) and shea from a women’s cooperative in Ghana. This global-local approach and Gilfoil’s dedication to simpler, more natural beauty is what sets the brand apart from larger, conventional beauty makers.

Here beauty entrepreneur Michele Gilfoil shares a profile of herself and the Planet Botanicals brand. 

Name: ​Michele Gilfoil, Founder and CEO

Indie Beauty Company: ​Planet Botanicals

Launched: ​2008

Headquarters: ​Westbrook, Maine

Cash flow: ​Planet Botanicals is self-funded. We are focused on growing organically and reinvesting our profits back into the company for product innovation and sales expansion.

We have experienced positive sales growth; and for the past two years our sales have doubled each year.

Indie how? ​An Indie Beauty Brand is independently owned and driven by the passion, vision and values of the founder. In my case, I was driven by a passion to work with organic growers around the world and create natural plant-based skincare with eco-friendly ingredients.

Team work: ​We have several part-time employees.

Distribution: ​We have a multi-channel approach and distribute our products through specialty retailers in the New England region. (These are deal we acquired by participating in regional trade shows.) In addition, we are sold in several local spas and airport gift shops, and our goal is to develop these channels on a national level.

Our digital marketing online sales efforts consist of direct sales via pop-ups, ads, videos, and product informative messages. We will be expanding our distribution and are actively looking to partner with mid-sized and national retailers. In 2020, we plan to test the export market for our products.

Years in beauty: ​10

Years at Planet Botanicals: ​10

Entrepreneurial experience: ​Planet Botanicals is my first entrepreneurial experience, having worked on Wall Street for 10 years prior to starting my company. 

I was concerned about the chemical ingredients in my skincare products. Since I could not find high quality natural skincare, I decided to create my own.  In the early years of developing Planet Botanicals, I focused on researching the science and benefits of each ingredient as well as how they were grown.  During a trip to Ghana, I visited a women’s shea butter cooperative and saw first-hand how the shea butter was made using traditional methods.  It felt amazing on my skin and the women use shea butter as a natural skin moisturizer. By buying it directly from these women, I would be supporting their entrepreneurial efforts and be assured that it was harvested and made in a sustainable way.  By using fresh plant-based ingredients sourced from organic growers around the world, I could have transparency about what I would be putting on my skin and ensure that the ingredients are harvested in an environmentally sustainable way. I discovered other organic growers in Africa and formed the African Fruits collection.

Having grown up in Maine near the ocean where seaweed grows in abundance, I was aware of its many health benefits.  I met with several local seaweed harvesters and marine biologists and discovered that Maine seaweed is one of the best qualities in the world because of the cool pristine ocean waters in which it grows.  After reading about the science of seaweed for the skin, I developed a line of soaps, lotions and scrubs with seaweed as the featured ingredient and called it the Seaweed Beauty collection. We only work with Maine seaweed harvesters that collect the seaweed in a sustainable renewable way.

With a few college chemistry classes and no prior knowledge of formulating skincare products, I taught myself to form emulsions, develop extractions and dive deeply into the science behind the ingredients. We produce all of our products in Maine using our own formulations.  I also learned the business aspects of brand development such as marketing, social media, and packaging.

With the skills and knowledge of the harvesters of our ingredients in Africa and Maine, we have been fortunate to develop a company that can truly offer healthy, effective and time-proven skincare products.

The wow-factor: ​We produce healthy natural skincare products with plant-based ingredients from around the world that are grown without chemicals or pesticides. Our “farm and sea to face concept”, draws upon using ingredients that have time-proven benefits and a history of being effective on women’s skin.

The consumer: ​Our target consumers are women 25-55 years old who live an active healthy lifestyle.  They care about using healthy, sustainably-made and effective skincare products and they care about the environment.

Milestone moment: ​Our company was identified as one of the 10 Best Indie Beauty Brands of 2018 after showcasing our products at the Indie Beauty Expo.  Jillian Wright, co-founder of Indie Beauty Expo, named Planet Botanicals as one of her favorite under-the-radar beauty brands. 

We are also proud of the feedback we receive from a great number of customers who email us back about their appreciation of our products, especially those with sensitive skin.

Advice for fellow beauty entrepreneurs: ​Follow your passion and let your inner voice guide you as you develop your products and brand. Then with laser-like focus, develop your vision and provide the best quality products possible.  Do not be swayed by any naysayers whether they be friends or family. 

Just one: ​My go-to beauty product is our Seaweed Hand-Cream​.  The primary ingredient is freshly-harvested seaweed from the pristine waters of Maine and a soft shea butter from Uganda. It easily applies to my skin, has a very refreshing aroma and quickly is absorbed, leaving my hands incredibly soft with no greasy feeling.



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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