Just before a camping trip, Sadie and Abby Bowler and their dad once stopped by an REI store. The sisters grabbed a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s shampoo, which the label said could also be used as dish soap and laundry detergent — which made them laugh.
Another time, Sadie Bowler was looking for shampoo at a grocery store. Her dad picked two bottles up and asked, “Do I want all-day body? Or touchable softness?” A couple of women standing in the aisle nearby chuckled.
The experiences got Bowler thinking.
“It felt like they were either speaking to me as if I was a person who was desperately concerned of what people thought of me and how I looked,” she said. “Or, I was a chemical engineer who formulated these products and knew these chemical names” listed on the backs of the bottles and what they did to her hair.
“I’m neither of those,” Bowler added. “I’m a teenage girl.”
The messaging “felt off-putting,” and she guessed it “didn’t sit right” with other Gen Z girls, either. So, Bowler and her sister created their own brand.
With their shampoos, conditioners, body washes and body sprays, the sisters wanted to change how these products are made and marketed to women and girls. As Bowler explains in her elevator pitch:
“We’re providing personal hygiene for girls, as well as mental hygiene,” she said. “So, we’re taking the focus off of looks and uplifting girls and their abilities and their accomplishments.”
On Thursday, Bowler, 19, officially started selling SadieB Personal Care products online (www.sadieb.co) — just after finishing her freshman year at the University of Utah. Her sister and co-founder, Abby, isn’t around to celebrate in person, since she’s still on her mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So, the two chose their launch date to coincide with Abby’s 21st birthday.
SadieB products include four categories: The Go-Getter, for “girls getting it done” and everyday use. The Athlete, for “girls going the extra mile,” with a formula for those who are out moving and sweating. The Adventurer, for “girls climbing mountains,” designed to keep their hair healthy in the sun and dry climates. And the Creator, for “girls going bold,” who color and change their hair often.
“I feel like a little piece of me is in all of them,” said Bowler, who has always had a passion for hairstyling, doing people’s hair for weddings, school dances and school events.
And she said she hopes that girls connect with all of the personas — not just one. “You can have your foot in all the doors,” Bowler said.
‘We have to change capitalism’
SadieB labels note the company and its products are “powered by girls” — to let customers know that the business is “girl founded, led and operated,” Bowler said.
There are 11 girls and young women on a panel who give Bowler feedback on SadieB’s website, product development, social media and other topics.
There are also five girls and young women who serve as advisory members, Bowler said, who “have taken on actual roles for equity in the company.”
They sit on the board, which also includes Davis Smith, founder and CEO of Cotopaxi, and Chris Bowler, a founder of Creminelli Fine Meats — who is also Bowler’s dad.
Smith became involved because he’s friends with Chris Bowler, he said. And now, Savanna Smith, his daughter, helps with SadieB’s social media content.
It’s impressive to watch how Bowler and other young entrepreneurs are building values into their brand, Smith said.
“We have to change capitalism,” he said, and think about the impact on people and the planet. The work that Bowler is doing “gives me a lot of hope,” he said.
Women have also historically been backed by venture capitalists at an “insanely lower” amount than men, Smith said. The way that is going to change, according to Smith, is to have “great examples” of brands, such as SadieB, built by young women that “show they can do amazing things and build fantastic businesses.”
It’s been “really fun to see the board come together of all these really strong girls who are dreaming big and are ambitious and excited about building and creating,” Smith said. The older adults are there to listen and chime in when it’s helpful, he said.
McKenzie Bauer, co-founder of Thread Wallets, is also on SadieB’s board, along with Jared Allgood, co-founder of Healthy Together and Twenty; and Noelle Bates, Vivint’s vice president of public relations.
‘Do what you’re passionate about’
Niang and Bowler went to Skyline High School in Millcreek together, and Bowler asked her if she wanted to help with SadieB.
Niang said she likes the mission that the business has. She joined Bowler earlier this month for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute Marketplace at the U., where people could learn about different startups and businesses.
SadieB’s labeling is simple, with text that tells buyers the products are “free of parabens, dyes and harsh sulfates,” use “100% natural fragrances” and that the bottles are made from 85% recycled material.
“That smells so good,” said one woman who picked up and sniffed a body spray from the SadieB table at the marketplace.
People gave Bowler and Niang green paper “Lassonde Dollars,” that were given out at the event and worth $5 each, to buy the body sprays. That paper money later turned into real money that SadieB could keep.
As more people came up to the table, Bowler kept replenishing the products, set out next to the SadieB stickers. Sometimes, when people found out she’s freshman, Bowler said they told her, “That’s crazy. I can’t believe you’re doing that.’”
Rounding out the SadieB team are Maggie Broadbent, marketing director; Kennedy Allgood, director of customer experience; and Lydia Wells, who works on accounting and finances.
Along with mentorship from her dad and others, Bowler said she has learned a lot while participating in the Business Scholars program at the U. Her sister Abby, meanwhile, studies economics at Brigham Young University.
Over the last two years, the two have sampled products to create their own formulas, picked out color schemes and got their website ready. Once they launch Thursday, Bowler will fulfill orders from their warehouse in Salt Lake City, package them up, and “send them off with love,” she said.
There’s a “strong” pressure in society that girls have to “to look a certain way, to meet that beauty ideal,” Bowler said. She hopes SadieB will send girls a different message as they get ready each day.
“Just go,” she said, “and do what you’re passionate about.”
Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.