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Naturally Successful

Styling a becoming business plan helped this firm sell its products nationally.
New Mexico Business Weekly - by Stephanie Hainsfurther NMBW Contributor

Kip Malone | NMBW Organic idea: Looking to expand its product line, this salon came up with a savvy business plan to establish its presence in the retail sector.

High performance hair products and natural, organic ingredients are mutually exclusive in most cases.

That contradiction has been turned on its head by a dynamic product line from Tijeras Enterprises Inc., a hair salon on Indian School Rd. in Albuquerque. Don't let the glitz of this ritzy salon fool you. It has a down-and-dirty business plan that has swept its products into large natural health food retailers in nine states.

Tijeras Organic Alchemy consumer products are available in New Mexico at Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, La Montanita Co-op, Keller Farm Store and Model Pharmacy, among other stores selling natural-ingredient brands.

The natural health food industry has been very good to us, notes Jacqueline Asher, co-owner of Tijeras Enterprises with her daughter, Elizabeth Asher O'Neil. Local hotels are big clients, too: La Fonda in Santa Fe offers Tijeras' products under its own label, and the Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa at Santa Ana Pueblo places the products in their VIP rooms. The company also has a new salon products line.

Positioning its products nationally was a big step for the 28-year-old company, named "Tijeras" after the Spanish word for scissors.

"We started in 1975 [the year that the salon was established], basically because there were no products available that could cope with the weather here," Asher remembers. "We started with a shampoo, a conditioner, and a revitalizer, but we were getting lost with just three little products. We wanted to spread out into other territories, and keep creating new and innovative lines."

Tijeras Enterprises lit out for those territories with the assistance of George Friberg and Randy Wilson at Technology Ventures Corporation, a firm known for commercializing technology, not hair products. "They just liked us," O'Neil says about TVC's decision to take on Tijeras.

"TVC worked with us, hand in hand, to develop a strategy," says Asher. "When I worked with them to create the business plan, it became absolutely clear -- I knew exactly who I needed in the picture to create the company." Who she needed was a national sales manager, Tish Packman, based in Florida; and a distributor in Colorado with ties to the big, natural health food retailers. Asher has decided not to go after venture capital until she develops the product line further. Instead, she credits her 20-year relationship with Brad Marsh at New Mexico Bank & Trust with netting her the wherewithal to carry on with her national sales plan. A large part of that national plan was to find a New Mexico manufacturer that could help them develop their products. "The labs are usually on the East and West coasts," Asher says. "We couldn't ship out of New Mexico." Tired of traveling to California to work with a small laboratory there, she began a strategic alliance with Kevin Mallory at Formulab, an Albuquerque firm. The partnership improved the products; they now have 15, and are planning body products and a children's line. Forming alliances, like those with TVC and Formulab, is the hallmark of this small business. Asher, the first licensed female barber in Albuquerque, had always dreamed of her own salon, housed in its own building.