INTERNATIONAL VS. LOCAL?
When we were at Beam & Anchor there were a ton of visitors from Japan entering the shop. A distributor from Japan came in one day who had started a smaller high-end focused distribution company called Canvas. Canvas is a major distributor in Japan, and important to our international business there, since the Japanese retail market is very different from the US and requires that shops buy through a distributor. Fortunately, there are pretty relaxed laws for importing cosmetics into Japan and now Canvas is one of our biggest accounts with almost half of our wholesale business going to various shops all over Japan.
WHAT INSPIRES YOUR SCENTS?
Experience and experiments inspire a lot. Stuff grows really easily here, and we have access to fresh ingredients like cedar, fir, peppermint, sage, and lavender for example. Some of the best cedar in the world grows on the Oregon coast – Port Orford Cedar – which we use a ton of. We try to source from as many local vendors as possible. We’re in a region rich in such natural elements that we are able to most of the time. The local economy is very supportive of local businesses too – we have access to more uniquely Portland ingredients like honey harvested in Southeast Portland neighborhoods, locally roasted Stumptown coffee that we use in soap, and juniper berries from nearby distilleries. We enjoy finding these kinds of unique and strange ingredients and see where we can take them.
WHAT SHAPES YOUR BRAND?
In the beginning we were screen printing and hand cutting every tag that labeled each soap — we were very precious about it. As we began to grow we shifted the branding, packaging, and worked with some friends to rethink the design. While maintaining an ephemeral look, we modeled the soap boxes after reusable matchboxes with the idea they could be reused to put little knick-knacks in, and kept a really clean look that wasn’t too heavily branded throughout our product packaging.
WHAT ARE 2-3 SHIFTS YOU SEE IN MAAK’S WORLD?
1. There’s a giant wave of choosing to work with one thing and doing it very well i.e. Leather Maker, Salt Maker, Chocolate Maker. Brands want to be the expert and hone in on one thing.
2. There’s a shift away from heritage.
3. Brands are very focused on the story – there is a great deal of value in creating the feeling that you’d like your customer to have.
ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS?
Simply, put in the work. There’s a strange air of entitlement we see sometimes, but having your own business is a lot of work and requires a ton of effort and constant problem solving.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR MAAK?
It would be amazing to see Maak at The Pool in Japan. We also love Our Legacy and everything they do. We’d like to see our soaps in some boutique hotels and we’re currently working towards that goal. We’re also aiming to bring more products into the Maak collection. We’ve always considered ourselves a unisex brand and want to stay true to that. Lastly, we’re delving more heavily into liquid soaps and candles.