But right now, the local company is at a crossroads. R.L. Linden has moved from a cult favorite in the beauty world to an internationally desired brand, and the owners have to figure out a way to step up production without compromising their everything-by-hand ethos.
"We want to stay true to the original ideals that we started the company with, and that means more hands on the floor instead of sending it out to machines," says Flanagan-Till. From the best-selling La Balmba Rosa lip balm to the Thousand Petal Beautifying Mist, every bottle, tub and spray is created and packaged by a person. The company also prides itself on the relatively short life span of its products: Everything is made with either plant-based preservatives or no preservatives at all, which is almost unheard of in the current-day cosmetic world.
Now the partners have secured a distributor in Europe, where beauty products must adhere to much stricter standards than in the U.S. Dealing with that regulatory process will cost R.L. Linden quite a bit of money.
Hoping to cover the EU compliance process as well as hire more employees to fill growing orders, R.L. Linden has launched a crowdfunding campaign. Flanagan-Till and King have set a $35,000 goal, and with a little over a week to go, the businesswomen are reaching out to current and future customers for help.
"We're pretty much asking the community that we are so grateful for, and [that] has enabled us to grow so quickly, that if they want more — and it seems like they do — to help us get to the next level in an ethical way, a way where we can stay true to our ideals," says Flanagan-Till.
The crowdsourced funds would also facilitate another component of the R.L. Linden ethos: providing a livable wage once more employees are brought into the fold. The brand currently pays its handful of workers $12 to $14 an hour, but would ideally like to offer $15 to $19 an hour. With the cost of living rising in Denver, Flanagan-Till says, it is imperative that R.L. Linden remain committed to being an ethical company in every aspect of its production.
"When things are tough and money is tight, it is hard as a business owner; that's when it's easy to go back and say, 'Oh, we were too pie-in-the-sky with our original ideals, and now that things are tough, we need to change," she continues. "But we really are committed. We're asking employees to give respect to the individual plant ingredients and to not mix (beauty formulations) when they're in a bad mood. They're being a part of this team. We want to pay...more, and we want to be able to hire more people."
What began in 2013 as a DIY operation pushing three products created in the basement of King's house has grown into a three-pronged health-and-beauty empire. R.L. Linden is the skincare line; the just-launched Restorative Rites is the brand's tea apothecary (it provides dozens of herbal-tea concoctions plus custom blends for restaurants). And then there's the professional line, creating special formulations and larger versions of R.L. Linden products for use in salons and spas. The two women have more expansion plans in the works, but funding is necessary to get R.L. Linden to that point.
While "local" may feel like an overused buzzword, R.L. Linden & Co. is truly that: a Denver business that is woman/woman of color-owned, with strong roots in the city where it creates its products. Flanagan-Till wants backers of R.L. Linden's crowdfunding campaign to know that they will be directly supporting a legacy company, one that she and King intend to oversee for years to come and then pass on to their children.
Find out more about the company's crowdfunding campaign by visiting its Indigogo page; browse R.L. Linden & Co. products through its website. The brand also has a workspace at 1474 South Acoma Street, with hours by appointment only; e-mail [email protected] for more details.