Melissa Mutterspaugh, also known as Mountain Mel, knows a thing or two about the outdoors. As a previous wilderness therapist and backpacking guide, Mel became aware of the lack of natural first aid products that hikers used on their outdoor endeavors. Fixing this problem started with Mel creating homemade herbal goods for friends, and soon after her natural concoctions became known as Mountain Mel’s Essential Goods.
Read more from Mountain Mel’s founder Melissa below:
The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: The seed that planted the vision for Mountain Mel’s began when I was a wilderness therapist and backpacking guide. I found people paying me hundreds of dollars to walk them through beautiful forests, yet they were carrying backpacks and first aid kits filled with toxic nasty products. The products were not only harming their bodies, but our planet too. It chapped my hide, so I started hand writing labels and passing these herbal first aid goods to my Mount Hood community friends with the dream of being in first aid kits of all the outdoor adventure lovers. The rest is a long, and fun journey. If you want to know more, just ask.
The problem it solves: People are being over prescribed pharmaceuticals, and harsh toxic chemicals to cure their ails. These things are not only making people sicker, they’re polluting our planet too. We have a wide array of natural products addressing these common health complaints; with those, there are various individual problems we solve. Allowing people to live naturally healthy lives, while creating a less toxic planet covers the problem under a wide umbrella.
How you came up with the name: It was a nickname given to me by a musician friend of mine, many years ago. I never imagined I’d end up with a company that has my name in it, but I did. Plug to the band, it was Mimi Naja of local Portland band, Fruition that gave me the name.
How you are better/different than your competition: We are vibrant, fresh, fun and friendly! We inspire people to take better care of our planet, through taking better care of themselves, naturally! Our formulations are superior to many of our competitors on the market today. Our medicinal quality herbal teas are formulated to not only make your body function better, they taste great too. We merge the natural health industry with the outdoor industry. Two huge markets that target essentially the same demographic.
How you make money: We sell wholesale to natural grocery stores, outdoor stores, natural health care practitioners, online, and at local trade shows and events.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: The constant excitement, change, and challenge.
The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. There’s always a surprise around every corner, if there weren’t I’d probably get bored and quit. I guess how many people believe in what we’re doing and how much they love our product. Oh, and the fact that this passion of mine can really turn into an incredible business, with the help of some brilliant people, and a few learning lessons on the path to success.
Your biggest success: Another tough one! There’s always seems to be a new success piece to be excited about. I guess right now, I’d say the fact that REI wants to launch our product line is a pretty huge success that I’m riding high on right now.
A failure story and what you learned: Right after launching in New Seasons, I knew I had to move my business out of my home. Great choice to do that, the not so great choice… I turned my new production facility into a part time retail space where we focused on using food and plants as medicine. While the concept was great, and my intentions were good, the planning and execution was not so great. It ended up costing a lot of money, time, and brain space. We closed the retail space in September 2017 and have been focusing solely on the product line since then.
So many lessons learned in this endeavor. As a matter of fact, I don’t refer to it as a failure at all, I refer to it as a very expensive learning lesson. Lessons in a nutshell: planning, people, and cash are important when it comes to business.
What keeps you up at night: How am I going to do it? Money, money, money
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: A woman who attended a few of my first focus groups. She’s retired from her own floral shop and was the first person to ever buy a product from me back in the hand-written label days. Her advice, “Don’t Grow Too Fast!”
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Plan well, work hard, ask for help from people wiser than you, don’t grow too fast, and have fun!
What wild success looks like: We are the well known and trusted source for health and well being products through the natural products space, and the outdoor industry. People will see Mountain Mel’s products, and know that they are choosing the best for their bodies, and our planet. Perhaps we’re doing so well that the whole retail concept I had before can be revisited, and franchised, further increasing brand recognition, trust in the name, and giving people access to take charge of their health, naturally. As a long time, friend, and old label helper said, “Mel, you’re creating a natural living empire! Muuaahhahahaahh!” Revolution!
Your favorite local business: The Skyway. I love those people! I used to work there, I always feel like family there, and their atmosphere is awesome, and so is their food.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: I wanted to be 3 things, and I’ve incorporated them all in one way or another throughout my life. A teacher, a psychiatrist, and a lawyer.
Is Oregon is a good place to start a business? Yes. There’s a lot of passion, and a huge support network for small local brands. I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else.
Any other tidbits or fun facts to share? Entrepreneurship is addictive!