If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you know they can be a nightmare. You’re winding your way through a serpentine exhibition space, trying to penetrate clusters of ambling professionals in order to stop at whichever booth catches your eye, whereupon you’re subjected to a 15-second elevator pitch that seems to leave you knowing less about the business than you did before. If you haven’t been to a trade show, FounderMade’s Discovery Show is a great example of how they work.
FounderMade is a network of unique beauty, food and wellness brands that, according to its own website, “have authentic motivations (i.e. personal, professional or moral) that allow them to bring in the right people and effectively create shared economic or social value.” If that sounds vague, it is. Thankfully, FounderMade regularly stages an event called the Discovery Show in order to give professionals an idea of what it’s really all about. Like all shows of its kind, it attracts members of a specific industry—in this case, beauty and wellness—and puts them in direct contact with buyers, distributors, investors, and anyone else interested in learning about up-and-coming products in the booming wellness industry.
Discovery Show is the real-world manifestation of FounderMade’s artisanal and holistic philosophy, offering an experiential, firsthand experience in the form of a labyrinth full of potions, tinctures, tonics, herbal remedies (including the ever-popular CBD), and other products from different makers who hauled their artful displays from cities around the world.
The event’s LA incarnation, Discovery Show West, just took place at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica on October 16, drawing not only retailers and would-be investors, but also throngs of heavily maquillaged influencers, swag bag-toting bloggers, and me.
Seven hours was not enough to hit every single one of the countless displays—let alone sit through all the panels and lectures—but I did my best. First, I had my photo taken by Selffee: The Edible Photo Booth, and witnessed my picture being printed onto edible paper and ink, which was subsequently affixed to a confection from the Dirty Cookie. After my face collapsed into the almond milk-filled “cookie shot,” and the novelty wore off, I continued strolling through the former airplane hangar in search of any businesses and brands that caught my eye.
Products that attracted my attention included an at-home UTI test kit from Scanwell, a monkfruit-based sweetener from Lakanto Monkfruit, a line of personal care products by the Seaweed Bath Co, and eco-friendly nail polish line from Manucurist Paris, which is made from potato, manioc, corn, wheat, bamboo, and cotton, and comes in colors such as milky white, licorice, and emerald.
I was also impressed with the artisan fragrances from St. Rose. Its founder Belinda Frazer Smith makes small batch “slow” natural perfumes inspired by her own life as an Australian who relocated to California. She named one of her perfumes in honor of her English ancestor who was convicted of grand larceny for stealing a dozen silver spoons. After his conviction in 1802, he was shipped to Australia to serve out his sentence. Now, he’s the inspiration behind a scent called Grand Larceny, which has notes of bergamot, clary sage, rose, lemon, sandalwood, and vetiver.
Chasin’ Unicorns was another interesting brand, with a colorful display of crystal-infused bath and beauty products, including a monthly gift subscription box that’s tailored to individual zodiac signs. Chasin’ Unicorns also sells oils directed towards different chakras, as well as an “Aura Cleanser” made with sea salt and lemongrass mint calcite, and a yet-to-be-launched skull-shaped CBD bath bomb.
Speaking of CBD, there were a number of brands on hand who are making products from the cannabinoid du jour. I liked the mother-daughter team of ranchers behind Eleven Acres, which grows its own small-batch hemp on the slopes of Colorado in order to make soft gels, tinctures, skin care, and bath products. Shanti Wellness was another interesting brand, simply because its owners bring an Ayurvedic approach to hemp-derived CBD.
Before I left, I met Kate McLeod, a pastry chef-turned-lotion lady who makes chunks of moisturizing “body stones” from cocoa butter. McLeod manipulates the ingredient like she does chocolate, so the stones glide on skin upon contact. She also mentioned a yet-to-be-released version that’s made with CBD.
In the end, I couldn’t help but wonder how McLeod’s product fared next to all the other CBD-infused offerings at Discovery Show West. McLeod maintained that hers is the best, and that it took her about a year to find a CBD supplier that met her standards. “My CBD is ridiculously high quality,” she said. “It hails from the natural hemp fields of Kentucky. It’s food grade. Not to down-talk anyone else, but my CBD is in a league of its own.”
That’s what they all say.
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