Natural sparkle

AllyKats is finding a niche with mothers as consumers and as entrepreneurs.

The bath and beauty distributor targets girls ages 3 to 10 with child-safe products that have gentle formulas and fragrances. 

“It makes the girls feel like they have make-up but it’s not make-up Mom will say no to,” said owner Colett Bigler of Vancouver.

The products were born in 2002 in a Kennebunkport, Maine, home kitchen. Soon founder Robyn Sessler’s products were made by manufacturers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Taiwan. At its peak, AllyKats brought in $100,000 annually.

Bigler found AllyKats while shopping online and became a sales rep in 2004. When she learned Sessler wanted a career change and planned to faze AllyKats out, Bigler bought the company for $15,000 in August 2007. She purchased its dwindling inventory for $7,000 and set about restocking it.

Bigler’s been a wholesale rep for other companies, but devotes 40 hours weekly to AllyKats because its business model and products serve mothers well.

“You can have your own business and still be at home with your kids,” she said. “I worked the first year of (my daughter’s) life and missed everything.”

Locally, AllyKats sells at Fancy Pants in Vancouver, Punky Doodlebugs in Salmon Creek and Bambini in Lake Oswego, Ore., its largest customer. Overall, it sells to 750 boutiques, spas and salons, and a few individual sales come in weekly online.

Since August, Bigler has brought in about $13,000, filling mail orders daily. She hopes to start getting paychecks in the fall and bring in at least $30,000 in revenue. Then she plans to build back up to Sessler’s peak levels.

Other sales reps are in Canada, California, Texas and South Carolina. Ninety percent of its sales come from eastern states, particularly the Southeast.

It’s slower out west, where Bigler speculates there are fewer online and child product sales overall. She also attributes a proliferation of children’s salons in the Southeast to the company’s success there. Northwest boutiques often make minimal orders and can be cautious about new products, she said.

“They’re not Wal-Mart products,” Bigler said. “To do that you’d have to take out all the good stuff to get the prices so low.”

The “good stuff” includes aloe, chamomile and green tea, and sets retail prices at $3 for lip balm and up to $9 for bath gels. Upcoming organic products will be priced $1 to $2 higher.

Two of AllyKats’ products are made in Taiwan, and the rest come from the U.S. Bigler hasn’t had trouble with Taiwan’s manufacturers, but with scares about overseas products, she’s seeking more stateside factories.

“They’re more in tune with what’s selling in the U.S.,” she said.

She’s pitching to retailers like Costco, TJ Maxx and Nordstrom, where AllyKats sold in 2005 and 2006, and wants to develop products for adults, teens and boys.


Colett Bigler, owner



Charity Thompson can be reached at

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