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H2O+: The Story Behind the Brand

| Sunday March 15, 20093 comments
What pops to mind when you think of H20+? If you didn't say water, you might be a chemistry flunky like me. Or maybe you're already a devotee of this revolutionary skin care company and your thoughts turned to a bright airy store with rows of glass jars encasing sea and sky coloured skin pampering goodness. H20+ is an International skin care concept that is built on the healing powers of sea water and the revelation that a face cream could be gel based rather than a traditional white lotion.

In 1989 when her friends were teasing their hair and wearing full body spandex, 27 year old H20+ Founder and Creative Director, Cindy Melk started her own company. Despite being female and under 30, she was convinced her skin care concept could take North America by storm.

"I thought there was an opportunity to interpret natural brands in a modern way. Everything that was naturally oriented was like a granola bar. That was the vibe. Then I researched the skin care market as a whole and found that every cream was white, every package was opaque, there was no innovation in texture in about 100 years. There was so much incredible sameness. As a consumer that really irritated me but as a designer I thought, wow what an amazing opportunity."

Luckily Melk came from strong entrepreneurial roots. Her father is John Melk, who is behind many successful ventures including Waste Management and Block Buster ( which he eventually sold for several billion to Viacom). Melk's mother founded a highly successful Spa in Chicago, which still stands today.

John Melk gave his children a small amount of seed money to get each get a company up and running for 6-8 months. After that, the success of the business was up to them. Each sibling has succeeded in their respective areas. Melk's younger brother is a hotelier and her older brother pioneered an injected moulded plastic briefcase ."There was never a dull moment at the dinner table. " she laughs.

Melk described how she presented her business plans to her father at his office. "He sat at one end of this really huge long conference table and I was at the other end presenting to him. Very seriously. We're really tight, but he's also a business man and this was no father and daughter meeting. It was business and I had to prove my model to him." After the presentation was finished there was a long moment of silence while Melk nervously waited to hear what he thought. Finally he said, "You're thinking too small. You're thinking of a North American business. This should be an international brand." The name H20+ came out of that discussion. "It's a universally recognizable symbol for water. You put it anywhere in the world and people understand that it's water."

Fast forward 20 years and H20+ is now generating approximately a hundred million in sales and have boutiques all over the world. If there isn't one in your area, you can also shop online.

I met the impressive founder at her Toronto Eaton Center store for a chat and to learn a bit more about the line. Despite being in business for 20 years, Cindy Melk looks deceptively young. Stylish, extremely personable and with the face of a 30 year old, you'd never know she was 46. "It's the products", she insists. "I'm not into Botox and injections. There's a lot of people that look frozen and there's a LOT of big lips. I think there's going to be a backlash against that. I just take really good care of my skin." Then she admits something rather shocking, coming from a skin care Magnate: "I'm sure there is still some damage from my early 20s. I was one of the ones baking in the sun covered in baby oil. This was before we knew better." However, try as I may I couldn't see any evidence of it.

If that's what 46 looks like using those products and running your own business, I'm sold. There is nothing more aging than running your own company. Trust.

If you haven't tried this line yet, consider popping into a store and taking a peek. Products are priced in the mid to upper range and include everything from their very first (and best selling) product, Face Oasis, an ultra hydrating face gel for all skin types, to their line of Spa products, which include a Hand and Nail Cream with silk proteins and Vitamin E.

Their latest line is an intensive anti-aging defense system which are intended to be nature's answer to Botox. The Sea Results Instant Eye Power Patches (think cucumber slices on steroids), are designed to make the eye area look rested and years younger. I decided to be brave and test a patch on one of my eyes. I had fresh bags and thought a little lift couldn't hurt. Now that I'm thinking of it, I'm not sure how she kept a straight face answering questions from a Cyborg.

But Cindy Melk is very grounded and humble. She spent much of our conversation crediting her team for the success of H20+, whether it was the "back to the future scientist" who developed their first product or Eaton Center store manager, Gilda who has been with the company for 15 years. "I still get a thrill coming into my office every day and seeing my team. This is something we did together and I'm really proud of it."

Have you tried H2O+ products?  What did you think?

by Ali de Bold
More on Career & Finance

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on August 02, 2012  Lorraine said:

I started using the Oasis products when their store opened in San Francisco 20 years ago. I have tried other products but always find myself back to H20 . It's a long standing love affair. By the way, I'm turning 76 in September and everyone asks me my secret to looking young. I just say, 'It's no secret, it's H20 '.

on March 21, 2009  princesscupcakehead  273 said:

I love the H2O products as well - the Mariel fragrance is very light and fresh, and the Tango Mango body wash always smells amazing in the shower. The lotions are also light and not too sticky - great for gifts. I haven't tried the face products yet so I can't speak for them but I can definitely recommend the body line!

on March 18, 2009  allychick_ling  2,076 said:

I love H2O ....the lotions and body washes smell awesome, and lather on well. Raspberry guava and natural spring are my favourites.  I also have their shine mattifier - works wonders in reducing shine on my face!!

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