By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Aimee Werner was pregnant with her second son when she tried her husband’s shaving cream.
She didn’t have any expectations but was soon enthralled.
“Shaving was never good for me,” she says. “I used his and it was so different than anything I ever experienced. It was all natural and from London. He ordered it from there because he had such a hard time shaving.”
Werner wished products like Jesse’s all-natural, foamless shaving cream were made for women. She said it repeatedly.
“The more I talked about it and obsessed about it, I thought I would figure out how to do it myself,” she says.
To that, Whish: Powerfully Effective Naturals was founded.
“That’s how it started,” she says, “We launched with women’s shaving cream. We had three SKUs (products). Now we have 80-something.”
Based at 15649 N. Greenway Hayden Loop, Whish has focused on its all-natural formulations from the get-go, Werner says. She adds it’s important for the products to do what they say they’re going to do—look good, smell good, feel good and “do something for you,”
“We boot strapped it and have grown it on our own,” Werner says.
Werner founded Whish in 2006, but the products didn’t hit the market until late 2007. By the time they were available to the public, it was the beginning of the recession.
“It was hard to get big retailers to take products,” she says. “We went after the spa market and we had a lot of success there. We had hair removal products and a lot of problem solution products.”
Werner is motivated and ambitious. She wished she could place her products in Nordstrom, and eventually that came to fruition.
“When we started, I had all these little things in my head,” Werner says. “I was going to the Nordstrom Beauty Trend Event and I thought, ‘If only I could get into Nordstrom.’
“I’ve spoken at those shows many times now. When you start a business, it’s scary to dream big. But what’s the point, if you’re not going to go for it? You don’t want to disappoint yourself, but you also have to push yourself. I’ve dreamt big from the beginning, but it was a long, hard road to get there.”
Whish is very much a family affair. Armed with a commercial art degree, Werner’s sister, Ronelle McKenzie, moved from New York to Scottsdale to serve as Whish’s art director. The partnership began when Werner asked her to create a logo.
“I bought logos online, but they were bad,” Werner says with laugh. “My sister said she would help as long as I promised to never use any of those companies again. That was eight years ago. She just couldn’t do it remotely anymore.”
A Horizon High School graduate, Jesse was charged with Whish’s product development.
“He found the manufacturers and everything he needed to launch the product,” she says of Jesse who earned a bachelor’s from ASU and an MBA from Grand Canyon University. “In this 25,000-square-foot building we make everything. Jesse felt strongly that we do things on our own. If we wanted to do new products, we had to do it a smarter way.
“We filled our own bottles. We didn’t have to order all the bottles at once. We would fill what we needed for each item and then we had a really big opportunity with Birch Box. They asked us to make 350,000 units at a time and we thought, ‘How are we going to get this done?’”
She bought a high-speed filling machine and now the company has four. They also purchased a silk screen machine for in-house bottle decorating.
The family owns its formulas, which are managed by an on-site chemist.
“We’re bringing in all the raw materials and doing the mixing for the bulk of the products,” Werner says. “It’s so much more efficient.”
Getting a charge
Jesse and Aimee met when they were in the semiconductor industry. She was transferred to Phoenix for a job promotion and was hired away by Jesse’s father.
“He hired me and that’s when I met Jesse and the rest is history,” she says.
Jesse grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit like his father, who started a business at a young age.
“It always appealed to me what he was able to accomplish in life,” Werner says.
She can count herself among the successful entrepreneurs. In mid-August, she launched Arizona-inspired, jojoba products through QVC, the culmination of an eight-week campaign. Without her staff, it would have taken 20 weeks to accomplish the same goal, she says.
“If I needed to have 1,000 body butters tomorrow, it would have been impossible without them,” Werner says. “They enable us to be quick and respond to the market. When all of this (pandemic) craziness happened, we pivoted to hand sanitizer because we had all the equipment.
“That’s the biggest thing. We didn’t anticipate how much product development we would have to invest in and commit to. The fun part about it is constantly creating and formulating and finding new ways to package things. It’s not just about the ingredients. We have to consider what the art looks like, the texture and so many other things.”
Whish is soon to become a household name. It’s in all Nordstrom Rack stores, Nordstrom’s 15 spas and Massage Envy. Soon, Werner will offer more products on QVC, place her goods in FabFitFun’s winter box, and launch natural lip balm sets—black cherry, watermelon, coconut, peach and frosted pear—in Costco just after Labor Day.
Werner is proud of what she’s accomplished.
“It’s a big investment we made,” she says. “We had to do a lot of improvements on the building to accommodate the mixing tanks. It was a big project, but it’s super worth it.”
15649 N. Greenway Hayden Loop, Scottsdale