Nineteen-year-old Gabrielle Flank always dreamed she would be an entrepreneur.
Though diagnosed with childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer, in 2008, nearly a decade later she is thriving as the co-owner of a Nazareth business she started with her sister in 2014.
They developed a passion for natural beauty and skin care products and decided to begin Frosting Co. The online business allows them to create their own line of artisan products that contains no gluten or ingredients such as parabens, sulfates, phthalates and artificial preservatives.
Flank graduated from Commonwealth Charter Academy, an online charter school based in Harrisburg, on June 7. She works with Brittney Flank, 25, on creating the products.
After Gabrielle’s cancer diagnosis, the sisters researched the harmful chemicals and toxins found in many of the products they were using, they discovered other countries had much tighter restrictions than the United States does on ingredients allowed in these items.
While many people have become adept at reading food labels and becoming health conscious, that same concern has been slower to take hold when it comes to the products people use on their bodies.
As Gabrielle Flank noted, the products people use on their skin get absorbed directly into their bloodstream.
“Our story is able to resonate with people,” she said. “I definitely think people are becoming more educated about health overall.”
Being diagnosed with cancer was very scary, Flank said. “But it makes you stronger.”
After two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy treatments, she has been cancer-free for more than five years.
Battling cancer drew the sisters closer together and spurred them to start the business.
“It definitely changed our whole life path and brought us close as a family,” Brittney said.
The sisters’ family is from Nazareth.
“Our parents are both entrepreneurs,” Gabrielle said. “We have five generations [of entrepreneurs].”
BEHIND THE NAME
The Flanks began making their products at home, and when they created their body butter product, it looked like frosting, which is the meaning behind the company name.
They started making the products for themselves, then for friends and family, and, soon, demand grew. Though they created the products, they are quick to thank their parents, Lisa and Lew, for help and support in setting up the business.
Gabrielle Flank was a high school sophomore when they started the company.
“The first day we launched our online store, we got our first sale,” Brittney said.
IT’S ABOUT DRIVE, NOT AGE
The sisters believed that whether you are 15 or 50, you can have your own business, based on your drive.
“That’s the beauty of our program, that these kids can meet with someone during the day,” said Maurice Flurie, CEO of The Commonwealth Charter Academy.
“They can even get all their school work done in four days and then they can work on their business on a Thursday or Friday.”
IN LOCAL STORES
From lotions and lip care to bath balms, their products can be found online and at brick-and-mortar stores such as Whole Foods Markets, including its Lower Macungie Township location, and at Kimberton Whole Foods, including its Ottsville and Douglassville stores.
Getting their products into Whole Foods has been a huge boost.
“We have a bunch of local body care vendors,” said Matthew Varner, spokesman for Whole Foods Markets. “We are very proud of the local products we are able to offer.”
Products sold in Whole Foods stores must meet criteria.
“There’s no artificial ingredients allowed in any products we sell,” Varner said.
He described Frosting Co.’s products as a perfect match for the retailer.
The products also are sold in independent boutiques in other states, such as Oklahoma, Louisiana, California and Texas.
Brittney said they are looking to sign additional sales representatives and get their products into more stores.
Always exploring options in research and development, the sisters may develop new products.
“We are definitely open to any opportunities and are excited to see where it goes,” Gabrielle said. “I love creating new products.”
Flank said she loves being an entrepreneur with the ability to learn something new every day. They not only create the product but design the packaging. While time management and work-life balance can be challenging, the sisters say they are always together and always “talking business.”
It’s rewarding when the sisters are in a store and see someone buying one of their products.
It’s also a plus to work together. Both said they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which benefits their working relationship.
The sisters also decided to donate some proceeds from each sale to research for cures for childhood cancers.
They like to partner with local charities, do popup stores in the area to promote their business and enjoy giving back to the community. The products are never tested on animals.
“We’ve learned so much about our products,” Gabrielle Flank said. “We make everything from the raw product to completion.”
In January, she launched a second business (www.inspiringhoney.com) in January as a motivational speaker, writing blogs and developing podcasts, available on iTunes.
She loves to write and is eager to share her positive, spiritual messages.
And both businesses complement each other.
“I wanted all my words to be kind and inspirational,” Flank said.