Houston entrepreneurs launch design-focused sanitizing operation
Houstonians Molly Voorhees and Christina Milligan have officially launched a line of hand sanitizing and surface cleaning products that blend the importance of cleanliness and safety with the added value of accessibility and a refined appearance.
The products make up the entrepreneurs' new brand, Cobalt, that Voorhees, president of Beck's Prime, and Milligan, an organizing and style expert, first conceptualized in March. As working parents of young children, the two women wanted to create a line of sanitizing products that boosted their confidence in the safety of their environments amid a pandemic and that they'd be proud to pull out of their purse on short notice.
"Cleaning products are in your bathroom or are in an ugly looking bottle or the back of our restaurant in massive chemical containers. There is really nothing for the on-the-go market," Voorhees says.
Too, the women didn't want to stop at hand sanitizer. Instead, they sought to encourage and educate clientele on the importance of cleaning high-touch surfaces, like phones, steering wheels, sunglasses, and the likes.
"It really resonated with us that your hands are only as clean as the surfaces that you touch," Milligan says. "We wanted it to be very approachable and easy to understand and also discrete. We didn't want anyone to feel ashamed if they pulled out a bottle of Lysol on a table."
The result was six FDA-approved sanitizers, sprays, keychains, and to-go kits that eliminate 99.9 percent of bacteria and viruses in easy to access, personal-sized, contemporary bottles, ranging from $14 to $30. The products are designed to be free of harsh, alcoholic odors and come in scents like peppermint and bubble gum.
The duo business women wanted to avoid harsh alcoholic smells and opted for calming and fun scents. Photo courtesy of Cobalt
Each item in the line boasts sleek, trendy designs in a cool blue hue. And while they look quite polished today, bringing the line to launch started off as a somewhat messy process.
"We kinda thought it would be easy. We would just put cleaner in a 4-ounce bottle and that would be fine," Milligan says.
But due to the high demand for chemical products in the pandemic and the way that industrial filling lines are set up, producing cleaning products in personal-sized bottles proved difficult. The women, who became known as the "the girls who want to put cleaner in their purse," were initially met with a resounding "no" from large chemical corporations.
However, by the summer the duo was able to make more headway. They were nearing production with a chemical partner when they learned of a local business who could produce their product by hand all within the Bayou City.
"It turned out through a connection we were making with labels that we discovered [William Price Distilling Company] that was right in our backyard in Houston that was newly filling bottles," Milligan says. "They were employing out of work restaurant staff. Molly and I both felt really strongly about that."
Voorhees and Milligan quickly partnered up with the Garden Oaks-Oak Forest distillery and have since produced roughly 2,500 units of their various products.
In fact, the line is decidedly Houston-based. In addition to William Price, Cobalt was also created with the help of Houston Labels for design. Deutser helped the team from a business management perspective. And the custom scents were developed by Clarity Fragrance near Memorial City.
As of press time, the products are available for purchase online and in area boutiques, including Emerson Sloan, Lexington Boutique, Zadok Jewelers, Therapy Hair Studio, and The Chocolate Bar. They aim to expand to more stores and markets and adapt the line based on demand.
"We feel so fortunate that we have a variety of products," Voorhees says. "It's always my belief that the consumer will tell you what they want and you go in that direction."