In 2004, before it became trendy to be green and organic, Kristin Fraser founded the Grapeseed Company. The first skincare line to upcycle grape seed waste from local California vineyards into organic, fresh and natural products made from local ingredients, Fraser says the Grapeseed Company is “something new that is created from the byproduct of wine that is being used in another way to give it a new life.” 

Fraser developed an appreciation for natural and sustainable ingredients on a two-year voyage sailing from Boston to the Caribbean. Throughout her travels, the scarcity of store-bought products required her to make her own soap. “I would stay awake during ocean passages researching natural essential oils, natural indigenous ingredients and aromatherapy,” she recalled. “I made a lot of stuff with coconut oil, an ingredient that was widely available in the Carribean. In the Bahamas, the local farmers markets would be making soap old school style. It was the first time I saw people doing that. When we moved back to the states I started making body scrubs and massage oils for my friends.”

After moving to Santa Barbara, she and her husband began doing bike tours in wine country around harvest time. She commented, “we were seeing piles and piles of grade seed pomace and realized that we could use it. We started working with local winemakers to source grapeseed waste as a natural anti-aging ingredient.”

In addition to selling directly to customers, the Grapeseed Company works with local spas. They currently develop treatments for spas in Santa Barbara County, Napa Valley, the Sonoma area, and Oregon wine country. She commented, “we work with spas up there who want to source a local and unique product. Spas choose us because they want something from the area that’s different and special and it will be memorable compared to some other five-star resort.”

Between 2013 and 2016, the company expanded into places like Whole Foods and TJ Maxx. When the mudslides blocked off the freeways in 2018, their trucks were unable to transport their products and 50,000 orders were cancelled. “I reflected on why I was trying to get so big if I’m making this awesome locally sourced product,” she remarked. “It’s a real ego boost if Whole Foods wants you, but I realized we make such a unique product and keeping it local would preserve its singularity. That’s when I created the Seaside Makers Collective and started focusing on local spas.” 

Fraser started her first business at the young age of 14. Decades later, her entrepreneurial spirit carries on. In addition to running the Grapeseed Company for over a decade, Fraser is the founder Seaside Makers Collective, an artisanal gift shop which provides a platform for local makers to sell their products. She describes this space as “a creative outlet for a lot of us. We all just love to get together and make stuff—you want to enjoy your work! I think there is a want and a need for the experience we provide. When you come to Seaside, you aren’t just shopping but you’re learning the story and talking to the artists. Essential artisan products are ones you can use and not just accumulate into your life.” 

Both Seaside and the Grapeseed Company are dedicated to providing products made with local ingredients that people can feel connected to. She said, “one of my makers was buying scrub out of my house and now she works for us. That’s the kind of following we’ve developed here. At the Grapeseed Company scent bar you can make your own custom perfume and put your name on it. That is so personal because scent is such a personal experience. The same scent on two different people will smell totally different. The part of our brain that recognizes scent is also where we hold memories. A single scent can instantly transport me back to my childhood—the smell of lilacs blooming in the spring can take me back to my yard in New England. People living here have a connection with pink jasmine. Scent has the power to bring back vivid memories.”

The Seaside Makers’ passion for their craft is evident from the quality of the products they produce. For a lot of creative people, the essential drive to persevere through hard times like the current pandemic breeds creativity. During Covid-19, when people can’t go to spas, the Grapeseed Company has created new products for home use: the California surf pedicure kit and the Vineyard Rose facial kit, and a line of Local Love Hand & Surface Sanitizers. She commented, “finding different ways to adapt and survive all the changes keeps us going. So many people tell us that we are the first real store they’ve been to since the shut-down. Lots of shops have had a tough time reopening. Some of them had to make tough choices—if you don’t have an online business it’s tough to survive. We survived because we have all the other things we are doing besides the stores. If we didn’t have all these different revenue streams to keep the company afloat, we wouldn’t be here right now. We are going to be here for the community and keep operating.”

To support Fraser and the creative artists of the Seaside Makers Collective, visit their store on Linden Avenue, their Santa Barbara location in the Funk Zone, or purchase a product online at seasidemakers.com and thegrapeseedcompany.com.

 

 

Brenda Tan is a columnist and a freelance writer. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English, Writing and Literature, and Art History with an emphasis in Museum Studies at UCSB. She can be reached at brendatan321@gmail.com.

 

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