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Durango High School junior starts hand-sanitizer business

With COVID-19 closing restaurants, Samantha Newcomer created her own summer job
Samantha Newcomer, 16, bottles her “Samitizer,” a hand sanitizer that she is manufacturing and selling from her La Plata County home, on Tuesday. She started the company when COVID-19 restrictions eliminated her summer job at Alcé restaurant.

When COVID-19 restrictions eliminated Samantha Newcomer’s summer job at Alcé restaurant in Dalton Ranch, the Durango High School junior decided to take her parents’ advice: She started her own company.

The result is SAMitizer, her firm that makes citrus-scented hand sanitizer she sells in 1-ounce bottles, five to a box for $19.95 on Etsy.

“My parents encouraged me to start my own business. They wanted me to know everything that was involved, taxes, marketing,” she said. “We were brainstorming ideas and I shouted ‘Samitizer’ as kind of a joke, but then we thought about it, and it seemed like it might work.”

Samantha said she was looking for a product that was useful, and in April, she began experimenting in the family garage getting down a formula, the right amount of essential oils to mask the alcohol smell.

Samantha Newcomer’s SAMitizer, a citrus-scented hand sanitizer, sells in 1-ounce bottles, five to a box for $19.95 on Etsy.

With the help of her family – her parents committed $3,000 for seed money, and her 11-year-old brother Henry is helping mix the sanitizer and ship packages – she met her goal to begin sales in June.

She’s had more than $1,000 in sales, mostly on Etsy to family, family friends and teachers.

Marketing to get word out is the next step, but Samantha said that will require a heavy investment. For now, marketing is handled largely through world of mouth, a poster in the mailroom at Dalton Ranch and social media touts.

The difference between owning your own company and working as an employee, she said, creates a profound mind shift.

Last summer, when she bused tables at Alcé, she rarely thought about work after she finished a shift.

“Now, I worry my shipment of bottles is going to fall off a truck somewhere, and I won’t be able to fill orders the next week,” she said.

Once SAMitizer becomes profitable, Samantha said she will look to add a different scent. Currently, SAMitizer is offered only in citrus. She may also look to add different products like soaps and bath bombs.

Samantha said her younger brother is pushing for the next scent to be watermelon.

In addition to the citrus-scented hand sanitizer she’s currently selling, Samantha Newcomer is considering adding more scents and products such as soaps and bath bombs.

Jenny Newcomer, Samantha’s mother, said she and her husband, William, owned and operated several businesses over the past years including a paper products company and an event-production company.

Currently, Samantha’s parents operate Commit 30, which makes planners and helps people with goal-setting, out of their house in the north Animas Valley.

“There are abundant lessons to be learned with entrepreneurship – perseverance, commitment, self-confidence – so many that we encouraged her to give it a try. The risks were low and the opportunity large, and its been a great learning experience for her and her younger brother thus far,” Jenny Newcomer said. “She has the added benefit of our knowledge and assistance, but 95% of what is happening with SAMitizer is all her.”

Samantha said she’s surprised at how much she’s enjoyed operating her own company. She watches the locations of where orders come in from.

“We had one person order on Etsy from Wisconsin. We don’t have family or a family friend in Wisconsin. It was just someone who found me, and they wanted the product. Those are my favorite orders,” she said.

The hardest part of opening the business is handling accounting, setting aside money for taxes and other mundane daily tasks required of a business, Samantha said.

“The what could go wrong conversation was pretty scary,” she said. “We tested the product. We had to make sure it would work.”

Shelli Moore, Samantha’s fifth-grade teacher, said she was not surprised to hear Samantha had started her own company.

“Maybe some day she’ll give me a job,” she said. “She was always a self-starter. She was a hard worker and innovative.”


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