Student-founded business participates in Arts Festival

By: John Kubal, The Brookings Register

“I decided I wanted to start on something,” said Laurel Diekhoff, sole owner and operator of Flume Bath & Body, a product line that specializes in handcrafted bath bombs, lip care, lip scrubs, perfume sprays and shower steamers. 

She started her research in December 2016, made her first sale in May 2017 and now has a booth at this year’s Brookings Summer Arts Festival. 

“So for a little over a year, I’ve been a functioning business,” she explained.

“Flume is deeply rooted in the Brookings community,” she added. “All Flume products are designed and handmade in the Brookings Innovation Center with the intention of creating added value to daily life and to days when you just need a little extra pampering.”

A native of Wessington, Diekhoff graduated from Wolsey-Wessington High School in 2016 and went straight to South Dakota State University. In the fall she starts her junior year as a double major in entrepreneurial studies and business economics.

As a freshman, she got off to a fast start on her double-major venture. At the last minute she entered a “venture plan competition” and finished as a runner-up. She won $100 and got the attention of two Economics Department faculty: Barb Heller, entrepreneurship coordinator, and assistant professor Craig Silvernagel.

Heller is one of Diekhoff’s instructors and is the faculty adviser to the SDSU chapter of Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, of which Diekhoff will serve as president in the fall.

She added that Silvernagel is “a huge part of the reason I started.”

Diekhoff said that with the $100 prize money and $100 out of her own pocket, she was able to “start messing around with bath and body stuff. I knew I had an interest in it. I had watched tons and tons of videos on it and done research.”

Finishing well in the venture plan competition was the inspiration that convinced her to strike out on her own. And the money allowed her to buy some get-started ingredients.

As to the moniker for her business, she smiles and laughs as she tells how it came about. 

“Honestly, I just thought it was a beautiful-sounding word. I was working at 1000 Degrees Pizza (in Brookings) at the time, and we used to talk about the oven flumes and the big flame shooters in the back of them.”

Diekhoff will be displaying and selling her wares in the “Edibles & Naturals” area at the annual festival in Pioneer Park. While it will be a new sales venue for her, she has been selling her products in both the retail and wholesome markets. And she does have an online presence at www.etsy.com/shop/FlumeBathAndBody.

For now the arts festival has been the focus of her business venture; she sees it as an opportunity to gauge the business climate for the future of her products. 

“I know that I’m still interested in wholesale,” Diekhoff explained. “And I’m starting to wonder though if doing a big event like the arts festival might be an actual opportunity to turn this into something fulltime.

“I do know that a lot of people come from out of state for this, of course; and I know that there are a lot of other opportunities in the Midwest to do things like this. I’m going to learn more this weekend to see what that’s like.”

‘Just like baking’   

In the handcrafting of her bath and body products, Diekhoff procures her ingredients from local sources whenever possible and brings them all together, assembling them in a single room at the Brookings Innovation Center at the Research Park at SDSU. 

“It’s maybe a little bit like baking,” she explained. “Just like baking, you have to know how things interact. Of course, you have to know what you can and can’t do.”

She considers the “target base” for her products to be “women between the ages of 16 and 30ish.” She noted that her mother is one of her best customers, adding, “I have a few friends that are kind of my product testers.” 

Some products work out; some don’t.

“A lot of things get thrown out in the early stages,” Diekhoff said, again smiling and laughing. “It’s judgment and, like never mind.”

One product line that has worked out well is bath bombs. They’re made to appeal to three of the five senses: sight, smell and touch.

The bombs carry such descriptions as “Pink Grapefruit,” “White Gardenia,” “Dewberry,” “Royal Rose” and “Turtle Beach.” Royal Rose features petals in the bath bomb. And each Turtle Beach bath bomb has a toy turtle imbedded in it.

Festival goers are invited to stop by Flume, in the Edibles & Naturals area, on Saturday and Sunday, visit with Diekhoff and enjoy the sweet smell of success.

Contact John Kubal at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

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