From the Ashes

By Ellen Sweets

Not many people would associate a tragic house fire and the loss of a beloved pet with the launch of a new business venture, but for Amy and Polly Reynolds of Climb On! products, that’s exactly what happened. In 1995, the sisters—Amy, formerly a private chef for the Dell family, with a degree in Food Science, and Polly, a medical transcriptionist who dabbled in aromatherapy—met in Santa Fe for a rare vacation. While there, Polly received news that her home had burned to the ground, and sadly, her cat Ivy had perished.

“It’s strange how what you think is a tragedy turns out to present an opportunity instead,” Polly says.

Shortly after the loss, Polly felt a serendipitous pull in a different direction. “Something just triggered in my brain,” she says. “I realized I was tired of medical transcriptions.”

Already a pro at mixing her own medicinal herbal teas, Polly soon began honing that fledgling interest in aromatherapy; working with familiar and new herbs, plants and florals—from lavender, jojoba and aloe vera to ylang-ylang, peach, wheat germ oils and tuberose. From this adventurous alchemy came a new aromatherapy line dubbed Ivy’s Herbal Delights in honor of Polly’s lost feline friend.

By 1997, a few aromatherapy products were ready for retail, and Polly shipped them to Amy who handmade labels for them.

“I went around Boulder and got some boutique accounts,” Amy says. “When Polly came to Boulder to stay for a while, we sat down with a designer and made real labels. That’s when Ivy’s began to grow.”

Then one day Amy, an avid rock climber, returned home after a particularly strenuous day of climbing—her hands sore, cracked and swollen.

Amy said to Polly, half-jokingly, “why don’t you make something for my hands? They’re killing me!”

And Polly did. She presented Amy with a silky, organic, canary-yellow miracle cream that’s now become a constant companion to climbers, gardeners, sailors, chefs, skydivers, fly fishermen and kayakers across the country and around the world. The sisters christened the cream “Climb On!” from the command climbers share in scaling rock faces.

Amy loved it, as did her rock-climbing friends who eagerly begged for more. The sisters had neither time nor money for focus groups. They simply capitalized on the word of climbing enthusiasts who promised to buy their product and tell their friends to do the same.

Since then, the Climb On! line has grown to include soothing salves, soaps and lotions—all made using only natural, organic ingredients, a dedication that has long been paramount to the sisters.

“Our family grew up eating naturally,” Amy says. “We had fruit trees. We grew our own vegetables, made our own jams and had our own beef and pork. It was pure food, nothing synthetic. We ate what we grew.”

And Climb On! products reflect that early appreciation of all-natural ingredients, with basic components like beeswax, apricot kernel oil, shea butter, peppermint and a proprietary blend of natural organic oils.

Now relocated to Wimberley, Texas, Amy and Polly continue to get attention. The Climb On! line was recently endorsed by Gunnar Peterson, personal trainer to Angelina Jolie, Sylvester Stallone and Jennifer Lopez, and by Tommy Caldwell and Beth Roden, both elite, iconic professional rock climbers.

The sisters don’t talk specific figures, but they say they recently made in one month what they made in all of 2002, the first year Climb On! was officially sold full-time by both sisters. They’ve since realized an annual growth rate of 50 percent.

When asked if they ever thought they’d be so successful, the sisters exchange glances and pause.

“Sometimes we look at one another and say ‘what did we do to deserve this?’” Polly says. “Then, when we think about it, we say, ‘Oh yeah…we worked really hard.’”

Find Climb On! products locally at Whole Foods Market, Central Market, Whole Earth Provisions Co. and REI. For more information call 512-535-7391, or visit .