A Startup Challenge Love Story
It’s a Hollywood trope: two people fall in love, maybe get married, decide to have a baby, hilarity, horror, suspense, drama—depending on genre— ensues. And then, finally, they head to the hospital to meet their newborn.
With varying levels of drama, the parties head to the door with an overnight bag (or perhaps without, to heighten comedy/dramas/suspense).
All par for the course.
But in Myriah and Ryan Hopkins’ scene— which isn’t really a scene at all— Myriah turns to meet eyes with Ryan before walking out the door.
“Remember the product samples,” she reminds him calmly, before exiting the building.
Oh, this movie also features the birth of a Lavender farm and wellness product startup.
Lavender Creek’s Origin Story
Co-founded by Myriah and Ryan Hopkins, Lavender Creek is a lavender farm and wellness brand. The 2022 Startup Challenge Venture Division runners-up offer numerous products from culinary lavender to bubble bath, to bar soap to stretch mark oil.
Both parties were living and working in Los Angeles when they met in 2015. Originally from Burbank, CA, Myriah had been working in accounting and finance for over 20 years. Ryan had been working in business-to-business sales for some time. The two met, fell in love, and had their first baby in 2020 when the pandemic hit.
Like many families during the pandemic, Myriah and Ryan were ready for some fresh air. Ryan suggested they visit Carmel, near where he attended high school in Monterey.
“I told Myriah that I think she would like it up near Carmel Valley in the Monterey County area,” said Ryan. “I’d gone to high school up here before moving back down to Southern California. We got married up here on Carmel Valley Road. I took her all the way down Carmel Valley Road and we just loved it.”
The rest was kismet.
“We happened to see a property for sale, this old 70-acre ranch,” said Ryan. “We took a brochure, and we actually taped it to our door in LA as our goal. Every morning we would wake up and we would see that, and we were just lucky that it had been taken off the market. Later, in 2019, when we were ready to buy it, it was back on the market so we just decided to do it.”
After purchasing the property, Ryan and Myriah began researching ways to best use their new land.
“At our wedding, we had all these different handmade souvenirs and handmade soaps with lavender on it for party favors for the guests,” said Ryan. “And Myriah really liked essential oils, she liked the history of it. I thought the ancient health aspects to it were really cool. And we were like, ‘Well, what could we do that’s kind of like that?’”
After considering some options, they decided on Lavender. “It’s a drought-resistant plant, pest resistant,” said Ryan. “We just felt like this is something we could do. And really that’s how we started planning everything towards a lavender farm in Monterey County.”
They left Los Angeles and relocated to the Monterey Bay area in 2021, ready to get started.
The “Catalyst that Got Everything Started”
Once their vision was decided, Myriah and Ryan realized they would need professional advice, structure, and mentorship to turn their dream into a functioning business.
They entered the 2022 Startup Challenge Venture Division to gain focus and solidify their business plans and strategy. At the finale, Lavender Creek was chosen as runner-up.
Startup Challenge is an annual competition for new businesses that teaches, coaches, mentors, networks, and connects entrepreneurs to the knowledge and resources they need to succeed in the marketplace. The event is organized by the Institute of Innovation and Economic Development (iiED), an institute of the College of California State University MontereyBay (CSUMB).
With Venture, Social Venture, Mainstreet, and Student Divisions, the Challenge is open to startup businesses in Monterey, San Benito, or Santa Cruz counties. Those accepted to the challenge attend workshops and work closely with experienced mentors to prepare to compete in the final round to win additional opportunities and cash prizes.
“It was a great experience, said Myriah. “I loved after we did the pitch, how we got to stand in a tabletop booth setting and talk about our business to investors and to the community that came to the event. It was the catalyst that got everything started. I think from then on, we really took it a lot more seriously.
According to Ryan, participating in the challenge motivated him and Myriah to get into a business mindset and motivated them to stay on task.
“We were so happy that we participated because you really have to put a lot of effort into it, ” he said. ”Really practice what you’re doing, research what you’re doing, and make sure everything makes sense. And then to top it all off, we have to get ready to pitch it in front of judges, in front of cameras. And so it’s quite the undertaking to get prepared for that.
After placing runner-up in the Venture Division, the Hopkins decided to continue on their startup journey and joined iiED’s Startup Launchpad to gain further support, community, and guidance in growing their business. Offering mentorship, advising, workshop and connections to potential investors, advisors and service providers, Startup Launchpad is part of iiED’s larger goal of creating a supportive entrepreneurial community in the region.
“It’s just been a good learning process and great networking,” said Ryan. “We’re connected with some of the other companies that participated last year and those have been some great connections for us. We really like the networking, but we do learn a lot too.”
Myriah and Ryan are currently excited about their recent product launch. Lavender Creek currently offers a variety of wellness products, from soap to stretch mark oil, which are available on their website, in addition to some other locations.
Lavender Creek Products
Let’s return to the original scene.
Myriah and Ryan drive to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) maternity ward and all goes well. He grabs his bag of samples and heads down to the hospital gift shop, when he demos and shows the products to those working there
“I went down to the hospital gift shop and presented our samples,” he said. “Within twenty minutes, purchasing called us. They’re like, ‘We love this. We love lavender. We’re going to stock you in our gift shop. And everyone that has a baby here at CHOMP moving forward will get a gift basket that includes some of your relaxing lavender products in them.’”
Since then, Lavender Creek has expanded to other hospital gift shops, including Stanford Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Mee Memorial Hospital in King City, and another hospital in San Luis Obispo.
“We’re also working with local markets, like Elroy’s by the Del Monte mall in Monterey, and a few other local businesses have started to order from us as well,” said Ryan. “So we’re just seeing the support from Monterey County and from other businesses here as being. It’s really exciting for us. But it’s really significant for us as well, as a new small startup, to have these other businesses helping us and these retail partners selling our products for us.”
Most recently Scheid Vineyards partnered with Lavender Creek, displaying their entire line of lavender bath & beauty products in both of their tasting rooms.
“Lavender in vineyards already pair together well,” said Ryan. ‘Scheid Vineyards also liked that our farm is sustainably powered by solar because their entire bottling facility and operation is powered by one of those huge wind turbines you can see along the 101 highway,” said Ryan.
Looking to the Future
“We want to be a location in Monterey where five, ten years down the road people will know there’s that lavender farm out there where they can go and take pictures,” said Ryan. Maybe it’ll be more of a venue for more than just pictures. So we really want to have that physical presence in Monterey County and just bring that beautiful lavender bloom to Carmel Valley Road. That’s one thing that we’ve always dreamed of.
“And then with the products, we want to expand the catalog and just be able to offer nationwide natural lavender products that really focus on lavender’s healthful properties, relaxing properties. And for people to be able to buy a product that’s 100% natural, made here in California.”