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Things I Can't Live Without: Cindy Melk

What's something H20 Plus founder Cindy Melk can't live without? (Hint: Pop goes the...)
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Occupation: Founder and CEO of H2O Plus, a Chicago-based skin care company with 92 stores worldwide. H20 Plus makes a wide array of skin care products, from sea mineral mud masks to algae-enriched lipstick. Each of the company's 300 offerings contains purified water and imported seaweed.

Age and home: 42; Chicago.

Annual revenue and employees: About $80 million; 250.

British invasion: After moving to London in the 1980s, Melk discovered that Europeans treated skin care as a full-body endeavor. "In the U.S., it was all about the face," she recalls. When she moved back to Chicago, Melk worked with a scientist to develop water-based bath and body products.

Cindy and the skin care factory: H2O Plus' plant in downtown Chicago houses its offices, labs, manufacturing facility, and distribution center. The exterior of the building is adorned with large tile panels that depict ancient figures like Chalchiutlicue, the Aztec goddess of water, and Ea, the Mesopotamian deity credited with creating humans from earth and water.

Directing traffic: Recently, Melk has shut down some suburban H20 Plus shops to focus on stressed-out customers in urban locales. "They have the most hectic lifestyles," she says. "They respond well to the simplicity of our products."

Things I Can't Live Without

HP Photosmart 375 compact photo printer, $199: "I like tangible, three-dimensional objects. I throw this printer in my backpack and take it with me when I travel so I can shoot and print pictures of anything that inspires me, from plants to beautiful architecture."

Three-book set of Pantone color chips, $299: "All of our products are colorful, and these books are the starting point. I reference them multiple times a day, and I have to buy a new set every four months. I always go through the blue chips first, because we're so water oriented."

Prada weasel fur coat, approximately $10,000: "I travel in a variety of climates, so this is fantastic. It's super thin, light, and easy to pack. Plus, I get to ask my friends if they'd like to touch my weasel."

... and What I Covet

A glass house (like this famous one by Philip Johnson) on Rudder Cut Cay in the Caribbean "Rudder Cut is almost completely undeveloped. I love the idea of being able to experience nature there with my daughter and my boyfriend. It would be the perfect contrast of raw nature and the modern world."





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