On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful personally and professionally. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
This week's chat was sponsored by SoapEquipment.com. Helping soap and candle makers, one piece of manufacturing equipment at a time.
Our guest this week was Sheri Lee Pierce of Paradise City Herbal in western Massachusetts. On #HandmadeChat, Sheri shared a bit about how she runs her herbal business as she leads a fun herb-based, micro-farming lifestyle. I was so ready to go outside and dig around in the dirt after this show. It was timely for me since I am gathering with a few neighbors this month to discuss starting a community garden. Read on for my interview with Sheri.
Q1 WHAT lS @PARADISEHERBAL AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?
Paradise City Herbal is vegan skin and body care, made by hand using herbs from my garden. Our slogan is, “Feel Good in Your Skin”. An overwhelming majority of people say they would choose natural, cruelty-free products if they were more available. I’m dedicated to helping create this reality.
Q2 HOW DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS, AND HOW ARE THINGS GOING IN OUR CURRENT ECONOMY?
I started out by making products for myself, and then as gifts for friends and family. They encouraged me to pursue a business, and I began with my own web store and selling at a local farmers market.
I'm happy to say I'm stable and growing, despite the economy. My prices are reasonable, but then, handmade skincare is seen as luxury item. Sales of my other farm products, like fresh-cut herbs, heirloom veggies, and log-cultivated mushrooms, etc., are currently skyrocketing and far outpacing skincare. In fact, our best seller right now is “Pet Grass,” wheat grass grown in small Chinese food takeout-like containers so indoor pets have fresh greens to eat.
Q3 TELL US ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS? WHAT DO YOU MAKE AND WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR ONES?
I focus on natural skin care, and also make traditional herbal products like salves. My most popular cosmetic product is Eye Creme with violets, rose and cucumber. It's a fantastic synergy. Customers say they love the feel of it so much, they use it for entire face, not just eyes, to help improve skin tone.
Q4 WHY IS USING CERTAIN INGREDIENTS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Have you heard the term, “Eco-Conscious”? Well, I’m “Eco-Neurotic!” I worry about each and every ingredient used in my skin and body care, just like I worry about each and every ingredient that goes in my food. I worry about these ingredients from soup to nuts: where they came from, how they were grown and harvested, how they were stored, etc. I spend a lot of time researching to make sure items are “clean.” Unfortunately, it’s a moving target these days.
Q5 HAVE YOU TURNED DOWN WHOLESALE BUSINESS WHEN THE STORE WAS NOT TRUE TO YOUR VISION?
Yes, I pulled my products from Whole Foods when I became concerned about their natural and organic policies, and that they were not doing enough to prevent greenwashing by brands they carry on their shelves. In my opinion, there is so much deceptive “organic” store signage in both wellness and produce departments in stores everywhere.
Q6 HOW DO YOU GROW HERBS TO USE IN YOUR BATH AND BODY PRODUCTS?
I use organic and biodynamic gardening methods. I do not use synthetic chemicals and we do not till the soil at all. We use no power tools. The health and vitality of the plants we use is as important to us as the health of the garden overall and our finished products, and especially the pollinators that make it all possible. (Save the bees!)
Q7 WHAT IS BEHIND YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE “COMMUNITY-FOOD” AND #SLOWFOOD MOVEMENT?
Local food sovereignty is the fire under me. I live in an affluent community, but see homeless people on our streets. Many in my community are surviving only with help from soup kitchens. Local food is healthier and less expensive than food shipped from out of state.
I am alarmed that huge numbers of varieties of vegetables are disappearing. Plants develop traits that make them suited to and more hardy in particular micro-climates. Large industrial producers select varieties for long storage and shipping, not nutrition and taste. These giants have squeezed family farms out of existence, and their wide range of natural food varieties along with them. With the weather growing more extreme and changeable, we need diversity in our crops to ensure a run of bad weather won't become a nationwide disaster. We need local farms and real food in every community in every state in this country.
Q8 WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AND MOST INSPIRATIONAL HERB WORLD FIGURES?
I'm a big fan of many well-known herbalists like Rosemary Gladstar, Brigitte Mars, Kami McBride, Matthew Wood, David Hoffman … the list goes on! But closest to my heart is Richo Cech of Horizon Herbs. His farm produces high-quality herb seed and he teaches people how to grow and use them.
Q9 WHAT IS A FAVORITE INSPIRATIONAL QUOTE, AND WHO SAID IT? WHY DOES IT MOVE YOU?
I have several favorite quotes. I'll share some here.
“The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” ~Leonardo da Vinci
“Nature is not mute. It is man who is deaf.” ~Terence Mckenna
“Herbalism is ecology in practice.” ~David Hoffmann
“Justice is what Love looks like in public.” ~Dr. Cornel West
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” ~Jelaluddin Rumi – sufi mystic, 13th century
“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.” ~Thomas Fuller
“Make your piece of this Earth into a garden. It matters.” ~Richo Cech
It's hard for me to choose only one! These quotes express my belief that we are all (man, animals, plants) one community, and we must work to end the violence that has become the norm in our world, to repair the bonds between all living things to save ourselves and the planet.
Q10 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOKS, AND HOW HAVE THEY HELPED YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS?
My all-time favorite is the “Brand You” series from Tom Peters. I have them all! Here is a good one to start with: The Brand You 50: 50 ways to transform yourself from an “employee” into a brand that shouts distinction, commitment, and passion! This book helped me articulate and solidify my my beliefs and ideas, which makes them “doable,” instead of just “thinkable.”
Q11 WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS WORK BEST FOR YOU TO MARKET YOUR BUSINESS?
I use Twitter and Facebook, and am currently experimenting with Google+ and Pinterest. Twitter delivers the widest response and the most engagement, but Facebook feels more intimate so I like that too.
Q12 HOW HAS BEING A MEMBER OF IBN HELPED YOUR BUSINESS BE SUCCESSFUL?
As entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and DIY business owners, we really can't do everything ourselves. IBN gives me education to keep adding tools and skills to my toolbox, as well as support when questions and difficulties arise.
More About Sheri Lee Pierce
Sheri has been an IBN member since 2006.
Sheri offers handcrafted herbal bodycare, soaps, perfumes, and incense made with organic ingredients and the fresh herbs frown in her garden. Her products are made with no synthetics, chemical preservatives, or petroleum products. All the ingredients are natural and are listed on the label. Vegan blends are available and there's no animal testing. Packaging is reusable and/or recyclable. Sheri also offers bulk herbal supplies you can use to grow your own herbs.
Connect with Sheri:
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, March 7, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Melody Bockelman Pierce of Private Label Insider in Texas. Melody will share tips to help you grow your cosmetics business.
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