We have a lot of movers and shakers in our team. Team members who have worked hard to grow their shops and expand their reach. Today, I’d like to introduce you to another team member that I consider to also be a friend, Mary Kearns of Herban Lifestyle. Mary’s developed a line of DIY kits that not only are fun but also provide valuable job-skills services for women in transitional housing in the Washington, D.C. area, as their work with Mary to assemble the kits. Her products have been showcased in Uncommon Goods and other media venues. Mary also recently opened a brick and mortar location in Fairfax, VA. Her Grand Opening is scheduled for February 8th. Now Mary shares a bit of her background with us.
Can you share with us a little about your personal story?
I am married to an incredibly supportive husband, have two amazing daughters, and an adorable rabbit. My family serves as a continuous inspiration for my work. We live a short distance from Washington, DC, which has surprisingly large and active crafting and green communities. I feel very lucky to be located in a place that has such great networks for exchanging ideas and resources.
Herban Lifestyle is the perfect way to bring together my various skills and interests: I have a BA in Fine Arts/Communications and a PhD in Developmental Psychology, with a focus on Behavioral Health. And I have loved soap all of my life.
In my spare time, I serve on the Board of Directors of the American Sustainable Business Council and Green America, and I am a Mentor for the William James Foundation’s Sustainable Business Plan Competition. And for fun, I love to hike, work on my art, cook elaborate healthy meals and spend time with my friends and family. And on occasion, I have been known to partake in Karaoke.
What is your craft? and products do you offer in your shop? What are your most popular products?
I make soaps, solid lotions, lip balms, men’s grooming products and DIY kits that teach you how to make your own bath and body products. They are all made with Certified Organic and Fair Trade ingredients. My shampoo bars, solid lotions and beer soaps are the most popular items in my Etsy shop.
What were you doing before you started your Etsy shop?
Before starting Herban Lifestyle, I worked in behavioral health and marketing research, and was a graphic designer when I was an undergrad. Herban Lifestyle is the perfect coming-together of my skills and interests – I design my own packaging and marketing materials, use my knowledge of health to create products that are good for people’s mental and physical wellbeing, and use my branding and marketing experience for the packaging and design.
How did you get stated in your chosen craft and what do you enjoy most about it?
I have been making bath and body products for 15 years, having first learned the craft from an aromatherapy-kit-of-the-month-subscription I bought to share with my daughters. The kits, offered by an educational toy company, contained simple, natural ingredients and descriptions of the herbs and essential oils that came with them.
Some of my earliest memories center around playing with guest soaps at my grandmother’s house – I loved the scents, colors, textures and the way they made bubbles in the sink! But I, and my daughters have very sensitive skin, so we have to be careful about fragrances, colors and other chemical additives. Learning how to make my own bath and body products was not only fun, but gave me complete control over what goes into my soaps and such.
Where do you get your inspiration for your products?
Food is a big inspiration for my products. I love working with food-quality ingredients to make soaps, lip balms, etc. that are good enough to eat (almost). I am also inspired by my family and customers, who are great about suggesting product ideas.
What makes Your Business Green?
I use recyclable, recycled and/or biodegradable packaging. I offset 100% of my carbon footprint with the purchase of RECs, drive a fuel-efficient vehicle and take public transportation when I can. I ship primarily via the US Postal Service, which holds “Cradle to Cradle” Certification at the Silver level for human and environmental health. I use compostable packing peanuts, vegetable cellulose bags, and reusable cloth bags when shopping. I reuse, recycle, and compost everything I can, from paper, ink cartridges, and packing peanuts to herbal waste and compostable trash bags. And, I only use non-toxic cleaning products in my studio and shop.
As a certified sustainable business member of Green America, I pledge to practice ethical business and labor standards. I am also certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny and PETA, because I never test my products on animals or buy my ingredients from companies that do. And I received the status of Safe Cosmetics Champion from the Environmental Working Group for using ingredients that have the lowest possible toxicity, since all of my ingredients are certified organic, fair trade, ethically wild crafted and totally non-toxic.
In one word, describe your creative process.
Where do you craft your products?
I started making products in my kitchen, then it started to take over my house, so last spring, I moved my business into a small studio, then in November I moved to a larger studio space about 2 miles from my home.
What advice do you have for Etsy shop owners who are interested in greening (making eco-friendly) their business?
There are many things you can do to green your business. While it will vary depending on the type of business you have, most of us use paper products. An easy place to start is by buying 100% recycled paper for your printer, and having any of your marketing materials (business cards, postcards, etc.) printed on recycled paper with vegetable ink. Reducing, reducing and recycling is another relatively easy way to green your business – printer cartridges, paper, packaging, shipping materials, can all be reused or recycled and you can also buy materials in bulk so that you are consuming less packaging.
Since environmental and human health is a big interest of mine, I would also recommend that you look into the materials you use in your craft to make sure that you are using safest, least-toxic, most earth-friendly options available. You can look to forums like EcoEtsy to get advice from green crafters in your specialty.
What is your biggest challenge running an eco-friendly business?
Certified Organic and Fair Trade ingredients cost more, and are more susceptible to fluctuations in availability than ingredients that are not as carefully sourced, so I have to plan accordingly and make sure that I buy in large enough quantities to get the best prices and allow for contingencies if something isn’t available.
Where else can we find you?