Little Badger turns 20 this month!
Back in early 1995, a carpenter named Bill Whyte discovered that a simple, natural blend of oils and wax could soothe his hardworking, weather-beaten hands. At the time, he was really sure of only two things. One, that the balm worked really well. And two, that there were probably lots of other people who could benefit from it. He surmised that he and his family could figure out the rest as they went along.
So Bill, with his wife Katie and daughters Mia, Emily and Rebecca, began filling tins in the kitchen of their home. Bill sunk his life savings into buying 10,000 printed tins that said “Badger” on the cover, which he hand-delivered to lumberyards and hardware stores, and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is one of my all-time favorite stories. Not because Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands is one of my favorite products. And not even because thirteen years later it would lead to my gainful employment! I love this story because it’s proof that when you have a good idea, good intentions, and a “one-step-at-a-time” attitude, anything can be accomplished. Bill didn’t have any money (and Kickstarter hadn’t been invented yet). He didn’t even have a business plan (but he soon learned how to write one). And he didn’t have any idea how to start a manufacturing company. But Bill’s greatest strengths are not being afraid of working hard, asking for help, or taking things slowly.
Luckily, he also has an awesome family that provides love, support, and helping hands.
Looking back on the last twenty years, here are some of the highlights:
- 1995 Badger Bill orders 10,000 printed tins to sell his very first product, Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands. This same year Badger moves out of the kitchen and into a small building in Gilsum Village.
- 1996 Badger now has seven employees who hand fill, package, sell, and distribute Badger Balm.
- 1997 Badger starts making lip balms, in addition to Badger Balm for Hardworking Hands. Why? Because customers kept calling and asking “can I put this stuff on my lips?” (Note: Many of our products start out this way so don’t hesitate to let us know what you think!)
Tins are still being filled by hand by a dedicated team including James, who is still with the company today as Badger’s production manager.
- 1998 Sore Muscle Rub oil is released packaged in really neat, corked bottles with hand-dipped wax seals. Badger now has thirteen employees and fourteen products, including Sleep Balm.
- 1999 Badger purchases a small-scale filling machine. James, who used to hand fill all the tins, rejoices. Aromatic Chest Rub, Baby Balm, and Evolving Body Balm (now Damascus Rose Beauty Balm) are introduced. Badger creates a page on the newly invented “world wide web” and badgerbalm.com was born.
- 2000 After Sun Balm and Anti-Bug Balm are introduced. Badger’s catalog theme was “Look Far,” which according to Badger Bill, “The idea is that there is work to do in the world and much to look forward to.”
- 2001 Badger switches to organic extra virgin olive oil and purchases a large-scale tin filling machine that is capable of filling eight tins at a time. We still use that machine to this day (with maintenance and improvements, of course).
- 2002 Bill’s wife, Katie, and daughter, Emily both join the business full time, bringing the number of full-time Badgers to thirty-two. Badger releases more massage oils, now packaged with pump tops. Badger Balm can now be found at Harrods of London, as well as on the rarefied shelves of high-end beauty salons in New York and San Francisco and in natural apothecaries such as Erborista Cortina in Italy.
- 2003 Two new lip balm flavors are released, Chai Rose and Lavender & Orange, as well as an unscented version of our original Badger Balm. Badger Bill writes in the spring catalog about how the company operates, “No animal testing. Organic or otherwise ecologically cultivated and produced ingredients. Of course, we use no Genetically Modified Ingredients, synthetics, or chemical additives.”
- 2004 Badger releases its first line of soaps, as well as Anti-Bug Balm in a stick. More than 70% of the ingredients used in Badger products are organic.
- 2005 Badger is big in the UK and Taiwan, and the company continues to grow. Badger releases its very first mineral sunscreen, the “Fabulously Natural SPF 15,” as well as an SPF 15 lip balm.
- 2006 SPF 30 Sunscreen and Baby Oil are released. Badger Bill says, “We are now a thriving business and we are proud to make safe, wholesome, powerfully pure body care product for people we care about the world over.”
- 2007 Cocoa Butter Lip Balms and a Night-Night Balm are released. The world is officially a better place.
- 2008 Badger becomes a USDA Certified Organic facility, and begins to use Fair Trade CertifiedTM cocoa butter. Badger’s Cocoa Butter Lip Balms are the first products to receive fair trade certification. Sore Joint Rub, Sore Muscle Rub Cooling Blend, and Aromatherapy Mind Balms are released.
- 2009 Bill’s daughter, Rebecca, joins the Badger staff full time. Emily has baby Maya, who becomes the sixth baby to be part of the “Babies at Work” program. Badger releases its Every Day Body Moisturizers.
- 2010 In the fall, construction begins on a brand new Badger building! This has been Bill’s and Katie’s dream since Badger first started. Many new products are released, including Fair Trade Certified Lip Tint & Shimmers and reformulated Massage and Body Oils.
- 2011 Badger employees move into the brand new Badger HQ, throwing a huge party to celebrate and inviting friends from all over the world. In the fall, Damascus Rose Face Oil (my all-time favorite!) is released.
- 2012 Badger launches more sunscreens, including SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen. In the fall, Hair Oils make their debut.
- 2013 Diaper Cream and more sunscreens are released. Calendula Gardens Children’s Center – affordable, flexible child care for the children of Badger employees – opens in the former Badger Building down the road. Badger starts being recognized for the way in which we do business, and the awards and accolades follow.
- 2014 Navigator Class Man Care is released, and the world gets a little more dapper.
- 2015 Badger HQ expands to accommodate more manufacturing so that we can continue to bring you more of the good stuff you love.
So twenty years later, here we are! Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. We’re so excited and grateful to be able to do what we love, and make a difference in the world that we want to celebrate all month with you! We’re giving away a bunch of Badger stuff every Thursday of this month, starting today! And since October has five Thursdays, the last one is going to be an extra special super-prize. Be sure to check back for that!
Today’s giveaway features Badger classics: Badger Balm Sampler, ‘Walk a Healthy Trail’ t-shirt (S, M, or L), and a large, organic cotton Badger Tote Bag – retail value $55. Contest ends Wednesday, October 7 at midnight. This contest is open to residents of the US only, 18+.
Happy birthday, dear Badger! The best present you can give is to share this post with your friends!