I started my first business when I was seven years old. My mother bought me one of those little metal looms and a few bags of stretchy cloth loops. She showed me how to make potholders. At first it was awkward, but once I got the flow of it, I wove potholder after potholder, delighting in devising new patterns and color schemes. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I just wanted to weave. And when my mother offered to pay me fifty cents apiece for two custom designed potholders to match the color scheme of our 1950’s kitchen (lemon yellow Formica counter top and walls, yellow linoleum floor tiles) I could barely contain my excitement. I had a new business.
It wasn’t the money, it was the totality. It seemed natural for me to go door to door showing my neighbors my wares, taking orders and delivering a quality product on time and with a smile. I knew that my designs were more artistic than those shown on the loom package. More daring, more vivid. Tell me the colors you want me to use and I’ll show you a potholder that glows. I liked explaining things. I liked being invited into my neighbor’s homes and I appreciated that they took the time to listen to me, to place an order and the payment seemed a win-win situation. They received something functional and beautiful for their kitchen and I got the money to buy more loops and to perhaps catch a Disney movie at the Beacon Theater for fifty cents or to buy a Spalding High-Bounce for a buck! It doesn’t get much better than that.
During my potholder career, which lasted for a summer, I developed double loop potholders that could withstand a really hot frying pan handle. I devised a new loop puller made from a coat hanger that made the weaving process easier on the hands and quicker. I think I spent all the money I earned, and ended up with enough unused bags of loops to be worth thousands on today’s market, so I can’t say that I developed financial expertise, but I did develop a love for business that transcended the accumulation of wealth, and extended into realms of art and beauty, community, work as life, and work as a means of mutual benefit and support.
I still love work, which brings us back to more recent history. In 1993, I was working as a builder. My fingers were cracked and bleeding from exposure to winter cold. I found a beeswax and olive oil based balm that helped. Eventually, I bought a vat, developed my own unique formula, created a wooden display box and in 1995, I began a career as carpenter by day, tin filler by night. I sold store to store when I had the time and on Saturdays. Sometimes I filled tins till 2 in the morning. Sometimes I drove all around New England and only sold one box. But I actually enjoyed it. I liked the weaving-like motion of filling tins. I liked selling a product that I believed in. It wasn’t as easy as making and selling potholders, but it had its high points.
By 1997, I was selling nationally and exceeded 1 million dollars in sales. I appreciated the dollars, as they are the fuel, but I more appreciated that we were making products that people want and need, that these products were healing, that we all seemed to enjoy our work and the fact that we were making money seemed like a bonus. I know I’m painting a rosy picture. I can assure you that there were and continue to be difficulties, failures and heat break. Just like in a family.
Secret Formula for Success?
I don’t think there is one. First, I think it’s ok to try and “fail.” There is tremendous learning in trying. Not everyone is suited to starting or running a business. We each have our unique gifts. If you decide to give it a try, I suggest that you visualize a business plan that has as a priority, patterns that support you being your best mental, physical and spiritual self.
A typical entrepreneur might spend 60-80 hours per week tending their fledgling business. This could be fine, but not at the expense of neglected family, eroding health, or spiritual emptiness. The dollars are not worth it. Yet I do believe it is possible, even likely and preferable, that you make it a requirement of your developing business for you and your co-workers to maintain health, balance and beauty while building success across a wider spectrum.
I’d like to end with Badger’s Mission and Principles. This is an evolving document that helps to inform our vision and direction.
Healing Products/Healthy Business
We produce healing body care products and natural remedies. We use quality ingredients: “100% Natural & Certified Organic Body Care Made from fresh, whole botanicals brimming with life force…” We deliver exceptional value at a fair price. We treat our customers the way we would like to be treated: with honesty, fairness and respect.
Statement of Principles
- Individual responsibility in a team concept.
- Personal and caring approach in communications.
- Supporting organic, sustainable agriculture through our purchasing practices.
- A business environment that is respectful and supportive of all employees and of the people we serve.
- Personal and social healing through our charitable giving.
- Environmental responsibility.
- Fun is good.