We had the good fortune of connecting with Kandra Churchwell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kandra, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
At our heart, we are a family business. That means we thrive on community and I’m always looking for new ways to support local efforts. That includes supporting local organizations through everything from donations to time, supporting other local businesses with shoutouts whenever we can, and making sure our products celebrate vs. contaminant our local economy and environment.
With our products, we focus on natural goods and sustainability. We also tend to put a “for real” in front of those too. That means “for real” natural in that we always get as close to nature as possible with all of our ingredients and “for real” suitable packaging that doesn’t have any tricks, gimmicks, or greenwashing attached to it.
Take our aroma options for example. Instead of using lab-made synthetic fragrances, we scent our products with natural butters, oils, herbs, and essential oils. Natural aromas are light yet fragrant and don’t linger or contaminate your environment. This allows you to enjoy a fragrant aroma without being overwhelmed by it or sensitized to it. And, we even love the aroma of all of our “unscented” products including our body butter that has a lovely fragrant aroma from the cocoa butter, and the local beeswax in our salves is one of the most heavenly scents around.
Another good example is how we color our soaps. We use only botanicals (herbs, clays, infusions, etc.) as opposed to lab-made and synthesized oxides, micas, and dyes. You’ll see orange soaps made with carrots, creamy soaps made with oatmeal, and even purple soaps made with a custom blend of botanicals. The natural coloring of our products is so dear to my heart that I wrote a book to teach other soapmakers how to naturally color their soaps. “The Natural Soap Color Palette” has given me the pleasure to meet and help many soapmakers around the globe. I really am blessed to be part of such a vibrant and collaborative community.
Our “for real” sustainability focuses on making choices that stem from lessons my grandma (I called her Ma) taught me. She lived through the depression and really instilled values around using what you had before buying something, never let something go to waste, and always leave things better than they were. You can really see this in our packaging choices where we first focus on reusable, then compostable, and then recyclable. While recycling is wonderful, we know many recyclable items don’t make it to the recycling facility. When we look for compostable, we looking for backyard compostable first vs. other “compostable” products that require special facilities to actually be compostable. For our reusable packaging items, we limit this to things people really will reuse and provide as many re-use ideas as we can. I hope more brands take the “for real” sustainability route too. It would mean that consumers can simply shop for a product based on the quality of the product vs. worrying about sacrificing effectiveness for sustainability. I’m working with The Good Business Colorado Plastics and Packaging Workgroup to develop a guide for other business owners that will help them navigate through the challenges of finding “for real” sustainable packaging for their products.
While many of our customers see us as a “zero waste” brand, I really didn’t plan on that. I was simply doing what Ma taught me, and what I taught my children. I like to think she would be proud that even our packing tape can be turned into garden soil, and that there are many other people who are proud of that too. My favorite “success” stories are from the ones who are looking at the quality of the product first. I dance with joy when I get emails from customers who share their stories about how much they love their hair now that they are using a natural product but are really excited because they realized they have also eliminated all plastic bottles from the shower. Once they try our Tooth Suds and Mouthwash crystals, they have completely “converted” to a sustainable bathroom without any effort and the only goal of finding a natural product that works for them.
We like to think of our local community as part of “for real” natural and sustainable. If we don’t take care of each other, we won’t have much of anything left for the future. We keep all of our annual community service and donations focused on local organizations that empower others to better themselves. This helps us feel more connected to our world, community, and to continue the cycle of prosperity that future generations can enjoy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I love telling the story of how I learned to make soap! My husband and I homeschooled our three children and always let them choose the subject matter. For a science lesson, my daughter wanted to learn to make soap. It took a few months of research at the library, then more time gathering supplies, and then more time researching and learning about material hazard safety and more before we finally gave it ago. Even with all of that planning and research, we quickly realized that there was so much more to learn! Our first soap took us about 8 hours to hand stir, each of us taking turns (now we know to leverage the power of stick blenders and power drills), and it didn’t come out exactly as we planned. But nonetheless, it was a successful soap. I have one bar left that I keep for nostalgia’s sake. It’s probably my favorite soap I have ever made.
Flash forward about 10 years and now my kids are grown and they help with the business! Who would have known that one science lesson would lead to a life where I get to hang out with my adult kids and call it work?
Teaching them to be self-learners had the amazing side effect of teaching me the same lessons. We all take challenges head-on, learn from our mistakes, and reach out for help when needed.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
That’s an easy question to answer! We would hit up all of the local parks, hike the trails, and eat locally all the time. If the visit was in summer, we would eat in and enjoy whatever was fresh from the Farmers Markets. It’s so wonderful to be in a city where “local” is an easy thing to do.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
About 20 years ago I had the fortune of meeting a gal named Beth. We both had different lives then than we do now, but are probably even more “tied to the hip” through our mutual transformations. Beth started a women’s group called SHE Leads group to Support the Heart and Enterprise of women in business. This group has meant so much to me over the years and has always been there to support me, both on a personal and business level.