Inspiyr.com recently interviewed Bill Whyte, CEO and “Head Badger” of Badger Balm, a family-owned and operated business that creates natural balms, sunscreens, and other personal care products for men, women, and kids. Bill shed some insight on how he started the business, why it’s important for companies to “give back”, and things to look for when choosing a personal care product.
Tell us the Badger story. What is the company’s mission, and how did it all begin?
Back when I was a carpenter, my hands and fingers used to crack in the wintertime. I have a long history as an herbalist, so I mixed up some balm, it healed my fingers and a business was born. Originally, I felt that I had a good product that people want and need, so I decided to make a business of it. My first “mission” was to sell enough stuff to break even! Now Badger is successful, and I have a “heart/earth mission”…really, it boils down to – be kind and compassionate and do as much good as possible while using time and resources in a responsible and harmonious manner.
Badger does a lot to give back to the community, either through charitable donations or paying employees for their time when volunteering at non-profits. Why is it important for an organization to give back in these ways?
I don’t understand the idea of running a business to make as much money as possible for a small number of stockholders. It makes complete sense to me that a business should serve the needs of the community.
Why create natural products? Don’t chemicals make personal care products more effective?
Is that a trick question? Your skin is the body’s largest organ. It both eliminates and absorbs. It seems to me, you can’t go wrong when you put products on your skin that are made from fresh, whole ingredients that are pure enough to eat. I prefer to not eat chemicals and I’m certainly not going to put them on my skin – nor will I make and sell chemical personal care products. And, no, I don’t believe that chemicals make personal care products more effective.
What should people think about when considering a personal care product? What’s important to look for?
You want healthy skin. Read the ingredients list. Stick to simple, natural, and recognizable ingredients. To give an example: Badger Balm is made from organic extra virgin olive oil (used since antiquity to soothe and heal the skin), golden yellow beeswax, castor bean oil (from the seed of a plant known for its healing powers), aloe vera extract and essential oils of sweet birch or wintergreen. A simple, virtually edible, super-effective dry skin soother.
How important is it for you that Badger is a “good” company, and not solely focused on profit?
To me, “profit” is a “fuel”- we use it to power company goodness. Honestly, I wouldn’t consider Badger a success, and I wouldn’t do this work if our focus were profit. I’d go drive a cab or something.
I look for authentic natural quality as verified by materials or ingredients and I note their approach to packaging. When I am interested in a company, I like to look at their “about us” website section and see if they actually share anything about who they really are and why they do what they do. Companies have become pretty good at marketing themselves as “green” so this is not necessarily an easy task. “B Corp” Certified Companies have a social mission and there is a third party verification by on-site audit, so that’s another approach.
Be good to yourself and to your friends and family. Learn to appreciate what you have now.
Any words of wisdom for people who are looking to start their own business?
Go for it! One of the things we do at Badger when we are developing a product is we imagine making it for someone we love. When you make something you would be proud to give to your favorite and most precious friend or family member, then you have something of value to give to the world.
What’s next for you, and Badger?
We’re developing an “Ecology Center”. We built our new building on an old sandpit that was kind of a mess when we found it. We want to build the soil and grow things here and make it alive and beautiful again.