At a recent fair I met Bonnie, a woman who I found to be truly inspiring. She has a line of skin care products, and her story is one of perseverance and strength. Take a minute, you will not regret it!
For those of us who haven’t heard of Mains de mariposa, please give us an idea of what the line is about.
Mains de mariposa in essence is a collection of high quality, exceptionally natural personal care products that first and foremost are effective and enjoyable to use and inspire us to bring out our natural inner beauty. So they’re beautiful inside and out, just like those who use them.
What was the inspiration behind your line?
All of the products are inspired by the principle that nature has given us everything we need to thrive. There is an organic interaction of ingredients when left in their natural state that will result in a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. That means that I combine raw ingredients that have been minimally processed but combine them into a product that is more user friendly than perhaps one ingredient alone and also becomes more effective because of the other ingredients it is blended with. For example, many of us are familiar with shea butter. On its own, it’s a fabulous moisturizer but quite heavy and often sits on top of the skin. When you combine it with sunflower oil in smaller amounts and blend it into a skin cream formulation (as I do in many of my creams) the oils help to suck it into the skin where it can be more effective as well as being more enjoyable to use. It’s always a fine balance between keeping things in their most natural state yet creating something that is enjoyable and luxurious to use. It’s my belief that it is equally important to feed our soul as well as our body.
What was the inspiration behind the name mains de mariposa?
Many people don’t know this, but I’ve traveled through many adventures in my life. For example: I used to weigh over 300 lbs and was so shy that if I had to speak to someone I didn’t know, I would cry. Also, when I was 19 years old, my mother who was my best friend, had a brain aneurysm and was left with 75% brain damage as a quadriplegic. She spent 8 months in a coma and a total of 14 months in the hospital. At 20 years old I took care of her 24/7 for a year before finally having to make the decision to place her in a care facility. Needless to say, those adventures changed me greatly. So much so that at the time I was choosing a name for my business, some around me had taken to calling me Mariposa. Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly and the butterfly is a universal symbol of transformation. Given that I was living in Quebec at the time and interacting quite a bit in French and my strong affinity for alliteration, the word “mains” naturally came to mind when searching for a name. “Mains” is the French word for hands. So, “hands of the butterfly” seemed appropriate on so many levels.
All of the products are created using all natural ingredients. What benefits does this have for the skin?
As I already mentioned, although not generally scientifically proven, I whole heartedly believe that there’s a synergistic effect when we combine ingredients in their most natural state possible that will provide a greater benefit than each alone. So that’s really important to me. Just like most can agree there’s more happening when you eat an actual fresh, ripe orange than taking separate vitamin C and calcium supplements. The orange has everything your body needs to make the vitamins work perfectly in our body. Of course the next most obvious benefit is what is *not* in the products. You will never find chemical preservatives or parabens in mains de mariposa products. This is one reason I chose to stop using grapefruit seed extract as a preservative and chose instead to search out the unique collapsible aluminum tubes. Grapefruit seed extract is effect as a preservative because it contains naturally occurring parabens. Which in and of itself is not cause for concern but when you find it in everything you use all day… well that’s an entirely different interview! Also, my soaps never contain dyes. I opt instead for using only herbs, spices, clay etc. to create the unique appearance of each one. Also, all of my soaps are at least 50% olive oil and never contain palm oil which is causing massive deforestation and species are becoming endangered due to this. I won’t cut corners just to cut costs.
What do your prices range from?
Most of my prices are between $5 and $15. This was a conscious decision. I’ve heard over and over again that I could/should be charging much more for these products because they’re so effective and high quality. The bottom line though, is that I want this to stay affordable. In essence I do believe that these products are equally or more effective than many you find in the big name spas, but you’re simply not paying for their massive advertising budgets, CEO summer homes and everything else. You’re paying for the product and a little more to make sure my bills are paid, I have food on the table and my dog is fed. If you come to a market you can meet him. His name is Porter (aka: muk-muk) and he usually has a mohawk. He’ll give you a high-five!
Your website has such a concise feel. What was the thought process when branding your business?
Honestly the initial thought process of branding my products was as follows:
Ok- I have a logo. It don’t have program to make labels that can use vector images so I am forced to use a white background. White background it is. That was a big influencing factor for everything. Second, I worked in retail for many years. From that I knew people often did not remember the exact names of products but they would most often remember the color of things. That influenced the color bands on the products so I could just ask them what color was the label of the cream and “poof” we knew which one they wanted to re-order. Everything, for better or worse, flows from those two principles. What am I able to do with the technology and resources I have and what will make this easy for people to remember. Except maybe the name.
You mentioned that you do this full time. Was it difficult leaving your previous job or the next natural step?
If I had planned to leave my job and jump into this business full time I think I would have had a heart attack or my head may have exploded from anxiety. So as many things, this was an organic process. I had been doing this as a hobby to get a little extra money and as a creative outlet for about 6 years. During that time I had been working minimum wage jobs, getting more and more ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and debilitating migraines among other things. This was leading me deeper and deeper in debt. Everything came to a head in 2011 when I was forced to take unpaid stress leave from my job. During that time there were a few key events that took place and when it came time to go back, the thought was unbearable. So, without a plan, I quit. I remember crying to my father that now I had to go out and find yet another job and I didn’t know what I was going to do because there was nothing I really *wanted* to do and I was so sick how was I going to get out of bed every day and go to work and so on. I will remember this forever, that he calmly pointed out to me that I already had a job. Although it was pretty shaky until just recently, there was no turning back. I finally felt free and my health improved by leaps and bounds. I was meant to be my own boss.
How long has it been since you decided to take this on full time?
I’m going into my 4th year of being self-employed and I find it funny when people ask if this is my full time job. I prefer to say that this is my only job. To many people, full-time implies 40 hrs a week. In reality it’s the most dynamic, organic and ever changing job you’ll ever have, if that’s the way you want it. Some periods, I don’t work for days on end. Others, especially October to January, I work as long as I can stand up. That’s one of the benefits of being your own boss. I can make my own schedule, my own rules.
Time management is such a difficult task for anyone with a small business. Are there any tricks you have to balance it all?
Honestly, I really sucked at it for a long time. I can still struggle and like many seem to get the most done when you have a deadline. I used to pull all nighters before shows at least twice a year. Now, I’d like to think I’ve practiced and developed some skills. The one thing I would really stress is finding systems that work for you and stream line things. One of the biggest things I’ve done in the last year is streamlining my taxes and accounting. Blech! I have a system for the receipts, the invoices, the inventory so that at the end of the year, I just have to plug in the numbers and “poof” tax info as well as monthly snapshots of how I did financially as well as other important information for making all kinds of decisions for the next year. The second is to wake up at home. It may sound funny to people, but I’m such a free spirit. For years I lived out of a back pack because although I had a home, I would often stay the night at friends’ homes or camping or where ever. I’m still sort of that way, I get distracted by all of the amazing experiences life offers, but I know that if I don’t wake up at home where my office and workshop is, I’m not likely going to get any work done that day.
Is there any advice you would have for someone looking to start their own business doing something they are passionate about?
Follow your heart. Period. You need to get really good at listening to your inner voice. I make a lot of decisions that don’t seem to make sense to other people and perhaps go against mainstream business advice but at the end of the day it is me that has to live the consequences. If something doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t matter why, I don’t do it and vice versa. Trust your instinct. Second, my personal preference, start small. That way you have the opportunity to make the mistakes, to learn about your internal navigational system without dire consequences. I had the opportunity to receive
a 30 thousand dollar grant when I was first starting out and I chose not to. I chose to build it organically. Yeah I made some decisions that weren’t that great in retrospect, but the consequences were pretty insignificant because I hadn’t invested thousands of dollars. It afforded me the chance to experience that learning curve. Now, when I make bigger decisions that cost 10 thousand dollars, it doesn’t really feel like a risk because I have so much more data, information and experience to back it up. If you build your business around the expression of your passion, of who you are you are more likely to succeed than if you are doing it solely for the money. The more money you’re going to invest initially, the more research you’re going to have to do, the more leg work before hand and the more left brained analysis you’re going to have to do to justify those risks and hopefully make decisions that will work out in your favor. I’m more of a feel-it-out-as-you-go kind of person.
For those of us who have started a business already, is there any advice you would have in general?
Again, get really good and listening to your internal navigation system. I really believe that is time well spent. After that, experiment and never fear asking questions! Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing. If you already have your own business, do you realize that you are already living someone else’s dream? Recognize it for what it is! Sure it can be a lot of work but if you can step aside and really recognize the great things about it, consistently be thankful for those things it does give you, you’ll move forward faster than you think. Besides, having your own business, starting from nothing, in my opinion is all about the journey. Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the creating, enjoy the diversity, enjoy the freedom it affords, find the reasons you’re doing this and enjoy them now, every day. Enjoy the process of learning, developing, growing. Enjoy it. Isn’t that the point?