When you launch an innovative product, most people won’t immediately recognize or even know what you are selling. You will need to do a massive amount of consumer education and continue to do so all the time as you reach new customers. When I began Blue Heron Botanicals, many consumers still did not understand the full environmental impact of the beauty industry’s plastic packaging. Creating the product was not sufficient without educating customers about the underlying issues.
As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Theora Jackson, a 15-year veteran horticulturalist and founder of Blue Heron Botanicals — a certified organic, all-natural lip and skin therapy brand — is a small business owner and pioneer in sustainable natural beauty. Rooted in a reverence for Mother Nature, Blue Heron Botanicals adheres to the highest standards of sustainability, with locally sourced ingredients, solar-powered manufacturing facilities, and 100% plastic-free compostable and reusable packaging. With a built-in charitable initiative, the brand takes its commitment to the environment one step further, donating a portion of each purchase to the Billion Baby Turtles Initiative and saving one baby turtle with every product sold.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Blue Heron Botanicals is a passion project rooted in my youth spent living in the Lake Champlain Islands of Vermont. Growing up in a quaint island town nestled between the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont II learned the importance of responsible and sustainable living at a young age.
While studying Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont, I had the opportunity to intern with a local Burlington based herbalist where I focused my studies on herbs for skincare and began to create small batch salves and balms. I gravitated towards these types of products due to seasonal harsh weather and a need within my own family for a remedy.
Developing my Wound Warrior balm and later the lip therapy line, I got my start selling these products at farmers markets, craft fairs and festivals. In the spring of 2015, I decided I wanted to turn this side hustle into a viable business. I believed I had crafted a product line that people needed and one that filled a void in the market. At that time, the beauty and wellness industry had become saturated with so-called “natural, clean and green” products. I knew I had created authentic, higher quality products that true natural beauty fans would appreciate. At this time, I had also become hyper aware of the growing plastic pollution problem (hello Great Pacific Garbage Patch!) and the dichotomy between these “green” products and their packaging. If I was going to offer my products on a larger scale, I had to remain mindful of its carbon footprint and was determined to raise my business to the highest level of sustainability. Blue Heron Botanicals uses only organic and sustainably sourced ingredients, zero waste & plastic free packaging and gives back to an environmental cause I am passionate about.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Blue Heron Botanicals mission is to create products using the highest quality ingredients in small batches to ensure potency, quality and effectiveness. Whole herbs are handpicked and infused into organic oils using the warmth and energy of the sun. Only natural preservatives are used ensuring that our products are fresh, safe, and good for your skin. Each blend utilizes superior quality medicinal herbs, essential oils and carrier oils selected for their unique healing qualities. Our products are formulated to encourage the skin’s natural ability to heal itself. We are committed to reducing the use of plastic within the natural body care industry and utilize innovative eco-friendly packaging.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Blue Heron Botanicals uses 100% compostable, biodegradable paper balm tubes made from post-consumer waste paper, replacing more commonly used plastic tubes and tins. They provide excellent product protection and are convenient to use. The paper eco-friendly squeeze lip balm tubes are smooth and tapered and are made from post-consumer waste paper, a preferred alternative to typical lip balm tubes made from petroleum plastics. The fitted caps as well as the tubes are constructed with a naturally coated (not plastic), oil resistant paper barrier appropriate for our all natural lip balm recipes.
Paper is the most successfully recycled post-consumer material, is inherently carbon neutral and is easily composted, making it the most sustainable packaging material available today. Grease resistant paper packaging often contains Fluorocarbons (PFCs) PFOA and PFOS, which have been shown to be persistent chemicals, both in the environment and in human tissue. Blue Heron Botanicals paper lip balm tubes contain NO fluorinated chemicals and utilize a naturally grease resistant biodegradable adhesive and tree free sugar cane fiber that is suitable for home composting. Additionally, Blue Heron Botanicals tubes do not contaminate products with phthalates, bisphenols (BPA) or other chemicals found in plastics that are raising widespread health concerns about commonly used plastic packaging.
Blue Heron Botanicals lip balm tubes weigh 1.7 grams and are made in the USA making their carbon footprint minimal. The larger 1 oz skin balm tubes are slightly more common, featuring a push up design and made from a blend of 60%/40% recycled paper and FSC virgin paper. The inside is coated with a plant-based wax that makes them oil resistant and home compostable. These larger tubes as well as all labeling are also made in North America.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Today’s consumers are and should continue to be more mindful of their carbon footprint, including the brands they choose to patron. A key component of our brand is to educate beauty brands and their customers about the ways they can establish more sustainable manufacturing and purchasing practices. This mission reverberates and is relevant across all industries and should increasingly become the norm rather than a revolving trend.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- When you launch an innovative product, most people won’t immediately recognize or even know what you are selling. You will need to do a massive amount of consumer education and continue to do so all the time as you reach new customers. When I began Blue Heron Botanicals, many consumers still did not understand the full environmental impact of the beauty industry’s plastic packaging. Creating the product was not sufficient without educating customers about the underlying issues.
- Social media IS all it’s cracked up to be and one of the best ways to build your audience. For small businesses like mine, social media is an invaluable tool and a way to build and stay engaged with your customers, partners and other like-minded brands.
- Selling is dynamic and always changing. A formula that worked for someone else may not work for you. Figure out where your customers get their information, what messages resonate with them and ways they shop. Be flexible and adapt your business model.
- If you want to actually make money as an entrepreneur, you have to invest time. A lot of it.
- No one is ever going to be as excited or passionate about your business as you. You will have to be your own cheerleader most of the time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Before she died my grandmother was very excited about my business. She saw that I had written a plan and knew I was serious and made a point to ask me about it every time I talked to her. No one else has ever done that. It was the support I needed at the time to keep going and has kept up my motivation even after her passing.
I also made valuable connections with local entrepreneurs in my area. Finding a mentor who has experience with several businesses has been so helpful. Again, giving me the motivation to do things that I might have never done otherwise. For me having a little sense of accountability or someone to report to helped me keep moving forward and stay focused.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
This is a huge question, but the first thing that popped into my mind was kindness. The world more than ever needs more kindness. I am thinking back to those stickers that used to say “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty”, the world needs more of that right now. Kindness to ourselves, each other, the earth and all its inhabitants. If we could shift our collective consciousness to more kindness I think we could reduce the amount of suffering in the world today.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“You never know.” This has become my own mantra and helps me deal with all the uncertainty of life while at the same time embracing the here and now. You never know what each day will bring. You never know when something tragic or miraculous will happen. Planning can help, but life will always throw you curveballs. This is how we learn and grow. It also helps me appreciate what I have in front of me and allows me to enjoy the seemingly mundane even if just for a brief moment. It is a personal reminder to focus on living my best life because it is indeed a journey and can go in any direction I choose…..or not! Learn, adapt, enjoy the process.
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?