Pismo Beach, California
Founder of Betty Butter
Photo Credit: @sunshineandreign
Years in Business: 7 months
What inspired you to start Betty Butter? Betty Butter was born out of need and just sort of took off organically. I never intended to start a business, but it became clear rather quickly that I was filling a gap not just for myself but for other surfers too.
I moved to California 2 years ago and started surfing every day. Between the daily sun, salt water and zinc I noticed my hair and skin was really taking a beating.
Although I was already formulating my own skincare, I thought I’d set to work on a solution! I had 2 criteria:
1. Natural formula with unrefined ingredients with zero, zilch, nada, no synthetics or chemicals whatsoever so I could feel good about the ingredients being on my body and in the ocean with me.
2. Had to be multi-functional and really good for both hair and skin as well as mother ocean. I didn’t want to complicate my day unnecessarily with something I had to wash out or let soak in before getting in the water.
Perfecting the blend of ingredients took a LOT of failures. Some were grease bombs, others didn’t absorb fast enough, one was WAY too smelly, others not smelly enough. When I finally got it dialed in, I made a jar for all my surf sisters as a gift. My hope was that they would replace their synthetic products and hair conditioners with natural, ocean friendly Betty Butter.
Well they loved it.
Then I made some for my boyfriend (also a surfer), and HE loved it, brought it to the fire station where he works and THEY loved it, too. Pink swirly mermaid label and all haha.
Orders were coming in by word of mouth from friends and family so in January this year I decided to put together a website to make it easier for people to order. Soon thereafter surf shops started asking about it and strangers started ordering it so here we are just 7 months in and growing like crazy!
What is Betty Butters’ mission statement? Create simple, multi-functional products that are nutrient dense and good for the earth.
What inspired this mission statement? Growing up in the age of media and perfect beauty images, the message received is that to look a certain way, to be beautiful, we need a lot of products. Toner, cleanser, masks, scrubs, moisturizer, lightener, tanner, blah…it’s so far from the truth. Beauty is conjured from within; our skin and hair are visual reflections of our health, and health is the result of a finely tuned balance of all 7 dimensions of wellness (social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual, and physical wellbeing). Beauty needs happy, it needs us to wear sunscreen and hats and drink lots of water and eat our veggies, stretch, laugh with our friends and play. Products should support our health and wellness, not be sold to us as the solution for all our skin and hair woes. Betty Butter is intended to be a complimentary element to these facets of wellness, not just another brand with a product we’re trying to sell.
Side tangent / PSA! Did you know that the beauty industry is one of the least regulated industries? Cosmetics companies are not required to list every single ingredient nor are they required to list the ingredients in order of quantity (for quantities of 3% or less). That leaves a lot of us guessing what’s actually in there. Further, there is no industry definition for “natural” or “organic” so many companies get to define what these mean for themselves and sell products to consumers who believe they’re getting a 100% natural or organic product. Did you know that most lotions contain water or aloe as a base ingredient? Does your favorite product have water AND oil? Go ahead and check! It’s important to know, because ALL products that have water are preserved (ew, mold); Did you find some oil in your ingredients list? Then you’re also slathering emulsifier along with it, and this is where a lot of the synthetic and chemical-laden ingredients come into play.
Ok! Back to our regularly scheduled program!
What are some challenges you have overcome in starting this business? Oh gosh haha so many in the beginning.
Branding: I super struggled on inclusion, how to brand Betty Butter for all races and all genders. It took about 4 (expensive) iterations of colors and designs before finally getting there. This was the biggest hurtle since the original Betty Butter was a light pink label with swirly mermaid. Funny we get attached to things we think are our babies haha.
Shipping: every jar costs $7+ to ship domestically, and that’s the cheapest I can get it. I’m still struggling solutions and trying to absorb as much of the shipping cost, not passing it on to my customers. This is an ongoing saga unfortunately and I know I’m not the only one with this challenge.
Packaging: Minimums are a bear when starting out. It’s non-sensical to order 5000 of something in the beginning because I know from experience that I have to be agile and pivot as my customers give feedback and I learn of better ways to package. My cost is higher and I don’t have access to the exact packaging solution I want because of those minimums but what I ended up with is great and I’m really happy with the eco- ocean-friendliness of it.
How does your relationship to the ocean inspire you in creating your business? We use so many products as surfers, and we have control over what we bring with us into the water. I think sometimes as consumers we don’t always think about what we’re buying and our impact.
There is an opportunity here for Betty Butter to help solve for some of these problems and it’s always at the forefront when I’m sitting on my board “ok what can I do to educate on X or what can I do promote Y”
In what ways are you striving to be a more ocean-friendly company? Plastic free shipping, recyclable / reusable packaging, beach cleanups, toxin free ingredients, supply chain selection (we buy products from women-owned businesses where we can but more importantly, businesses that use sustainable methods for producing their raw materials).
What are your main obstacles in running an ocean-friendly company? I’m always striving to perfect the supply chain and make sure that what I buy comes from a supplier with ethics aligned to my business, but it’s pretty time consuming doing the research, interviewing the company and digging into their practices. It’s easy for companies to compromise their standards to get a better price or cool look but it’s more important to me that I get the sustainability part right. It sets a good example for other small businesses and though an amber glass jar isn’t how I envisioned packaging my product, it aligns best with my business ethics.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of your business? Community! Hands down. The support I’ve received and had the opportunity to give has been the most beautiful reward. I feel proud knowing that what I’m making not only supports and promotes health and wellness. Helping people feel good and part of something is the mark of success to me.
As both ocean lovers and consumers, what do you think our main priorities should be? We have a long way to go in reducing consumption. We have a long way to go in changing the surf industry image of women and people of color in surf. We have a long way to go in cleaning up our beaches.
Starting with these, through education, setting examples, supporting ethically-aligned businesses and consumers, I think we can make a great big dent even as small business owners.
What is your big vision for the future? Elimination of chemicals from our skin and haircare, reduce consumption, overall health and wellness to promote a new beauty standard (healthy is the new beautiful 😊), empowerment of girls and women in the water through promotion of events, supporting dedicated groups and being present out there!