Today we are interviewing lovely local mama Henrieta from Charlotte's Bum Butter and we are asking about the story behind her delicious product that works wonders on the delicate baby skin.
- We love hearing the stories of how small companies began. Can you tell us a little bit more about your story that lead to the creation of Charlotte?
It is really amazing what our children inspire us to. I was content with working on my commercial photography business and making my own cosmetics for my personal use. I have always been a bit of a granola. LOL But in all honesty as I planned pregnancy and researched all the little things nobody can tell you, I gave up on dying my hair and wearing nail polish first. I started learning some very interesting things about the cosmetics we put on our skin and stocked up on some diaper cream in Europe on my trip to visit my family before the baby was born.
And then a friend of mine introduced me to cloth diapers and I never looked back. It was such a perfect system and they were literally growing with the baby. It was a few hundred dollars investment initially and diligent washing throughout her diapering time, but in the long run we saved tons on money and I will be passing the cloth diapers we used on to another baby. When I purchased the cloth diapers I realized I wasn't going to be able to use the products I got in Europe, they were made with Zinc Oxide and would ruin the cloth diapers. On top of everything, when Charlotte was born, she was beautiful, absolutely perfect, except for the three different types of skin problems that developed within days making me feel like a horrible mother. Raw, red, painful looking creases under her armpits and on her neck, cradle cap and baby acne. My God! How come I never knew to expect any of this! I tried Emu oil, Calendula oil, Coconut oil, nothing was helping. My sweet sisters sent me tons of products and my husband brought some from the store, but being a granola mama, I looked at ingredients lists and scrutinize everything. One by one all of those products ended up in garbage and I headed for my kitchen.
I used raw cocoa butter on my belly to prevent stretch marks while I was pregnant and loved it! I fully admit to being a chocoholic. I decided to use it as a base for a diaper cream for Charlotte and soften it with some healthy virgin cold pressed oils I had in my kitchen. The results were great and I gifted a few jars of it to my mama friends. In the hours of my sleepless nights of soothing my sweet baby and nursing her I kept researching and learning as much as i could about great ingredients and I got really smitten by aromatherapy. The process of refining Charlotte's Bum Butter began, and alchemy in the kitchen has always been my passion, so learning more about creating more complex cosmetics than I was used to making was a great way to keep my mind sharp and keep creating, which seems to be a necessity for my personal happiness. I made an order of great ingredients and tested different batches with different volumes of this and then that, saved samples and tried it all over again with different ingredients and ratios, it was a very cold winter and a good time to spend it with my baby in my arms while experimenting in the kitchen.
When Charlotte was about 4 months old, she started developing eczema on her cheek and it was spreading fast. No amount of massaging with oil or adding moisture to the air was helping. I tried salts in her bath, chamomile tea, the Emu oil, beef tallow and the eczema kept on spreading. I added more healthy fats to my diet and still no change. I really dove into studying aromatherapy and again experimented and tested. It really is an agony watching your child suffer with any illness. I asked Charlotte's doctor and he prescribed steroid cream. For me, steroids on a small, few month old baby is a drastic treatment and I thought I'd keep trying and reserve the cream from the doctor for an emergency. I mixed up another batch of Bum Butter with a blend of essential oils and kept on buttering up my sweet baby diligently several times a day. And incredibly, the fresh and great quality butters and oils I used started to have an impact. The feedback from our friends was great and my husband suggested that I start selling it. And that's how the next stage of researching best packaging and then designing the products and the container they will be housed in began.
The whole process from my first batch to the launch of this little business took two years. Two busy years of learning and testing, while maintaining few photography clients and being a full time mom. I would not have it any other way! It felt like we were creating something together, me and my sweet daughter, which is possibly the best part of the whole experience.
2. How has Charlotte's evolved since then?
We launched Charlotte's at the Baby show at the beginning of October last year. Few months ago. And the response so far has been fantastic! We have 11 stores carrying it now and monthly ordering more, our online shop is busy with sales and costumer reviews are coming in. I get emails from moms asking questions about what to bathe their babies in and how to deal with their tired, often dehydrated skin suffering with hormonal changes soon after giving birth. From personal experience I know how pressing these issues feel and how frustrating they can be. And learning more about cosmetics and about how to make great products without the use of fillers and dangerous ingredients has become a bit of a mission. I have started studying natural cosmetic formulation and hope to get my aromatherapy certification this coming summer.
Charlotte's Bum Butter is a wonderful start, but I would love to create a line of products for new moms and their sweet babes, to ease their minds about using safe ingredients and performing really well on the skin.
Charlotte is a huge inspiration. Charlotte's Bum Butter was created out of necessity, because of my outrage at the cheap fillers and dangerous ingredients that many companies often use in products for babies. Using mineral oil on skin may have been the thing to do when we were babies, but science has taught us so much in the recent years that there really is no reason to risk our and our babies health in the name of saving a few dollars. Having a child really shifts your perspective. Minding the environment has always been a part of my life, but now I have a child I need to help to keep this Earth safe and clean for and I do as much as I can to leave as small of an environmental footprint as possible. It is a huge challenge in today's world and that's why I care about where I source ingredients from and how are our products packaged.
Babies are born into the world after spending time in water and having blood with nutrients pumped into their bodies from their mothers through placenta. Their organs need time to develop after birth. That's why they need milk to start and only after months can their digestive tracts take any solids. The same goes for their skin, which is 5 times as absorbent as the skin of adults. Assuming that the same products that are fine for our skin is just fine for a baby is expecting too much. I wanted to create something that was so pure you could eat it! Literally! I believe in respect and treating even the smallest of babies as I would adults. It is important to me to teach my daughter as much as I can about her body and instill confidence in her from the very beginning. We have always done everything for her together. Diaper changes in our house have never been filled with stress. Even as menial of a job as a diaper change can become quality time if you involve your baby in it. Charlotte loved getting her hands on everything I touched and passing the necessities to me during bathing or diaper changing had become her job early on and she loved it. As babies do, she would grab a lid and take it right into her mouth, so rather than battling her for it, I made sure whatever is on the lid can safely go into her mouth. Over time she wanted to apply the butter herself and these days she not only takes care of her own skin, she likes to help mama too! And I have a mini massage therapist giving my feet nightly massages! Well, almost! As great as a two year old can possibly muster.
Charlotte's Bum Butter smells like a dessert. It is made of all edible ingredients and safe for even the smallest babies. I think it's really funny that we all have or had pet names for our children that most often reflect a food we love to eat. Buttering up a baby's skin then is like frosting a cupcake. And I felt like the packaging should communicate that idea and the luxurious product inside. Giving it the packaging of vintage European sweets felt like a natural fit. And I wanted to create something for moms, the babies don't care about that part after all!
But I am inspired by my customers daily! I love instagram and building a community on that platform and I love seeing how other mothers do the hardest job of all, the job of raising their babies. We often forget in our sleep deprived haze and exhaustion that living with small children are really the golden years of our lives.
4. Tell us 5 things that people do not know about you.
I grew up in socialism and because our parents lived in fear of saying something that may incriminate them, they were very serious about any jokes we came home from school with. They listened to Free Europe radio station that was banned in our garage in secret and never mentioned anything that was said out loud. It taught me to be a very private person, which in the age of social media is a rarity.
My profession over the past 15 years has been commercial photography, but I studied nursing and after finishing school hoped to continue to study medicine. My life took a different turn after the Velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia which I witnessed as a teen. The huge unemployment and lack of resources in my family led me to travel with my sister to Germany and later to Canada, where my next passion, art, took over and I pursued it as much as I could while working as a nanny.
It kind of feels like my life has taken one big circle and is leading me back to my early adulthood experience in the medical field and child rearing, but photography is still a huge part of marketing this little company and I really enjoy all the different challenges it offers.
I may have given away the chocoholism that has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. It was fueled by my mother's business I spent my days after school helping her in. My mother used to be a renowned baker and confection and cake decorator in our town. I can tell you that many people tried to copy her creations and the beautiful way she was able to finish them in, but until this day, none has been as successful or skilled. I worked alongside my mother and worked hard to help her out, in the failing economy of early democracy we were creating it was a real challenge. Perseverance and faith were the only fuel she had and I really admired her dedication and love to her craft. My older sister knows the full extent of my love for chocolate and sends me really heavy care packages from Germany full of chocolate bars! I love my sister!
I have four siblings and Charlotte's cousins from just my family alone live in three different countries, none of which is in North America. I have spent many hours skyping with them and maintaining relationships with my brother and my three sisters and their beautiful children. The distance is very tough, but I love Canada and it is my home now. I am so proud to be raising my daughter to be Canadian and I hope that she feels the same pride when she grows up.
5. What are the greatest lessons you have learned from your family?
Love and support are not replaceable. Faith and trust in your children makes all of the difference. Time spent with those you love can't be replaced by things or money and neither is health. And children are our biggest treasure and should be treated as such.
6. What are your plans in the near future?
I am deep in studies right now learning to formulate natural cosmetics. And this is inspiring me to research and work towards a luxurious line to pamper new moms. Educating women about the importance of what they put on their skin when they plan having babies and really at any time will be a long term project, but making Charlotte's Bum Butter accessible to as many babies as possible is at the top of my list of priorities.
Building a business from scratch is always very involved and time consuming and doing it on your own while raising a twonager full time is not a walk in the park. But I am enjoying the process and also loving all the new friendships I have gained in the process. Friendships with mothers around the world! Right now I am working with a new mama and a dermatologist living in Croatia on a skin line for new moms, researching, formulating and testing. It is time consuming, but also very rewarding and I wouldn't have it any other way. Charlotte is my little sidekick and she is learning from watching her mama to love and be passionate about her work, to never stop learning and getting to know new people. She is there right beside me when I mix tinctures and measure ingredients to formulate with and test. She is right next to me when I cook and we bake together weekly. I dedicate a lot of my time to her and feel that this is the most important job of my life. Soon enough my sweet girl will be old enough to make her own friendships and go to school and I don't want to miss a beat. I will step on the gas pedal and go full throttle with Charlotte's once the little girl who inspired it is too busy to spend her days with her mama, but for now for the next little while that will pass too fast and will be over before I know it, I want to make sure to have my focus on my little inspiration, my sweet treasure, my little strudel I love to butter up and cuddle to sleep.