One of our newest brands, Bestowed Essentials, comes with a a wonderful story. Callee, a self proclaimed hippie, began her soap-making journey in 2016, after she found a handmade soap that helped her with her own acne struggle and wanted to research more! Since then, she’s not only created a beautiful line of skin and body care (with plastic-free packaging, woot woot!), but she’s also become a role model in the world of zero waste. Learn more about Callee’s story in our interview below, and catch a never-before-seen exclusive scoop about the future of Bestowed Essentials!
What inspired you to start making soaps?
I was first inspired to make soap after I tried a bar of handmade soap from a gift shop in New Orleans, LA and found that it helped clear the acne I’d been struggling with for over a decade. This led to me doing research into natural ingredients, and I was horrified to learn how many toxic + dangerous chemicals were in my everyday skincare routine. Once I got the hang of soapmaking, it became a really enjoyable hobby for me, and I soon had way more soap than I’d ever be able to use so I started selling it on Etsy and at the local farmer’s market. From there, my product line, and the business itself, has grown into what now enables me to travel the country and spread my passion for ethical + eco-friendly living.
You’ve put a lot of intention into your packaging! What’s been the biggest struggle in seeking out sustainable packaging for your beauty products, and what’s been your biggest accomplishment in that?
The biggest struggle in finding sustainable packaging has been seeing through greenwashing. It’s not enough for me that a material “can be” recycled, I also want it to already be made from post-consumer recycled materials itself. There have been some compromises that I’ve had to make, unfortunately, when it came down to choosing packaging made here in the US with only some recycled content, versus importing higher recycled content materials from overseas with a higher carbon footprint. My biggest accomplishment in regards to my packaging has been reaching 100% plastic-free packaging, for both products + shipping.
Some people worry that natural ingredients might not be as effective as chemical ones. What’s your experience?
Everyone’s experience will be different, because everyone’s body is different. In my personal experience, I have found much success with using natural skincare products, as well as eating natural, unprocessed foods, because what we put IN our bodies matters just as much as what we put ON it. I’ve had acne for nearly 15 years, and after having tried every drugstore brand, multiple topical prescriptions, and birth control pills, what worked best for me has been natural ingredients.
What’s your favorite item in the Bestowed Essentials collection?
Oh that’s such a difficult question to answer! My business is my life, I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into it. But the product that brings me the most delight to create are my Face Toners, because I love to see the sunlight shine through the glass containers, they remind me of liquid gold. Plus, they’ve been lifesavers for my skin when traveling rapidly through different climates! My can’t-live-without item is my Charcoal + Mint Tooth Powder, though. I could theoretically give up my skincare routine, but oral hygiene is so vital to your overall wellness.
You have a strong zero-waste focus in your brand. What got you started into living zero waste?
The zero waste movement only became a part of my life recently, at the end of 2017. Ever a documentary lover, I came across A Plastic Ocean on Netflix, and it literally changed my life overnight. I made an immediate vow to myself to significantly reduce the amount of plastic that I use, which led me to Googling “how to live zero waste“, and absorbing everything I found online.
As I began documenting my unique zero waste journey while living + traveling the US in a van on Instagram, I not only discovered a wonderful community of people who motivate me, but I found myself being seen as a role model for others who were inspired by my lifestyle. It has become such a passion of mine, that I now run a blog, podcast + FB group to help others live an ethical + eco-friendly life.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in zero waste?
Remember: progress over perfection! We live in a linear economy, not a circular economy, so it’s impossible to actually be “zero” waste. It’s all about doing the best you can, when you can. Small steps DO make a big difference.
What’s something that somebody might not know about the soap making process?
Soapmaking is both a science + an art. If you’re interested in trying it, do so! And try real soapmaking too; not fake melt + pour kits. Lye isn’t something to be afraid of if you handle it responsibly! But soapmaking can get addicting, and you’ll probably wind up with way more than you can ever use, haha.
What are you most excited about in the world of sustainability?
I’m excited that more and more people are becoming aware of what a massive crisis plastic pollution is! I hope that once enough consumers make their voices heard, that large industries will change their business practices, because the rate at which we’re currently going is not sustainable whatsoever.
What’s your favorite quote?
There are so many quotes that inspire me daily. “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.” “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only you remember to turn on the light.”
What does the future look like for Bestowed Essentials?
Okay, I haven’t shared this with anyone yet, but frankly, Bestowed Essentials has been rapidly outgrowing my van, so early next year, I will be spending a few months in South Dakota to set up a warehouse and hire my first full-time employee to take over production for me. It was a hard decision, especially as a perfectionist, feeling like no one can do it as well as I can, or love it as much as I do, but I realized that I am holding back the potential of Bestowed Essentials, and this is the right decision to make for both the business, and myself, so that I can focus more energy on helping people live an ethical + eco-friendly life!