Belle Terre is a husband and wife team based out of North Carolina. I came across them while searching Etsy.com for an eco-friendly bath and body product. Their prices were the first thing to catch my eye, as it was the most reasonable I had found so far. Then I fell in love with their handcrafted soaps and lip balms before I even placed and order. But it wasn’t until I found that this company donates a portion of their profits to local charities that I knew I had found a winner! Julia and Wayne were gracious enough to answer a few interview questions for me, when you’re done reading be sure to give their store a look!
TMSGN: What is the inspiration behind Belle Terre?
Belle Terre: The original source of Belle Terre was the desire to make our own products that Julia could use. She’s always had incredibly sensitive skin and store-bought soaps and lotions were not an option. We gave away a portion of our first few batches of soap as gifts and got lots of positive feedback. At the same time, we had made the decision that we wanted to change our lives. We are both in management positions - one in retail, one in medical - and we decided that our dream was to live together quietly and simply. We purchased 6 acres of land and began planning to change our lives. Belle Terre seemed like a perfect avenue to head toward our dream.
TMSGN: Your website states “ We want to prove that a small business can operate profitably while having no negative impact on the environment.” how does your business go about doing just that?
BT: We personally try to live a very eco-conscious lifestyle and made the decision to approach our business the same way. We minimize our impact on the environment in several ways. First, we use organic ingredients when available. We use recycled and / or recyclable packaging for all of our products. Finally, we buy carbon credits to help neutralize any carbon emissions we create while doing business.
TMSGN: What are the charities that you have donated to?
BT: When we started Belle Terre, we made the decision that from the beginning we would donate 5% of our sales to charity. In 2010 we donated to the Nature Conservancy’s Appalachian Adopt an Acre program. This program works with public and private partner’s to conserve 1.7 million acres of woodlands throughout Appalachia. In 2011, we put our charity choice to a vote and our facebook fans decided that our charity for this year should be United Family Services. This is a non-profit organization that assists individuals and families in crisis to work toward positive outcomes. They are currently building a new shelter for battered women and children. Our fans thought it would be neat to a project that we will be able to watch grow throughout the year. We totally agreed!
TMSGN: Are any of the ingredients in your products home grown? If so, what are they?
BT: When we started making our lip balm we were using wax from our two bee hives. As sales have grown our bees just couldn’t keep up, so at the moment nothing is home grown. We recently purchased 6 acres in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. Our plan is to transition to this location over the next few years and start growing some of the ingredients for our products. We also aim to expand our apiary in hopes of including our beeswax and honey in our products.
TMSGN: If you use any ingredients that you have not produced yourself , where do you get them from?
BT: Our primary supplier is Mountain Rose Herbs. This is an incredible company located in Oregon. The pay living wages, provide a wide variety of organic, fair trade and sustainably harvested products, support local charities and non-profits and much else. I really suggest that anyone who wants to think about how business should be done read what Mountain Rose Herbs is doing. It is truly inspiring!
TMSGN: What determines the scents you have chosen to use?
BT: There are a couple of guiding principles. First, we only use scents that can be derived from natural essential oils. We will not use any synthetic fragrance oils or absolute oils which are extracted using chemical solvents. The second principle is, “keep it simple”. You won’t find a lot of complex blends but rather, a variety of scents that represent some of nature’s most fragrant creations.
TMSGN: You recently made a change to your lotions by adding preservatives. Why did you decide to do this, what preservatives do you use and why did you choose it over others?
BT: Talk about a tough decision. We had some heated debates about this topic and even discussed not having lotions at all! We started out with all natural lotions but found that after a couple of months they were growing ickies and yuckies. The lotions are an ideal environment for bacterial growth and as soon as you introduce any bacteria (think dirty hands/fingers), they tend to thrive. Unfortunately, you can’t always see that bacteria, which means you could be rubbing it all over your skin and not even know it. We decided that we didn’t want to put our customers at risk. After a good bit of research we decided to use a paraben free preservative called Germall Plus. In each 2oz. container of lotion there is one tenth of one percent or .0025 ounces of this preservative which ensures safety and a longer shelf life. We felt strongly that a safe lotion that was 99.9% natural was a much better than many of the commercially available options.
TMSGN: Do you have any plans to expand your products outside the realm of bath and body products?
BT: Not at the moment. We think there is so much room for our own personal and professional growth and expression in this category that we don’t see the need to expand further.
TMSGN: Where do you see Belle Terre in the next five years?
BT: We don’t have a single goal but rather a range of visions. At a minimum, we would like to be able to generate enough income from Belle Terre to enable us to live a simple life on our little farm to be. We would love to set an example of what businesses can do to create change in its local community. Although not necessarily as much of a focus for us, it would be amazing to grow the business to affect change on a larger regional and even perhaps national level.
TMSGN: Can you tell us something good?
BT: ” Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.” from Walden, by Thoreau
….oh, and chocolate. Chocolate is always good.