It’s been more than twenty years since Kibby and her husband, Jay, started providing natural ingredients to the world through From Nature With Love. We felt like this milestone was a great excuse to sit down with Kibby and chat a little bit about her journey as an entrepreneur and business owner. Join us as we delve into Kibby’s story, and learn how From Nature With Love went from a one-room operation to being one of the nation’s leading suppliers of high quality ingredients to the skin care, aromatherapy, spa and craft industries.
What inspired you to launch a wholesale personal care ingredient and supply company?
My first introduction to the distinction between “natural” and “synthetic” products or ingredients occurred when we sought allopathic treatment for our eighteen-month-old daughter’s severe eczema. Our pediatrician recommended slathering her with Eucerin eight times a day. The higher wisdom residing within me decided to take a much closer look at product ingredient labels. I still remember being alarmed when reviewing the list of ingredients, even though I really didn’t yet fully understand the good ingredients from the not-so-good ones.
Leaving the Eucerin on the shelf, I felt compelled to explore natural alternatives. I embarked on a journey that lead me to begin making homemade creams and cold process soaps. I immediately fell in love with handcrafted products and natural ingredients, but soon found myself with excess ingredients on hand.
Little did I realise at the time that selling my surplus to the members of soapmaking forums would lead to the birth of a thriving business.
What was your inspiration behind the name From Nature With Love?
Our original company name, From Nature With Love, reflects my undying reverence for the abundant medicinal gifts provided by Gaia.
Can you tell us about your first few years in business?
We first began by splashing up a pretty basic webpage on AOL in 1997. Jay and I started fulfilling our very first orders by packing and shipping them in the evenings after a full day’s work in my parents’ business in the Bronx. All of our inventory fit inside a small room in the corner of their warehouse. Everything was done by hand, and every call was answered by me with my two-year-old twins less than ten feet away.
There was something so exciting about being able to share these wonderful ingredients with people who were new to soap and toiletry making. I was inspired to stay up every night, tirelessly gathering information and searching for new ingredients so I could put together our first catalog.
Destiny soon called in our webmaster, Tina Harshbarger, who created our first real website in 1998. After the printing and mailing of our first catalog, FNWL took off.
We suddenly found ourselves requiring more assistance, and we began hiring our warehouse staff. Although we were years away from creating our office policies and employee handbooks and were at least a decade away from providing Certificates of Analysis or organic ingredients, we were in love with natural skincare and were determined to help transform the industry. To this day, we are tremendously blessed to have a staff that approaches each day as if we’re just beginning. Our enthusiasm for change and improvement never fades.
What was your mission when you founded the company? Has that mission changed over the past twenty years?
Our mission was simple; we wanted to source the best quality ingredients and support our customers by providing competitive pricing, convenient sizing, fair policies and as much evidential information as possible. Our mission regarding product quality and customer satisfaction has never changed. It has been the driving force behind our product qualification system, our quality management system and our customer service ideology.
What has changed and evolved is our awareness regarding our responsibilities towards our employees and our environment. Over the years, our mission has expanded to include a commitment to creating a caring work environment that fosters employee happiness and a strong commitment to sustainable, environmentally-friendly practices. By infusing every business process with the highest integrity and holding each member of our team to their highest integrity, we strive to realise our mission every day.
In 2005, you formally changed your company name from From Nature With Love to Natural Sourcing and then established From Nature With Love as a trademarked brand under Natural Sourcing. Can you tell us why?
As our business grew, we began to serve both smaller artisanal businesses as well as much larger personal care manufacturers. We learned that we needed slightly different business models to best assist both types of customers and we realised that we needed a more suitable name to attract larger professional artisans and manufacturers. Jay and I decided to establish Natural Sourcing to better serve the unique and special bulk needs of our largest manufacturing customers while transitioning our original company name, From Nature With Love, to instead act as a trademarked brand name.
Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?
If I could turn back the clock and make a correction to our past practices, it would be in the area of human resources. It took us years to learn a few simple things: Be clear about the job description, ask the right questions during the interview process, conduct a second interview if necessary, take the time to evaluate both the training process and employee performance, provide performance feedback, reward excellence as soon as possible, develop an employee handbook, and don’t be afraid to let go of an employee who consistently under performs or lacks work ethics. It’s very easy to ruin a happy work environment when we fail to address poor performance issues or fail to fit a person’s skills with the position. We have improved significantly in these areas, and we see the benefits of putting in the effort to do so.
You founded the company alongside your husband, Jay Basu, who is also the COO. What is it like having a business partner that is also your spouse? Do you have any insight to share with other husband and wife teams?
I think any husband and wife team would agree that there are pros and cons to having your spouse as your business partner. However, the cons can be managed with mindfulness. The pros are obvious if you both love your business and if your skillsets complement each other to bring balance to the overall process. For example, I play a more important role in quality management, certification management and process design. Jay’s strengths lie in sourcing, pricing, purchasing and business logistics. It’s also convenient that business matters can be discussed over dinner, while running errands together, or at any time that ideas arise.
On the downside, you can easily find yourself constantly working or boring the kids with business discussions. It requires the establishment of boundaries to make sure the business doesn’t take over your family life. It’s important to be mindful when a business starts to create tension within the family and to find healthy ways to diffuse that tension. When kept in balance, there is probably no greater reward than to partner in business as you do in life and raise your business as you do your children – with great joy and love.
Tell us a little bit about the rest of your team. What role has your employees played in making Natural Sourcing what it is today?
Our staff family has played an enormous role in what Natural Sourcing is today. Our success, our reputation and our daily growth is a culmination of efforts made by each individual who comes to work everyday with the desire to offer their best.
Everyone is encouraged and expected to play a role in process evolution by making recommendations for improvement. Their input is what creates a dynamic growing system. I often stand by the window upstairs in our office, taking in the sight of people working around me in the office and below, on the warehouse floor. I can feel the flow of effort and intention, and I marvel at the beauty of our role in the world of holistic skin care. As a conscious company, we connect reputable, eco-conscious growers and ingredient manufacturers to quality-conscious customers and end users while also employing a talented group of people who show up consistently to fulfil the processes required to be who we are. It’s a beautiful thing!
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect would have to be my freedom to play! I have more flexibility to choose where I want to place my focus. That means I can choose to analyse an existing process and establish a more efficient method, I can devote time towards searching for new natural ingredients that show promising benefits, I can drop in with employees to inquire about their personal lives and personal development, or I can choose to gift myself with a day of personal time. No two days are ever the same, and every day is dedicated to a creative process. Even when I take time for myself, I use that time to tune into the lightworker or the creative artist in me because it’s always about what I have to give to the world. My dad always said to me, “Be your own boss; build your own company.” While I am deeply grateful for my own freedom, I am also very blessed and honoured to have amazing people who trust us with their 9-to-5 happiness. Jay and I believe that if you are happy at work, that happiness and ease overflows into your personal life and vice versa. Therefore, being an entrepreneur means that I get to contribute to the wellbeing of our planet in many, many ways.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is just starting out?
This is an exciting question as our 22-year-old daughter, Erinn, is just about to launch her own business, Gilly’s Garden.
Make sure that you love your product or service enough to be obsessed with it, and make sure that you want it to be a huge part of your lifestyle and personal contribution to the world. It should be a natural extension of who you are as a person. It’s also important that you have a strong guiding mission statement to frame your objectives. Review and revise your mission statement occasionally as needed to make sure that it is still aligned with your professional and personal goals.
Establish strong work ethics and organisational skills from the beginning or you will soon find yourself overwhelmed. Know how to seek help in areas that are not your forte, and know how to identify your resource needs. Audit your own systems and processes, and always strive to prevent problems so you don’t have to correct problems after they happen. Turn every mistake into a learning opportunity!
After twenty years in this industry, how large of a role does natural and handmade skin care play in your everyday life? Do you still make your own products at home?
We’ve built our lifestyle around wholesome food, healthy skin care, alternative medicine and practices that nourish us. I love using pure vegetable oils, such as passionfruit seed oil or rose hip seed oil on my face and body instead of moisturisers and I hardly use much else for moisturisation. Whipping up a quick scrub or a batch of lip balm for the family is still exciting to me, especially when it means experimenting with new ingredients! While I’m no longer able to find time to make my own soaps, I’m always excited to support mindful, knowledgeable artisans and manufacturers by trying their products.
What’s next for FNWL? Do you and Jay have any specific goals for the next twenty years?
Jay and I tend to live in the moment, and with all the growth that we are experiencing right now with Natural Sourcing, it’s difficult to make plans for the future. All of our focus is taken up by what’s happening right now and to be honest, even if we tried to create a five year plan, we know the plans would have to change to accommodate the unforeseeable. What we do know is that we will always strive to embody the principles of conscious living and we will continue allowing our understanding of health and happiness to overflow into every inch of our lives.
Many thanks to Kibby, for sharing her story with us, and for making this blog possible! We’re excited to see what the next twenty years has in store for Jay, Kibby, From Nature With Love, Natural Sourcing, and The Natural Beauty Workshop. Photo credits: Pam Einerson