Worker B is one of those companies that really is awesome - and I mean awesome. It is hard to put into words how great they are. What makes them great? They are producing an incredible line of skin care products, hand crafted, without any fillers. Let me give you a glimpse into Worker B and the people behind it and why their stuff is so wonderful.
I had the pleasure to speak with Michael S. a while back, one-third of the Worker B team. Here is a bit of our conversation…
So, who is Worker B?
Well, there are three of us: Liesa, her brother, and me. Liesa comes from a culinary background; Liesa’s brother, Michael H., is an engineer; and my background is in women’s ready to wear, so I am familiar with manufacturing and marketing. Our life and how we grew up definitely played an influential role in what we are doing today. All three of us grew up with families who had big gardens and a love of being outside. But, it all started with Liesa. Liesa was a pastry chef for quite a while and wanted to work more outside – and took a job with a local beekeeper. Needing additional help for the season, I started working with the same beekeeper. With all of the hand-washing/cleaning involved with cooking and being a pastry chef, Liesa had developed water-based eczema and other forms of dermatitis. After working with beeswax and pouring (lots of) beeswax candles, Liesa noticed a marked improvement in her skin’s condition. We then started making a couple of skin care products primarily for ourselves and as holiday gifts. From there, the honey producers at the Minnesota State Fair called, wanting to add our products to the collection of local honey. . .so we officially started Worker B!
We turned 3 years old as a company a couple of months ago. We are based in Minneapolis, MN and do craft fairs, farmers markets, and sell directly to retailers throughout the United States.
What was the catalyst in starting Worker B?
Not being satisfied with what was on the market and wanting to make it better. When you look at what is on the market and on the shelves, it is full of chemicals and just “stuff”. We wanted to pare down the ingredients and go from there.
What is the creative & development process? How do you come up with the products you have?
It takes a long time! And it takes a lot of research. From beginning to end, we do all the sourcing, development, manufacturing, and distributing. We start by making what we want to use. We ask ourselves what would make us happier with the existing products that are on the market. We begin combining ingredients, using what we really want, to make the best product we can. And then we use it ourselves (along with a group of dedicated guinea pigs that will try anything). Liesa has very sensitive, or “dry”, skin. I do not. I have “oily”. It is all trial and error. Figuring out what works and what does not. The more we do it, the faster the process becomes. We understand better the proportions between solid & liquid.
If you had to sum up what defines Worker B, what would you say?
We make hardworking products for hardworking people. All the ingredients being used are necessary and have a purpose. The products are multifunctional and long-lasting.
I LOVE that your products have expiration dates. It makes sense, like the food we eat, that which we put on our bodies should expire too.
Really the expiration dates have to be put on there since we do not use preservatives. But it adds recognition that we are different. The production side has benefits & drawbacks. We have limited quantities on hand, because everything is made fresh in small batches.
As a company, what is one of the biggest challenges you have faced or do face continually?
Skin care has not really changed. So innovation and experimentation are vital. It is not really about what you make; it is about how you make it. We are trying to help people by using better ingredients and better formulation. We were one of the first companies doing this when we started. (It is good to be ahead of the curve.) People are starting to pay attention to what is in skin care. Like food, they are wanting a better alternative. The first thing people want to know is what is in the product. It is nice to see consumers paying attention to what they are putting on their skin, not just in their mouth. Men are starting to pay attention too – it is nice to see men picking up lotion. But, across the board, the average consumer is not ready. They are getting closer though. Education for the consumer is so important and getting better. It just takes time.
If you had to pick, what would you say your favorite product is?
- Face wash for oily skin – great all year
- Treatment stick
- Cream – with working and living in MN, my hands are pretty chewed up all the time
Right now I am all about the face!
Honey & the worker bee are obviously the essence of your products. How or where did your love of honey start?
Honey was always just something sweet. What changed it for me was doing a honey tasting. I started to understand the differences between clover, dandelion, etc. Like cheese and wine – there was a wide variety of honey. I was like “Wow! I really like honey.”
Do you have a favorite honey?
Hard to say – I like them all. Right now I would say buckwheat and basswood. Buckwheat is stout – chocolaty, malty. It is good for cooking stir fries and to glaze carrots. Or in winter, to drink with hot water. Basswood is a little lighter – minty, grassy, woodsy. I like to eat it on toast or yogurt with fresh berries. Pretty much you pair honey to what you are cooking or how you are using it. I would say that I am a bit of a collector of honey. I will pick up honey and give it a try to see how it can be used. I have been really excited to try New Zealand’s honey, since they have totally different flowers.
How much honey do you actually eat?
Probably a healthy couple of spoonfuls a day.
How do you eat it?
Just with a spoon while sitting on the couch. I usually have one spoonful mid-morning or afternoon and sometimes at night. (It is good for heartburn and indigestion.) Liesa eats it with yogurt or crème fraiche. She will also use a bunch in granola or baking. We don’t eat tons, but more than most people.
Now, educate us about honey…
The bigger picture: Honey is influenced by the flower, the region, and the bee. Raw honey is a snap shot of where and when. It is a taste of the region.
Local honey has lots of benefits, if not cooked out, from the natural flower pollen, bee pollen, and natural enzymes. Medicinally, honey has been used since the olden days on wounds. When honey hits the blood stream, it is said to react like hydrogen peroxide. Beeswax is an anti-inflammatory and blood circulator.
In the end, it is always important to know where your honey is coming from and how it is being cultivated.
So what kind of honey do you all use in you line of Worker B products?
We work with central Minnesota beekeepers (we prefer to work locally so that we can work along side them and see how they produce their honey and establish personal relationships). We make sure the beekeepers are using sustainable methods and have antibiotic and pesticide-free hives. We like to support beekeepers – it is important!
We need about 300-400 hives for our production. We also use honey from a Canadian group in Quebec. They are fantastic. Their process is right in line with what we are doing and believe in.
What can we expect next from you all at Worker B?
Candles just launched, as well as our own line of raw honey. Cleanser for hair is coming next. Just trying to expand the market to new areas. Lots of ideas – just not enough time to develop them all.
Who or what inspires you in this pursuit?
A friend in her 20′s recently moved to Africa and got into sustainable beekeeping. It was always her dream. I think that is pretty humbling and inspiring. (Ethiopian honey is supposedly delicious. I am excited to try it!)
You know – growing up – my dad always said “If you work hard, good things will happen.” It is a phrase that has stuck with me and I am putting into practice.
What have you learned through this or how have you been impacted personally?
It is fun doing what we are doing – stressful – but fun. It is neat to meet new people and travel to different places. I never thought I would be doing this. We did not set out to do this.
One thing I really appreciate is learning again – having to figure things out. We have to make all the decisions. Everything is starting from scratch. It is personally rewarding but not everyone is cut out for it. It is a good experience, being a little uncomfortable with new scenarios. We have to make this happen.
It is not about wishing for better, it is about doing better. And that is exactly what they are doing. Thanks Worker B!
I am a firm believer of knowing what you put into your body and trying to be as organic and natural as possible. But it does not stop there. We need to be as aware of what we are putting on our bodies.
My personal favorites:
*Photos by Worker B. Used with permission.