Meet Worker B

Worker B Poster

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.

At the market

Liesa and Michael S. at the market

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!

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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.

Worker B beekeeper

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.

New Honey Jars-A_MH

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.

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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.

A big thank you

Warning:  This post is like 6 months overdue.

So my friends from college and I do a Christmas gift exchange.  We draw names and have a little party and give each other gifts.  The majority of us live in the Dayton/Chattanooga area, but we have two “out-of-towners”.  This past year I picked an “out-of-towner”.   She had just moved to the Minneapolis area, so I decided perfect, I would give her a little sampling of gift certificates of places for her to explore.  Now I have never been to Minnesota, let alone Minneapolis.  Nowadays there is so much information out there when it comes to city guides and traveling.  However, I kind of like to know a bit about the source of information I am getting.  Thankfully Worker B, one of the great companies I buy from for Addiah, is based in the area.  I emailed them randomly and explained the whole situation and asked for recommendations.

Wow…I was so impressed with the fount of information I received.  It was such an extensive list to pick from and totally helped steer me in the right direction.  I did a little online research to pick which ones I thought looked good.  Final choices:

I started with Surdyk’s wine and cheese shop and tried to order a gift card online.  However, by law, they are restricted from shipping to Tennessee.  Even though I was just buying a gift card, I was not able to process an order online so I proceeded to call them.  I got off the phone so happy.  It sounds a bit crazy but the girl was just so friendly and helpful and it was a really pleasant experience.  I called Kopplin’s and Salty Tart and was falling for Minneapolis.  Everyone was so nice, sweet, and helpful.  Quality service does it for me every time.  Good customer service makes you like a place; great customer service makes you a loyal fan for life.  It might sound crazy, but after my experience dealing with everyone, Minneapolis has made it onto my top 3 cities that I want to take a trip to visit and explore next.  For anyone in the Minneapolis area or for anyone planning a trip, totally recommend going to these places.  I just hope your experience will be as pleasant as mine was!

And a big thank you to Liesa from Worker B, along with all the others for their help!

Kim Vorperian from Bodhi Basics

There is no doubt that Nashville is famous.  Most people associate it with music, but for me it is the restaurants, coffee shops, and Indie stores that make an impression.  I am always torn whether to revisit the places I love or to explore and find new ones.  In the end, though, I realize that I am most excited after a trip filled with new discoveries.  A visit to Nashville last month resulted in one such discovery.  I was delighted to meet Kim Vorperian, the owner and maker of Bodhi Basics, a small handcrafted soap business for people and their pups.

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Upon first meeting Kim, I was immediately struck with her sweet demeanor and her obvious desire to create beautiful and wonderful soaps.  Her passion was evident, not just for soap, but for a life lived well.  At 25, Kim is definitely living an inspiring life committed to creating “handcrafted, organic, sustainable and luxurious soaps that are fun, gentle, eco-conscious and junk-free.”  Everything is made by her hands with love, care, and most of all passion.   The result…unique, beautiful, and truly exciting soap.  Really.

Kim was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions…

So first, tell me a bit about yourself, your life, and how you got to where you are today.

Well, I am an artist, musician, and artisan soap maker.  I like to dance.  I wear size 7 ½ shoe. Giraffes are my favorite animals.

It’s been a winding road that led me to where I am today.  I guess it started with my dream of owning my own little community-centric bakery/café.  Somehow I finagled a job after college as the sole baker for a small specialty European deli in Wicker Park, a Chicago neighborhood – no idea how I pulled that off really.  I worked there for a bit, and to make a long story short, I ended up moving back to Florida where I discovered I had a pretty serious wheat allergy.   That put my baking career on hold.  So I changed courses, taught myself how to make soap, and here I am!

How would you describe yourself?

Remarkably charming, stunningly attractive, and humble as pie.   I’m just your average “Jane” really, trying to make ends meet with what skills I possess, learning new ones when the situation arises, and having fun adventures while doing so!

What does handcrafted mean to you?  Why is it important to you? 

The term “handcrafted” is a very important one for me.   I know when I pick up a product that is handcrafted there is a certain amount of pride, passion, and love that went into it.  Instead of bashing factory-produced goods, I focus my effort towards making an amazing product that gives my customers a feeling that they are cared about.  I think one-on-one connection is quickly losing its importance in society.  I like to think that supporting the handcrafted movement is a way of strengthening that loosening personal connection.

How does crafting soaps relate to your life?

It is a process with a learning curve.  The more genuine effort, hope, and passion you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

So what is the story behind the name Bodhi Basics?

Bodhi is the name of my notoriously entertaining rescue pup and best friend (as a “high-five” to all the shelter animals out there Bodhi Basics donates a percentage of its profits to our local animal shelter).  “Bodhi” is a Sanskrit term translated into English as enlightenment….I had high hopes for my little shelter pup.  The “Basics” part of our name applies to our process and materials.  We only use ingredients that are directly from the earth.  Organic herbs, flowers, essential oils and spices are what produce the color, scents, and textures of our soap.   My hands make them.  So “Bodhi Basics” is a company that draws attention to the true nature of getting back to the basics.  A little lofty for a soap company, yes, but why not?

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How do you come up with new soap combinations?  What is your creative process like?

My inspiration for new soap combinations usually comes from my daily experiences.  From the food I eat, to the smells I encounter, when I experience something good, I write it down.   The “Grapefruit & Sugar” bar and my “Spiced Pumpkin” bar are two examples of this.  I also focus on the medicinal and  healing properties of the essential oils I use.  Certain combinations can develop a potent bug repellant (like in the Backwoods Bar) or heal certain types of skin troubles, all smelling awesome at the same time!

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Who in life inspires you and encourages you in your pursuit? 

My friends and family are big factors, of course.  With that said, I recently worked as a studio assistant for an artist couple, Linda and John.  Linda makes gorgeously funky jewelry and John is a talented painter and also creates jewelry designs in his “down time”.   They have been incredibly inspirational and supportive of my life, art, and Bodhi Basics.  In addition to teaching me the ancient craft of metalsmithing, they demonstrated that it is possible to create a life for yourself that you love.  And that success can be achieved through passion, creativity, and hard work. They have been working together (as a couple) in the same small studio every day for years and years, which is inspiring to anyone who has ever been in a relationship, let alone one where you work together.  They have my respect for many reasons.  Plus they’re just dang cool.

What is the best advice you have received and how has it affected your business?

That the first few years will be difficult, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I think everyone who starts a business hears this, but it’s true and it’s important to keep in mind.

Apart from soap making, what does your life hold?

I like to do a lot of things: running, making music, drawing, dreaming, making food with my friends, going to the dog park with Bodhi.  I like to stay busy.  Up until recently, I was obsessed with the Game of Thrones book series.  Thankfully I have finished the books that are already written and can get back to L.B.G.O.T. or “Life Before Game of Thrones”.

What is essential in your day?

Dancing around like a goofball to my favorite tunes for 30 minutes a day.  Without that, I think I’d go crazy.  Sunlight and fresh air.  Some Bodhi tummy scratches.  A kale shake.  Laughing with a good friend or a complete stranger.  I’d say those are pretty essential.

What is your driving passion in life?

That one-on-one connection you experience with another sentient being.   Making that experience a pleasant and fulfilling one is what keeps me going.

How do you make your life more beautiful?

I’m pretty lucky that my line of work keeps my house smelling fabulous.  That’s a nice thing to wake up to every morning.  I like to do little things, like smile at people I walk by or pick up something someone dropped.  I think it’s a culmination of those little things that are going to make someone’s day a good one, whether they remember it or not.

So, a couple of random questions for you….If you could go anywhere, right now, where would it be?

Iceland, hands down.  The colors of the landscape there are just awe-inspiring.

What is the first thing you like to do in a new city?

Walk around.  I know it is a pretty simple answer, but I think there is no better way to get to know a city and experience its people, smells, and sights than just hitting the street one step at a time.

Where is the best restaurant you have ever been to?

Flo’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  I still dream about their breakfast.  Ethiopian Diamond in Chicago is an extremely close second, like  1 ½ place really.

Do you have any other dreams or passions that you hope to achieve?

I’ll be applying to grad school in the near future to try to get my MFA in Studio Art.  That is a dream.  Can I say world peace?  That would be nice.

What about your hope for Bodhi Basics?

WORLD DOMINATION!  Just kidding.  I hope that Bodhi Basics can make a few people and a handful of pups a little more comfy in their skin.   I hope to keep meeting as many awesome people as possible.  I sincerely believe Bodhi Basics has one of the best customer bases in the world.  Everyone is so down to earth and friendly.

Last question, if you had to pick your favorite soap, which one would it be?

Dang, this is a hard one.  It’s like asking a mom to pick her favorite child.  One Dirty Pup is classic.  I’d have to say that’s a personal fav.

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Bodhi Basics’ motto is “If we will not eat it, it won’t be in our soap.”  It feels good to be able to trust the products we are using!  Personally, so much of what Kim is passionate about, totally resonates with me…including traveling to Iceland!  Meeting the artisan behind the crafted good is always special and something that I am truly thankful for.  My sincere hope is that you will get a glimpse of her person, her heart, and her passion as well as enjoy her beautifully crafted soaps….Virginia

You can buy a small selection of her soaps from Addiah.  Also, make sure to check out her website for additional scents and to learn more about Bodhi Basics!

Dawn Raburn from Adamah Pottery

I sat down with Dawn Raburn, of Adamah Pottery, recently to have a little chat about her pottery, life, and inspiration.  Visiting her home gives me a glimpse of what I hope to create for my own home one day.  Pulling into her driveway, chickens were roaming her yard, enjoying the sun, and looking for food.  Her garden was in the beginning stages of spring.  Two students were chatting softly, busy at work throwing their own creations.  Sitting down on old, charming stools, she began by offering me a hot cup of tea.

Dawn is truly an inspiring person.  Everyone who knows her loves her.  She is encouraging and passionate and honest.  All of which translate into her work, a true reflection of her day to day life.

Here is a little bit of our chat:

First, how would you describe yourself?

Someone who is back to the basics….I love growing and making things.

What does handmade mean to you?  Why is it important to you?

For me, it is really starting from the basic elements…mixing glazes from scratch, making my own soap, growing seedlings for the garden, grinding wheat for bread.  I like the whole process from start to finish.  I like to know how, or with what, something was made.  I like to know what is in something.

How does you art relate to your life?

What I make has to be functional; something that can be used in the rituals of daily living.

How do you get inspired?

Colors in nature, the creativity of others.  Really, though, when I am at home in the kitchen, or serving a meal, I get ideas for useful and beautiful forms.

What is your motivation to create?

I think creativity is “wired in” to everyone, and is expressed in many different ways.  We are stamped with Creator God’s image, and as He is the ultimate Creator of beauty, so we can view our work as a participation with Him in bringing beauty to our world.

What is your creative process like?  Do you have an idea of what you want to create or is it an organic process?

Oh, I have an image in my head.  I cannot imagine sitting down with nothing in mind.  It goes back to the functionality of a piece.  I create because I see a need in my own life.   I also want the things that I use everyday to be beautiful, not just functional.

Who has influenced your craft?

Other potters I read about…Recently, I have been influenced by wares from early America.  (An aside….Dawn recently did a collection inspired by old American crocks.)  Pottery had a function and a purpose in everyday life.  I also appreciate the forms of traditional Japanese tea wares.

What is your driving passion in life?

Wow, that could be answered on many different levels, but ultimately I believe that we are all longing, searching, striving…for reconciliation with God.   Thankfully, He has provided the Way through Jesus Christ, but I think there is a cosmic “dissatisfaction” in this life until we are ultimately fully reunited with our Creator.  So…I keep on, trying to create some sort of a little temporary haven, a sanctuary, both spatially and relationally, not just for myself and my family, but for others that God brings into my life.

In addition to pottery, what does your life hold?

Growing the food we eat.  Enjoying our animals – they make me laugh.  Enjoying family and friends.  God has surrounded us with such gifts to enjoy.  We can rush by them or chose to slow down and enjoy those gifts that He gives.  Truly, it is the simple things of life.

I did so enjoy talking with Dawn about life and her work.  Make sure to visit her website, Adamah Pottery, or you can view a selection of her work at Addiah.