Interview with Allysyn from the book Creating an Herbal Bodycare Business, by Sandy Maine.
Published by Storey Publishing LLC. 1999.
Artha Handmade Hempseed Oil Soaps
Founder: Allysyn Kiplinger, age 36
Established: 1993, Mom’s garage, Concord, California
Initial Investment: $500
Annual Sales Today: $33,000
Number of Employees: 0
Product or Service Offered: Hand, body, and shaving soap made with hempseed oil; soap made in the shape of the Venus of Willendorf.
The principles of Artha Handmade Soaps are to encompass a marco level definition of health and beauty in our product design and business plan; make items that promote health and beauty for humans as well as the rest of creation; educate about the industrial use of hemp in order to usher our society toward an environmentally based era; and use the human body and human hand as the basis for craftsmanship, rhythm, and production.
The Seed That Started It All
If I begin my search for the “seed” that sprouted into my business, I might have to look at my family background. My mother’s side has an educated, professional, strong Yankee background. Plants and horticulture were a natural part of my childhood.
My father’s side has a strong midwestern, working-class, self-employed, newspaperman-type character with strong-willed, independent women who always worked with their hands. I’d like to think I’m a combination of these two sides. I was raised Unitarian. I would have to say that the values of peace and social justice, in a spiritual context, are key to my hemp soap business.
History of Artha Handmade Hemp Soaps
I studied social anthropology at UC Berkeley. I had the opportunity to study environmental philosophy at Schumacker College in Devon, England, in 1992-93. It was there that I was introduced to the two unusual ideas that would become Artha Handmade Hemp Soaps.
* In England there were recipe books for making handmade cosmetics. There was still a vital culture of making healthy “whole food” cosmetics at home. I was fascinated with making my own beauty aids! Because of my living situation, the only thing I could not make was soap.
* At Schumacher College a young man named John from Kentucky gave a lecture about hemp, highlighting all its benefits and its misunderstood history.
After returning home to California in the autumn of 1993, I was haunted by the idea of making hemp soap. I went to a local hemp variety store, The Hemporium on lower Haight Street in San Francisco, and bought my first little bottle of hempseed oil. Almost as an after-thought, I turned around as I was leaving the store and asked if they would be interested in selling any hemp soap if the batches turned out.
On my next visit I brought in twenty or thirty weird little bars of soap. They sold like crazy. So I made more. And more and More. Coincidentally, Mari Kane was just starting her magazine, HempWorld. The ad rates could not be beat, and suddenly I had a nationally advertised little business.
* Trust the crazy ideas, trust inspiration, and trust unusual combinations of ideas.
* Go slowly. Take things step-by-step.
* Learn to plan your finances and production schedules.
* Manage your time and personal energy as business resources.
A Personal Perspective from Allysyn Kiplinger
How does risk taking fit into the picture of your life and business?
Taking risks is a bit in my nature. I am a business starter. I love the creative process of a seemingly impossible task. I love the brainstorming, troubleshooting, fiddling, reworking, and setting up vital systems that support order. I need big challenges. I suppose I love the unknown outcome a bit too. My real love and passion is teaching and communicating about the cultural shift that I believe we must make. Many people are saying similar things: The old ways are not working and we must find a new way. The creative forces that are pressing us and calling to us from within our hearts to invent a new way of living is a cosmological force, the force has the same source as that which birthed the stars, the galaxies, and the universe.
In what ways has your business informed, formed, and shifted the world toward a new cultural perspective?
Our society, religions, educational institutions, and businesses acknowledge intellectually that animals make a contribution, but we are just beginning to take the next jump to acknowledge that natural ecosystems also have rights and inherent value. As individuals we may know this but the collective body of society still holds individual rights as the highest law. I believe it is just a stage of evolution of human consciousness. So I trust we are slowly moving to the next level of understanding and honoring systems.
I think that is where Hempsters come into the picture. Growing hemp for paper is the easiest, most rational first step in understanding the difference between using annual crops versus a principle resource such as our national forests.
I am very interested in growing my business to become a community resource, maybe a community supported agriculture (CSA) or as a co-op. Bioregionalism, and the idea of “holonic” or concentric circle economies, is very important to me. Holonic, in this sense, means an independent unit within a larger sphere. If you were to imagine yourself living at the center of a circle, the healthiest economy is one that relies on and cares for itself, so that as many goods and services as possible should always be purchased as locally as possible.
Very cautiously should money be spent in circles farther from one’s center. If you need something from three or four circles out, then buy it, but do so only after you know it is not available more closely. This keeps local economies strong and keeps people working, which keeps culture alive and consciousness growing. For example, I use California olive oil for this reason, instead of a considerably cheaper oil from Europe or the Near East. And I’m always finding closer and closer West Coast sources of essential oils.
A business should be the heart of a community and should encourage and foster the ever-budding consciousness of the people who work there. Or rather, the business should serve the people, not the other way around.
I’m very proud that my hempseed oil soap is a low-cost, super healthy, personal introduction to hemp.
My advice to others: start local, stay local. Build a solid base for yourself in your community. Take baby steps. Realize that your business does not have to become a mega business. The shape, size, and schedule can fit your life and values. When you do grow, don’t grow too quickly. Anyone can be a flash in the pan, but it is a very different to plan to be around for a few years, or maybe even a generation or two. Always stay in touch with your real, true values. And have the courage to change direction or stop if you are not enjoying it enough.
Creating an Herbal Bodycare Business by Sandy Maine
Published by Storey Books
Pownal, Vermont 05261