Meet this month’s Featured Maker, Whitney Parchman of Blend (bld) Earth-to-Skin. She’ll be in person with her bld Pop Up Shop at Manouche this Saturday from noon to 5 pm. Last week, we caught up with Whitney between batches of her artisan blended skincare. Here’s what she had to say behind the scenes:
Tell us a little bit about your background.
After graduating college with a degree in Psychology I had no idea what to do with my life. I didn’t realize it at the time but it turns out I’m extremely creative. So, after several different jobs I landed a gig working for a woman who owned a startup skincare company. Since it was a startup I had the awesome experience of helping with marketing, sales, consumer education, package design and product development. After that I went back to school to become an esthetician, worked in a couple spas and then moved to Chicago where I began working as a makeup artist for a luxury brand that was eventually bought out by LVMH (Luis Vuitton Moet Hennessy).
I left the field shortly before I gave birth to my son. When I returned to work I decided to put my undergraduate degree to use and went back to school to become a Montessori teacher. At the outset, this might not seem to have anything to do with skincare but this experience had a profound impact on shaping the guiding principals of my life and business.
During my decade of teaching I battled some seriously dry skin (lots of germs = lots of hand washing) as well as a hefty work and family schedule that left little time for self care. In order to “feed my soul” I’d blend and use my own skincare. On holidays and weekends I’d watch documentaries and read books on intentional living, minimalism, slow fashion, farm-to-table and food production. It might sound cheesy but this time was a personal awakening for me.
What inspired you to start Blend (bld)?
One of my favorite things in the world is going to the farmer’s market and preparing farm-to-table meals. I love starting with beautiful ingredients and creating a meal that has a sum greater than its parts. My love of the farm-to-table movement easily translated when I started formulating my own skincare. I knew if I started out with beautiful ingredients that were minimally processed and free of shenanigans I’d have a shot at creating something amazing.
I was also inspired to create a business guided by the principles of sustainability, stewardship and philanthropy. My sourcing and production methods focus on sustainable growing practices with minimal waste and my business model incorporates quarterly community service events. Once we’re able to turn a profit all of our after tax dollars will go towards a corporate advised fund through the OPRF Community Foundation.
How do you develop your formulas?
I usually wake up around 4 am, pour myself a cup of coffee and get to work. I think about the needs of the person using the product. Then I begin researching ingredients. I’m pretty tenacious when it comes to sourcing ingredients. My priority is to find the most responsibly grown and harvested ingredients of the highest available quality. When I’m able to source something that’s Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic? I feel like I’ve won the lottery!
Once the ingredients arrive I spend some time evaluating their texture and smell. I develop a preliminary recipe, make a micro batch and then use it. If I like what I’ve made I’ll share samples with friends and family in exchange for their feedback.
I’m a high-sensitive person which can be a total pain when dealing with large crowds of people, however, when it comes to formulating skin care, it’s an absolute gift. I can feel the texture of an ingredient and imagine how it would feel in combination with other ingredients and in what proportion. That’s a skill you can’t learn from the internet.
What can you tell us about the skincare and cosmetics industries that we might not know?
During my “personal awakening” I discovered that my personal care products contained what I refer to as a “bunch of shenanigans” in them. The same industry that I started in almost two decades earlier was the same industry that had a track record of exposing workers and consumers in the US to hundreds of ingredients that were banned in the UK due to their links to cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity and bioaccumulation.
The other thing most consumers aren’t aware of is the majority of cosmetics companies are owned by either Esteé Lauder or LVMH. Many small lines are created by founders with the intent of being purchased by one of these two. Once they’re purchased they have the ability to scale their business, reduce overhead and increase profits – all with the backing of a beauty powerhouse. This dynamic makes it even more challenging for independent “indie” beauty brands like Blend (bld). It’s an extremely competitive industry that profits off of (mostly) women by exploiting their insecurities and exposing them to potentially harmful ingredients. I am not okay with that. If you meet me in person and ask me about this I’m more than happy to go into greater detail.
What is Indie Beauty and why is it important?
Great question. Indie Beauty doesn’t always equate to “green” beauty, however by industry standards, if a brand is independently owned and funded, purpose driven, created in small batches and non-traditionally marketed it’s considered Indie. It’s important because consumers are important! Indie Beauty is a great way to vote with your dollar and support the scrappy upstart renegade entrepreneur who wants to use their powers for good – like me! When consumers support these businesses they’re telling the big guys with the majority market share (and shenanigans) to clean up their act and make way for transparency, authenticity and kinder practices.
What do you love about bld?
There is so much I love about bld! Of course, I’m biased. I love the products and the process. I understand every aspect of my business first hand. I’m able to make decisions everyday that help improve the lives of others. There’s also that moment when all of the ingredients come together. The outcome could be a failure or it could be amazing. Either way I’ve done the best that I could up to that point and the outcome is beyond my control. It’s a great metaphor for life!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve discovered that if you want to live a small life, never step out of your comfort zone and want to avoid fear and vulnerability at all costs you should definitely NOT start your own business! With that said, I have never felt so encouraged, loved and supported as when I’ve shared bld with friends, family and members of the OPRF community. I feel tremendously fortunate to be surrounded by people that “get” what I’m doing.
I would be remiss if I did not specifically thank Kim and Manouche for being an integral part of my tribe. It speaks to the quality and philosophy of Blend (bld) that she’s sharing her space with me.
I am grateful.
Follow bld on IG @blendearthtoskin
Blend (bld) Earth-to-Skin Pop Up Shop
Saturday, October 13th
Noon – 5 pm