Posts Tagged: being your own boss

More Than a Hobby: LüSa Organics

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Rachel Wolf, LüSa Organics founder

By Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos courtesy LüSa Organics
Originally published in Fall 2015 Inspire(d)

Rachel Wolf has been called many things – “rock star,” the “bee’s knees,” “genius,” and, yes, even “master of all things natural and pure.”

wolf_family_colorAs the owner and founder of LüSa Organics – a Viroqua, Wisconsin-based body care product company that she runs with her husband, Pete – she could easily let such lofty praise go to her head. Instead, Rachel keeps it real when describing herself. “I’m a writer, a mother, a homeschooler, an herbalist, a homesteader, and an all-around crafty lady,” she says with a laugh.

She also happens to be a firm proponent of the pursuit of happiness. MoreThanHobbyLogo“Life is supposed to be fun,” says Rachel, a former environmental educator who cooked up her first batch of soap (unscented honey oatmeal) with a group of friends in 1997. “You can choose the safe path, but if there is something that speaks to your heart, it’s always worth taking a risk to pursue it.”

And she has the life experience to prove it. Rachel was pregnant with her second child in 2006 when she and her husband moved from Baraboo, Wisconsin, to Viroqua to focus their energy on raising their children – son Sage and the then not-yet-arrived daughter Lupine – and on growing LüSa Organics, which was operating under two names, Queen Bee’s Earthly Delights and Baby Moon. “Pete quit his job as a solar system electrician, so we took an enormous leap trusting that the net would catch us,” she says. “But it felt right – it felt like the net would be there – and it was. We have never regretted taking that leap.”

lusa_illustrated_logoToday LüSa Organics offers a full line of handcrafted body care products – including soaps, balms, exfoliants, moisturizers, and sugar scrubs that smell – and feel – great. Even better? All LüSa products are made from ingredients that are organic and/or sourced locally; all its fragrances are created from essential oils (lavender, patchouli, peppermint, eucalyptus, and citronella, to name just a few); and all its coloring comes from natural pigments, herbs, and clay. The sunflower oil used in LüSa soaps (22 varieties and counting) even hails from an organic farm just down the road.

“Our products are of consistently high quality because we never compromise on ingredients or techniques,” says Rachel, whose own favorite essential oil derives from calendula, a plant with a long history of use as a healing herb. “Our customers want to know what the products are made of, how they work, and who’s making them. That’s part of the reason I write my ‘Clean’ blog – I want to be trusted by our customers and transparent in our business operations.”

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In the blog, she invites readers into her family’s daily lives. Read through the entries­ – which date back to 2008 – and you’ll learn, for starters, how Lupine makes jam, Sage taps a maple tree, and Rachel herself perfects peaceful parenting. (Some of her basic tenets? Forgive, accept, and love yourself). This refreshing transparency – as well as her company’s unwavering commitment to quality – are big reasons why LüSa has generated such a passionate customer base worldwide. Word of mouth has landed many of its products – like its bestselling, cloth-diaper-safe Booty Balm and Baby Wipe Juice – on the shelves of retailers in most states and even as far away as Australia.

And while LüSa Organics continues to grow in product sales and reputation, don’t think for a minute Rachel is content to rest on her laurels. To the contrary, she is constantly dreaming up, tinkering with, and testing potential new additions to the LüSa product line. “I’ve always been intrigued by the chemical alchemy of turning simple, safe ingredients into warm, luxurious body care products,” she says. “It’s satisfying, and somewhat thrilling, to know we can create something new with not much more than a good idea, a few quality ingredients, and our bare hands.”

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LüSa Organics products are available in stores throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and (now) Iowa as well as online at www.lusaorganics.com. Each year the company donates 10 percent of its profits to organizations generating positive global change, like Sow the Seeds, Heifer International, and the La Leche League. If you visit the LüSa website, be sure to also take a peek at Rachel’s engaging blog, “Clean.”

Sum of Your Business: Robin Bartell

We’re excited to be hosting a new, regular Q&A section in Inspire(d): Sum of Your Business, featuring entrepreneurs in the Driftless Region. Our readers have asked to learn more about people who have started their own businesses, how they’ve done, and how they’ve done it! We thought that sounded like a great idea! Who knows – maybe you’ll even be inspire(d) to create a business yourself! 

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Introduction by Aryn Henning Nichols

Anyone who has ever ventured in or around Spring Grove, Minnesota, has undoubtedly seen Robin Bartell’s work. Either inside her fun store – the Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe – or in the seriously great graphic design she’s produced for area projects and businesses.

The Shoppe features all sorts of silly and unique items and gifts – lots with Norsk and Midwestern humor, along with a “solid nod to the Norwegian heritage of Spring Grove”. Robin designed many of the pieces in the Shoppe herself through Robin Bartell Designs, and she offers promo product design for other companies as well.

The young entrepreneur has been at it for five years now, but had long been planning her move to self-employment before she took finally took the step. For her, planning and research were key to finding the courage. Robin shares what she’s learned, the ups and downs of being your own boss, and what’s kept her inspired. Has it been easy? Probably not. Has it been fun? You betcha!

RobinThe Basics:
Name:
Robin Bartell
Age: 36
Business: Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe (and the home of Robin Bartell Designs)
Years in Business: 5

Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss?
The desire to venture out on my own actually happened slowly. I didn’t jump, I planned. I did a lot of research. I over-researched. I read a lot about personality traits needed to be a successful entrepreneur. Looking back now, I believe the things you will read about ‘creatives’ being ill-equipped to be business owners is mostly rubbish. Self-doubt nearly killed the big plan. In a fit of confidence, I decided that I owed it to myself to try. The worst that could happen was that I would have to find a job again, right? (I should also tell you about a recurring dream I had where colleagues and entrepreneurial-type people in my life kept saying ‘what are you waiting for?’). True story. I jumped.

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What’s the best thing about being your own boss?
I get to decide what my job will be everyday! Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe is a three-part business: a retail apparel and gift store, a graphic design firm, and a promotional products distributor. I get to assist other small businesses with their marketing and branding efforts everyday. I love getting to know my customers and working with them directly. It’s so much better than being in a ‘cubicle-corporate-graphic-design-departmental-hell.’

How about the worst?
Two-part answer: A. Always feeling like I need to answer calls, emails, etc, even when I am at home or on vacation. B. Balancing the importance of creativity and time management on a daily basis.

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Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it?
Little bouts of self-doubt were the greatest hurdles. Having supportive family and friends is key to overcoming that self-doubt. Then you just have to be prepared to work your patooty off to make it happen!

Finding the perfect spot for the retail store was a little bit of a challenge in the beginning. My office space moved a few times, and I grew impatient about where the store would be permanently located. Thankfully we were able to purchase our cute little building on Main Street last year. Now I feel like it’s finally permanent and real.

Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to?
Early on in this endeavor, I spoke with colleagues and a few like-minded small business owners within the community. The advice given by those who have blazed a trail before me is definitely gold-nugget wisdom. I have learned to NEVER disregard networking – at any stage of life, or in any job I’ve ever had.

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What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you started?
You simply cannot plan for everything that may/will go wrong. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts. Not every decision will be rational, and not every irrational decision will end in failure.

“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

How do you manage your life/work balance?
It’s tough, but I try not to work/check messages/email when I am home and it’s family time. Sundays are family days – always. If I do have work to do at home I try to use ‘time blocking.’ As in “kids, I need one hour to finish my work, then I’m all yours!” Sticking to that is the trickiest part.

What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going?
My design clients and retail customers keep me inspired to push forward, create more, design better, and keep forging ahead! I feel like there are so many creative and imaginative people in our area; keeping people in your life that nurture your talents is very important.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” – Stephen King

Check out Robin’s Yah Sure You Betcha Shoppe in Spring Grove, Minnesota at 118 East Main Street (open Wednesday through Saturday), or online at www.youbetchashoppe.com.