Meet Christian Bell. She is an entrepreneur who loves creating handmade body and bath products. I met her about a year ago and wanted to share her story.
Ujima: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. What is one thing most people may not know about you?
Christian: I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and have also lived in Atlanta, Georgia (I’m a graduate of Spelman College) and Santa Barbara, California. After teaching first grade in Houston, TX for a few years, I moved to Austin in 2009 to attend graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, I earned my doctorate in Educational Policy & Planning, and I currently work for Austin Independent School District, in research and evaluation. I would say that people are always surprised to know that a data person also knows how to make skincare products and has made a business out of doing it!
Ujima: Your company is called Head Over Heels Bath and Body. How did you get into the bath and body business?
Christian: My love for creating handmade bath and body products was ignited in 2007, when I discovered melt and pour soap crafting and got hooked on making soap for personal use. One Christmas, while in graduate school, I wanted to give my family and friends nice gifts. As a student, I had champagne wishes with Kool-Aid money. So, I decided to branch out from soap and made bath and body gift sets for my family instead of buying things from a store.
Little did I know that those Christmas gifts would be the start of something great. To make a long story short, making body butters, lotions, and scrubs was my stress reliever while I completed my graduate program. I’m a trained researcher, so it was only natural for me to become interested in researching (and tweaking) various recipes, skincare ingredients, and fragrances.
I never intended to start my own business. I was perfectly content with using the products I created and gifting them to friends and family. That is, until a family member paid me to make products as Christmas gifts for her friends. That’s when it dawned on me that I could offer my skincare treats to a larger audience. In 2013, after I completed my graduate studies, I launched Head Over Heels Bath and Body right here in Austin, Texas.
Ujima: How did you learn to make your own products? Is there a science to it?
Christian: I’m forever grateful to a Bramble Berry, a company that sells materials for handmade products, but also provides high quality tutorials for creating them. In the beginning, that was my go-to resource for learning how to make various products. Over time, as I became more comfortable and confident, I started to tweak recipes to make them my own.
And, yes, there is definitely a science to formulating skincare products, but you don’t have to be a chemist to create great products. I liken making skincare products to baking. Anyone who has ever baked a cake knows that you must use precise measurements to ensure your cake is fluffy, moist, and tasty. Formulating skincare products is similar as it is all about finding the correct balance of ingredients while also keeping in mind the safe usage rates for those ingredients. I keep detailed recipes for each product that I create with exact measurements, to ensure customers receive the the same awesome product they’ve come to expect. That being said, there’s also an art to the process, as there are a number of skin loving ingredients, colors, and fragrances that can be used to create beautiful products.
Ujima: What is your favorite product to make? What is the hardest product to produce?
Christian: Shea So Soft Whipped Butter is my most popular product, and while I enjoy making it, I must say that my favorite product to create is So Fresh & So Smooth Body Scrub, which is a body scrub and skin moisturizer. So Fresh & So Smooth is my favorite product to create because it’s (still) so cool to see the various ingredients come together to create a creamy body scrub that washes off easily and doesn’t leave a greasy residue. The science of it never ceases to amaze me.
I would say the most challenging product to make is Twinkle Toes Foot Cream. I think this product is challenging due to the precision that’s required to create lotion. As you may know, lotion is essentially a combination of water, oil, and an emulsifier to ensure the water and oils don’t separate. So, in addition to making sure that I precisely measure each ingredient, I also have to ensure that the temperatures of the liquids are just right so that they will combine properly. Another critical step is adding a preservative to the foot cream. Since this product contains water, a preservative is necessary to ensure the cream doesn’t grow mold or other icky things. Preservatives must also be used in precise measurements and adding them when the ingredients are too hot will render the preservative ineffective. I’ve made Twinkle Toes several times, but I always get a little nervous because one misstep could ruin the entire batch! However, I am, again, amazed by the science of it all.
Ujima: Many times, entrepreneurs give up before they find out if their idea will work. How long have you been in business and what makes you keep going?
Christian: I have been in business since October 2013, so I am still learning how to keep going when the going gets tough. That being said, hearing a customer tell me how much they loved my products keeps me motivated. It’s like music to my ears! My mission is to create products that you fall head over heels in love with and can’t imagine living without them.
Ujima: Where do you get your inspiration for your fragrances?
Christian: I currently use 25 fragrances in my products, which are made to order. However, I have about 60 fragrances in my stash. To say I love fragrances is an understatement. When I first started making my own products, I was astonished to find that suppliers offer a wide variety of fragrances— anything from traditional lavender to the smell of motor oil. That made me think of how the power of smell can invoke so many memories and instantly take people to a happy place. So, I’m inspired by having the ability to provide my customers with a moment of joy when they use my products, no matter what fragrance they prefer. For example, I offer dill pickle flavored lip balm. I just thought it was a fun flavor to try until one of my customers gifted it a family member who happens to love dill pickles! That was confirmation for me that while I should offer more traditional fragrances, it doesn’t hurt to throw in a few that are a little out there.
Ujima: What is the best advice you would give someone who is interested in being an entrepreneur?
Christian: Just do it and don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. I’m a recovering perfectionist, but being an entrepreneur has forced me to become comfortable with the fact that everything won’t be perfect, but that shouldn’t stop me from trying.
Ujima: What is next for Head Over Heels Bath and Body?
Christian: In January, I shifted my business model to focus on sets of products. That means customers create custom sets of three (or more!) products in order to complete their purchase. My products are intended to be indulgent experiences. One just isn’t enough! My next stop is to create pre-packaged sets of some of my favorite combinations. I would also love to create custom sets for events such as weddings, showers, and even blogger meet up events.
Ujima: Where can our readers learn more about your product or purchase your product?
Christian: The best place to learn more about Head Over Heels Bath and Body and purchase my products is to check out the website: http://www.headoverheelsbb.com. Links to various social media accounts and to sign up to receive the newsletter can all be found on the website!
Ujima: Do you have any last words? Maybe something I didn’t ask about that you want our readers to know?
Christian: I think you’ve covered everything. Thank you for the opportunity!
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Posted by Damita Miller-Shanklin
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