31 December 2010

Interview with Tracy Perkins of Strawberry Hedgehog skin care

Strawberry Hedgehog is a wonderful home-based skin care business that is the brain child of Arizona resident, Tracy Perkins. All the products are hand made by Tracy, and are 100% cruelty free as well as being made from all natural products. Somehow fitting all of this around teaching geology at her local college, Tracy is a shining example of someone who follows their passion and I am very excited to be able to interview her for TDIV.

Firstly, how was the idea for Strawberry Hedgehog born? Strawberry Hedgehog was born out of desperately dry sensitive skin and frugality, i.e. a desire for affordable, healthy, high quality bath and body products. I have a lot of allergies and sensitivities on top of being vegan so finding products that meet the limited criteria of ingredients I need (especially when I was a broke college student!) was getting increasingly difficult. I started making the basics at home for myself, then as gifts, then friends started requesting it and it is still growing primarily from word of mouth.

Tell us a little more about the products you make. Strawberry Hedgehog products are as pure as can be, handmade with love in small batches using primarily organic plant based materials. I have a blast coming up with new colors and textures in my soaps using plant pigments like antioxidant rich gold turmeric and nutrient packed green spirulina or drawing on my geology-nerd background and using ground hematite and lapis-lazuli in my soaps. Along with new colors and textures I come up with three new scents each month, all using only essential oils and food grade organic plant extracts. No artificial fragrance, no synthetic preservatives or dyes, no petroleum products. All of my goodies are 100% cruelty free, meaning there is no animal testing on the product or its ingredients. Part of my cruelty free commitment that sets my products apart from others is I never use any ingredients derived from animals, like collagen, gelatin, lanolin, goats milk, beeswax, carmine, etc. Apart from the cruelty issue and the "ick-factor" these ingredients are derivatives of the greenhouse gas dynamo that is the factory farming industry.

How do you find the inspiration for your products? As a tea, food, nature and gardening enthusiast I am constantly surrounded by inspiration. I think this helps a lot with my seasonal scents, each month I come up with new scents for my Soap Club. My food cravings or what pops up in my garden is reflected in the soap club seasonal scents. Warm spice essential oils are dominant in the colder months when I am craving chai and pumpkin pie. Cool herbal and delicate floral scents dominate in the spring when my garden is thriving. My favorite time of year here in Arizona is the monsoon season, the air is thick with the scent of creosote. If you have ever smelled the desert after a good rain you know this cool earthy scent. I start infusing my creosote oil in monsoon season so I can have a potent oil the following season. I also draw on my knowledge of the energies and affects of oils and what would be good for that time such as frankincense and myrrh, used through time as sacred resins to promote introspection - perfect for the hectic holiday season when we rush about from party to party when traditionally or instinctively we crave rest and hibernation.

Which aspect of your products is the bigger selling point do you think, them being all natural or vegan? This is a tough question! I think my vegan customers appreciate that my entire line is vegan and they don't have to worry about discerning which products are safe for them and which are not. That said, I think most of my customers just appreciate a beautiful, effective, natural product, and perhaps the smaller carbon footprint from a vegan product whether they themselves are vegan or not. Really being paraben-free, sulfate-free, and fragrance-free are probably my strongest selling points and are what keep my products healthier than most.

If you had some advice for someone wanting to make their own beauty products, what would it be? Have fun with it! Pay attention to the flavors and scents all around you. Get some good essential oils and herbs and see how they affect your mood. Stay clear of artificial fragrance, there is a lot of stuff out there labeled to deceive you into thinking it is natural and it can be hazardous. If the price is too good to be true, it probably isn't true. A tiny bottle of rose essential oil requires hundreds of rose petals just to extract that small amount of exquisite oil so keep in mind the cost of all of those roses is reflected in the price of the oil. I highly recommend the oils from Mountain Rose Herbs, they have never let me down with quality, price, or info they provide. My business motto seems to be "slow and steady wins the race." I've been working at this for years, don't feel boxed in by conventional business models and don't feel like you have to jump in head first.

Finally, what’s coming up for you in the New Year? I hope to keep expanding my bulk soap wholesale business to more Whole Foods in the Southwest and into more small boutiques in the area. My new facial care products came out recently and I know they will take off in 2011 and I will have three new exciting scents each month for the Soap Club so I look forward to getting creative as I move into my third year of the club.

Thank you Tracy and Happy New Year!

For more information on Strawberry Hedgehog and Tracy visit her website or Facebook page.

Tracy is offering a 10% discount to TDIV readers. Enter the code THISDISHISVEG under the cart, above shipping info to receive the discount through January.

Bev Hahler | @redhotvegan
Bev, a vegetarian since she was 14 years old, became more interested in veganism several years ago after studying Agro-business as part of an Ecology degree. She has a gorgeous daughter in second grade who has been a vegetarian her whole life (lucky girl). Follow Bev on her blog and Facebook.

Photo credit:Facebook/Jessica VanZalen of the Phoenix New Times