Passion & Willpower, Key Ingredients in making Peace
Date Posted: 06/03/2016 | By: Courtney
Leslie Bowers, owner of Peace of the Earth is a true gem and her story is an inspiration. Leslie lives an eco-friendly lifestyle and she brings her passion into her work to produce environmentally friendly bath and body products. We had the chance to catch up with Leslie and find out more about her story and the story of Peace of the Earth.
Us: You originally started as a baker, is that correct?
Leslie: Yes, that’s correct. I baked for a couple of little independently owned cafes, as well as a catering company mainly making cakes, believe it or not.
Us: What got you into the soap making business?
Leslie: There is not that much difference between making soap and making cakes, except that you don’t want to eat soap, obviously. That’s a good thing, because you don’t weigh as much when you make soap.
We both give a laugh…
The chemistry is very similar, in that you are taking a liquid substance and turning into a solid. Also you are making something that people are going to be enjoying.
I had already been living a very eco-friendly, vegetarian, all natural lifestyle for many years. After my son was born, who is now 12, I really wanted something that would enable me to stay at home with him and tie my two passions together. I wanted to support my eco-friendly lifestyle as well as be able to make things with my hands.
I started out making soap bars, and selling them at music festivals and various events around town. That blossomed into selling them at local grocery stores. Eventually, I ended up needing more production space because there was more business in our home than actual home. I found the space that I am in now with a beautiful store front, so I decided to go for it. And here I am almost five years later.
I think that’s what makes entrepreneurs half crazy, is that they wing it.
Us: What obstacles have you faced for the business as well as personally?
Leslie: The area of town that I chose is a very up-and-coming neighborhood, and while it’s known as the “green” part of Louisville, they told us that the area is going to take several years. It was definitely an investment and I knew I was taking a risk. We’ve had to be very creative not only in how we market ourselves, but also looking for outside revenue whether it’s from wholesale accounts or websites. We needed to make sure we had revenue coming in, outside of the front door opening. Currently we have placement at several national grocery stores and dozens of boutiques throughout the region. We are constantly working on expanding our presence at the wholesale level.
I’d say the biggest challenge that I have been through, not only personally, but also the biggest challenge for my business, was that the year before last I went through treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. It made me step away from my business. Being a single mom, and the business being my livelihood and my passion, it was a huge deal. It’s not something that you can schedule into your life.
That all being said, a piece of advice that I would give, is being willing to ask for and accept help. It’s something that I had always struggled with, and this experience was very humbling for me. The people that stepped up to help me are the reason why Peace of the Earth exists today. It has helped me reflect back to all the ways people had helped me as an entrepreneur, a female entrepreneur, a mother entrepreneur, and get me to the point where I am now. It’s because of the people in my family and the people in my community. I think that you have to know personally and in your business life when it’s time to ask for help and actually accept it.
Leslie: She sort of saved the day. Not only is she retired, she is disabled and at the time she was living her own life. When this happened she went into planning mode and immediately had me and the kids move in with her. She knew that the business was my passion and that I had worked really hard for it. She said I had to have something to get better for, and a life to go back to. So with that, she took over the production of the products, the managing of the store, and all of the payroll. She got up every day, took my kids to school, came and ran the day-to-day operations of the business, picked my kids up from school, fed them dinner, put them to bed and did it all the next day. She never one single time complained, even though she herself was in daily discomfort with her disability. She went above and beyond and in my mind she is the real hero. She is the reason why I’m still here and why the business is still here. The running joke is that she did all of that, and now I can’t get a rid of her. It’s really awesome to get to work with her.
Us: What has been your biggest success?
Leslie: Our placement at Whole Foods has been a big success and has given us a platform to get national exposure. We have also been really lucky and had some great press for the business like CNN.com and USA Today. In this economy, and being a minority business owner, it’s amazing that we are still here.
Us: Is there anything different that you would have done when starting your business?
Leslie: I would have spent more time talking to more people that were in the same field that I was going into. I feel like I jumped right into it and hoped for the best. There have been a lot of surprises that have come up and it’s been a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be.
I wanted more production space and just kind of fell into the retail part of things. Although it has worked out in the long run, I think I could have been better prepared had I done more research. I would encourage anybody who is thinking about becoming an entrepreneur to take the time to talk to people about their experiences and utilize the services that their city has to offer for business start-ups.
Us: Do you have a favorite the part of the business that you run?
Leslie: I have to have two favorite parts. My favorite part is definitely making the soap. That’s our flagship product. Funny enough, even when I was sick, I still made the soap. I let everyone else take over all the other aspects of production, but soap is so tricky and temperamental. I had one day every two weeks, my good day, that I could time just right with my chemo to make the soap. I would venture to say that I have made tens of thousands of soap bars with my own two hands.
The other part of the business that I love is when I hear customers’ reaction to how our products have affected their lives. How the product makes them happy or how it’s the only thing they have been able to use that hasn’t cause their skin to break-out. Or when people come into our store and say it’s like a spa and they just want to stay and hang out. Hearing the customers’ feedback makes everything worth it in the long run.
Us: How many types of soap do you make?
Leslie: We have 12 different soaps in our line-up. We only use pure essential oils that come from plants.
Us: Do you have a favorite “flavor” of soap that you make?
Leslie: I love the ginger lemongrass. It’s a nice clean scent.
Us: You have all types of products in your store. Tell me more about them.
Leslie: Everything in the store is eco-friendly and we carry items that complement our product line. We make all the bath and body products as well as all the candles. The other items might be made from re-purposed or recycled items and we carry a lot of fair trade items. Everything we carry is earth-friendly and we want to be a one stop shop for people.
Us: And customers can order your full line of products online, correct?
Leslie: Yes, they can order Peace of the Earth products online and there is a sampling of what’s in the store as well. We are hoping to expand more of our products online in the near future.
Us: How did you come to find Leapin’ Lizard Labels?
Leslie: I found you guys through a web search and I am so glad. I think so highly of Todd and Casey. Everyone has been really great to work with and the labels are great.
Check out Peace of the Earth at http://www.peaceoftheearth.com/