Schenectady

Outlook 2021: Entrepreneur sees Schenectady skin- and hair-care business blossom despite pandemic’s limitations

Tiffany Harris with her “Whip My Butta” Organics
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Tiffany Harris with her “Whip My Butta” Organics

Published Feb. 25, 2021 in Outlook

Schenectady mom Tiffany Harris couldn’t find a natural product to soothe her daughters’ eczema, so she whipped one up herself.

The concoction worked wonders — and went on to become the basis for Whip My Butta Organics, an internet-based, natural, organic skin-care and hair-care company. Established in early 2019, the venture has seen tremendous success, despite the pandemic.

An occupational therapist by trade, Harris has degrees in business management, occupational therapy and cosmetology, along with a certification in manual lymph drainage and experience working in a hair salon. She said her education and work experience have played into what has become successful entrepreneurship.

Her initial aim was solely to treat her daughters’ skin condition with a product free of chemicals and steroids.

“I didn’t find anything that was effective, so I started researching and concocting my own things. After a couple of months, I made a formula that cleared their skin in three days,” she recounted.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Once she realized her shea butter-based eczema relief balm worked wonders on her kids’ skin, Harris offered the product to friends and family members. They liked it so much, she said, they urged her to go into business. Harris ran with the idea and Whip My Butta Organics was born. The name, she said, is a fun take on the fact that her flagship product is whipped-butter-based.

Pandemic pivot

The business began with that single product, which in addition to shea butter, contains cupuacu butter, Nigella sativa seed oil, Calendula officinalis flower oil, Camellia oleifera seed oil, Aloe barbadensis leaf extract, Pelargonium graveolens flower oil and a mild fragrance.

Initially, the eczema relief butter was promoted by word of mouth, and Harris became a regular vendor at local pop-up shops.

“I put the eczema butter out and it was flying off the shelves,” she said. “I didn’t realize so many people had an eczema issue and have issues finding what works for them.”

Sales were going great, and Harris received gratifying feedback about her products. But then the pandemic hit, pop-up shops shut down and Harris panicked. She shifted the business online, anxious about how that would affect sales.

“When I was able to do the pop-up shops, people were able to see the face behind the products. … It’s just different when it’s online. It’s more impersonal,” she said.

She began advertising on Facebook and Instagram. She put products for sale on her website and also offers them at The Schenectady Trading Company, a downtown retailer that showcases local products, and Root3d Healing in Albany.

Despite diminished personal contact with clients, Whip My Butta sales improved.

“2020 was my most successful year. My sales doubled and then some from my first year being in business,” she said. “I don’t know if it was the shift to online [shopping] or my messaging, but I went from four figures to six figures in one year.”

As sales have increased, so has Harris’ product line. She first branched out to body butters in a variety of scents, including child-friendly ones such as Hawiian Smoothie and Fruit Loops. When the scented butters sold well, she began to add other personal-care products to her line, including body cleansers, body scrubs, shampoo and conditioner, moisturizing hair souffle for African Americans’ hair and more.

The most recent addition to her inventory is an acne system she developed in response to her own battle with blemishes. Active ingredients in the Remedy This! acne collection include kojic acid and turmeric extract, which she said help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and the scarring acne can leave behind.

‘Complicated’ process

To create her products, Harris calls on knowledge gained from her cosmetology studies. Since starting her company, she has also taken a variety of natural skin-care courses. She said there’s a science to creating safe, effective skin-care products.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

“It’s not something where you can just put all these ingredients together and think they’re going to magically work,” she explained. “You have to measure everything. You have to have percentages. You have to have the right mixing tools. You have to mix them in different variants. … You have to have a cooling phase and a heating phase. It’s complicated.”

Her skin-care products are not classified as remedies, but they help to alleviate symptoms, she noted.

“My whole family has been at the will of my experimentation,” she said with a laugh.

At the moment, Harris’ operation is based entirely in her Schenectady home. She has a space in her kitchen dedicated exclusively to Whip My Butta product creation.

“It’s not a lot of space, but enough to whip butters,” she said.

The whipping is done with an electric stand mixer. Shelves full of oils and other ingredients are all within easy reach.

Harris’ husband helps with Whip My Butta shipping and accounting. Her 4-year old daughter is an assistant in training, and there is a helper who manages social media posts for the business. But even with that help, Harris’ days are more than full. She works full time as an occupational therapist, then comes home to work on her business and spend time with her family.

She said it’s a lot to manage but she’s got her sights set on growing Whip My Butta. Her goal for 2021 is to get vending machines full of her products into a local mall. She eventually hopes to get her line into large retailers such as Target, and she aspires to have a storefront as well.

“I want to be the L’Oreal or the Johnson & Johnson,” she said. “I want everybody to hear ‘Whip My Butta Organics’ and say, ‘Oh yes, I have to go to the store and get that.’ ”

Tiffany’s tips

Tiffany Harris’ top tips for soothing winter-weary skin:

Don’t over-exfoliate: Doing so will dry your skin. Limit exfoliating to one or two times per week.

Moisturize religiously: Use a body glaze or body butter right after a shower to seal in hydration.

Avoid very hot showers: They can dry out your skin.

Check the ingredient list: Avoid skin-care products with alcohol in them. It can have a drying effect. Sulfates have a similar effect for certain people. Look for ingredients with moisturizing qualities, such as jojoba oil or shea butter.

Don’t use too many products: Stick with a select few, like a body wash and a moisturizing agent. The combination of too many products may cause an adverse skin reaction.

Wear sunscreen every single day: It will help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and age spots.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Categories: Business, News, Outlook 2021, Schenectady County

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