Back in 1994, Badger Balm
was barely a twinkle in Bill Whyte's eye. At the time, Bill owned a small contracting
business that designed and built healthy, non-toxic houses around New England. During
the harsh New England winters, many of the carpenters, including Bill, developed
severe cracks in their hands that would bleed after a hard day of work out in the
cold. Really painful stuff! Bill and his carpenter buddies could not find a lotion
anywhere that was powerful enough to heal their cracked hands. Bill says, "My fingers
were so bad, I started wrapping my hands at night in olive oil-soaked socks covered
in plastic bags!" Bill's wife Katie, whose sleep was being interrupted
by perpetually crinkling bags said "That's pathetic, Bill - you can do better than that."
She was right! That night Bill dreamed of a cure for his winter chapped hands, and
in the morning he mixed up some beeswax and olive oil in a pot on his kitchen stove.
He then tried and experimented with the formula. His fingers were soon healed, and
a new business was born.
Bill made small batches of the beeswax and olive oil mixture and gave it to his
carpenter friends to test. Bill called this original balm Bear Paw,
because he believed that this balm was "powerful enough to smooth even the roughest
bear's paw". Much to his delight, the Bear Paw balm was a huge success among friends
and fellow carpenters, and he figured that there must be other folks out there who
could use a product like this, so he decided to start a business. At that time,
Bill had no money, no business plan, no product packaging, and no idea how to start
a manufacturing company. He bought a $500 vat for manufacturing his new product
that sat in the dining room in his home for an entire year.
In January of 1995, Bill began to take the first steps toward starting his business.
Bill hired an artist to draw a beautiful bear paw and decided to have his product
labels printed on the tins because he knew that they would look professional. The
day before 10,000 Bear Paw tins were to be printed, one of Bill's friends found
a tube of Bear Paw hand lotion. While Bill had already checked the trade mark registry
for Bear Paw prior to printing the tins, this product had been around for a bit
and thus had common law rights to the name. Bill's budding business stopped in its
tracks. Luckily, he caught the printer in time, cancelled his first run of tins,
and went back to the drawing board.
Bill began thinking of a new
name for his company, struggling
to move past his beloved 'Bear Paw'. He paced through his house muttering to himself,
"bear claw, bear ear, bear fur, bear snout, black bear, red bear, golden bear, papa
bear, bear cub?" He sat at dinner artfully writing "golden paw, strong paw, beaver
paw, mouse paw, fish paw, badger paw..." Then the name "Badger" came to him, as
if in a dream, and he knew it was the right choice. The Badger is a healing totem:
The Root Gatherer, with a deep knowledge of the secrets of the root and herb kingdoms;
fierce and effective in defense of the self and family and persistent in overcoming
obstacles, successfully seeing projects through to the end. Bill looked up a picture
of a badger paw and showed it to all of his friends. His good friend Rick took one
look at it and exclaimed, "You can use that picture, but nobody would ever buy it! The badger paw looks skeletal
and medieval; it's actually frightening!"
So Bill had his graphic artist create a picture of a full badger, and the 10,000
tins were finally printed. Bill refined his formula and added aloe, sweet birch,
and castor oil to the simple beeswax and olive oil base. He figured that if he could
break even after the first six months of making and selling product then he would
have a real business. The first Badger tins arrived in October of 1995. Bill and
Katie set up a small production line in their back room and they made their very
first batch of Badger Balm. The next day, Bill drove all around town stopping at
hardware stores, lumber yards, and health food stores. Over the course of the afternoon
Bill stopped in six stores and every store bought at least one $100 box of Badger
Balm. Now, so many years later the business, like all businesses, has had its ups
and downs, struggles and triumphs. But Badger perseveres with the same goals and
same passion with which it was started. We make products for ourselves and for the people we love,
and then we share them with the world.
Far left: the "Medieval" Badger Paw; early artwork for our Healing Balm for Hardworking
James filling tins by hand
The Original Badger Mines & Lucy the Dog
An eight-tin filling machine is purchased to replace the two-tin machine, and filling
now is more fully automated. Two Sales Managers are hired, beginning the Sales Department.
Many new products are released: Foot Balm, Bali Balm and mini tins of Sleep Balm
& Sore Muscle Rub, as well as Aloe-ha Mist & the Beauteous Box Gift Set.
Emily, Bill & Rebecca in an early Badger trade show booth.
New products include mini Foot Balm, Evolving Body Balm & Anti-Bug Balm, 3
blends of Massage & Body Oil and 4 new gift sets.
Economy is in a downward trend. Badger tightens expenses and slows down new
Two new Lip Balm flavors and an Unscented Healing Balm are released.
Badger now has a New Product Development
& Marketing Department headed up by a cosmetic chemist & MBA and an on-site
graphic designer is hired.
Badger purchases land up the road from its current location in Gilsum with plans for a future expansion of the
"Badger Mines". The first designs are drawn up for Bill's dream of a beautiful
Badger introduces 4 Organic Soaps, Lip Balm in Sticks, and Cuticle Care. Baby Balm
and Bali Balm are now available in mini size tins.
Badger Bill is selected as the Small Business Administration's 2005 Business Person
of the Year for New Hampshire.
New products include Body Butters and natural mineral sunscreens.
Once again, the economy slows, and Badger responds accordingly, but rebounds again
by year's end. Sales expand more strongly into Canada and into overseas markets.
Badger earns the Leaping Bunny certification for not testing on animals, and not working with any companies who test on animals.
In the fall, Badger releases the Cocoa Butter Lip Balm Line and Night-Night Balm, a sleep
balm for kids.
Badger creates a website and begins to sell products online. In the fall, the new Badger
building project starts up in earnest. Bill works part time as
designer draftsman for the new building, and part time at Badger. Retreats focus on how to expand the company
into a new facility.
Badger starts the "Babies at Work" program, which allows new mothers to bring their babies to work with them during early months.
The aromatherapy balm line is released: Headache Soother, Stress Soother and Yoga
& Meditation Balm.
Badger Building Plans
In the fall, Bill and Katie's daughter
Rebecca joins the team to run Product Development. Daughter Emily has her first
child, Maya, who becomes the 6th baby to be part of the "Babies at Work" program.
Three body moisturizers are released: Creamy Cocoa, Nutmeg &
Shea, and Vanilla Coconut; as well as two new Cocoa Butter Lip Balms: Madagascar Vanilla and Poetic Pomegranate.
Many new products are released in the spring, including Lip Tint & Shimmers,
new Sunscreens and Bug Repellents.
In late May the Environmental Working Group released their Sunscreen Guide and included Badger as some of the best.
Fall of 2010 we released our reformulated Massage and Body Oils, and in early winter
we begin the construction of the new Badger building.
The New Badger Mines
Badger launches new sunscreens, including their very first lotion-based products: SPF 16 Aloe Vera and SPF 16 Damascus Rose Face Sunscreen, as well as an SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen. The new Badger Mines hum with activity!
Early in 2013 we introduced an Organic Zinc Oxide Diaper Cream and released three new sunscreen lotions including SPF30 Unscented Aloe, SPF30 Baby & SPF30 Kids. These lotions are easy to apply and less whitening than our earlier sunscreen creams. We also released a SPF30 Kids Sunscreen Cream (which is water resistant) and we reformulated our SPF35 Sport Sunscreen Cream and our SPF30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream to be even simpler and easier to use.
Badger won many awards for its business practices in 2013. Learn more…
See our '2013 Year in Review'.
In the spring of 2014 we launched our Navigator Class Men’s Line with a Pre-Shave Oil, Shaving Soap, After Shave, Beard Oil, Mustache Wax and Hair Pomade.
In non-product related news; Badger spoke at the White House and lobbied on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition, Badger was instrumental in passing Benefit Corporation legislation in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, and Badger co-chaired the Environmental Working Group’s Sun Safety Coalition. We were also invited by Congresswoman Ann Kuster to speak at the White House about our family-friendly business policies.
Enter your email address here to receive our newsletter