badger's History & Legend
Inspirations, Struggles and How Badger Got its Name
When I was a kid I checked out the fragrance of every stray blossom, fruit, leaf
and herb I came across. When I was 12 we visited Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts,
and a young woman guided me about the colonial herb gardens and explained both the
medicinal and aesthetic properties of each herb. I fell in love with both the guide
and the herbs that day. Now, so many years later I get to experience some of the
finest essential oils and herbal extracts the world has to offer.
-Badger Bill Whyte
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
A Badger Timeline