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

Badger Bill as a carpenterBack 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.

Original Bear Paw artwork; the name was later changed to Badger
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.

The original specs for the Bear Paw tin.

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.

Golden Bear was another name possibilityBill 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.

Tin design 1 Tin design 2 Tin design 3

Far left: the "Medieval" Badger Paw; early artwork for our Healing Balm for Hardworking Hands.



A Badger Timeline

1994 Bill Whyte makes his first balm to heal his dry, cracked, winter weather carpenter's hands, a simple concoction of olive oil and beeswax and it works really well. He names it "Bear Paw".

1995

Bill discovers that "Bear Paw" was already being used. He has to cancel the initial run of tins and rethink the business. Bill, family and friends rally and persevere.

A newly designed batch of 10,000 empty painted tins arrives bearing the name "Badger". Bill & Katie and their daughters, Mia, Emily and Rebecca, fill them by hand in their home. Bill drives around New England in an old green van selling "Badger Balm".

1996

Filling tins by hand James filling tins by hand


Badger moves out of the home into a rented room in the village of Gilsum, New Hampshire across from RJ Sports. It's a town of about 800 folks, situated on the banks of the Ashuelot River in scenic southern New Hampshire. A nice place to have a business, and the town in which Bill and Katie live.

Two people are hired, including James who still works Badger in the Operations department. Bill stops building houses and works for Badger full time, learning all he can in the process. When bigger and bigger deliveries of Extra Virgin Olive Oil were delivered, they were unloaded onto a contraption made of tires, because the snow they had been unloading the drums on to had melted. Things are busy, so Badger hires sales reps and starts going to trade shows.
1997 Badger improves the quality of its products by switching to Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and other organic essential oils. The first Lip Balms are released to answer the question: "Can I put this Badger stuff on my lips?"
1998 The Sore Muscle Rub is formulated and released (because Bill is sore from Aikido practice) and Badger now has 13 employees.


1999

The First Badger Mines The Original Badger Mines & Lucy the Dog

Badger gets a two line filling machine so that tins no longer need to be filled by hand, although each tin was still capped by hand and shrink-wrapped with a blow dryer. Bill and James experimented with different ways of turning the spout, so that repetitive injuries could be prevented. They even tried a sewing machine-styled foot lever.

Badger purchases the building across from RJ Sports, as well as the house next door, and expands into the space. Badger business was getting serious, and so production also expanded. New products that year were: Evolving Body Balm, Winter Wonder Balm & Sleep Balm.
2000 Badger starts to provide a free organic lunch for all of its employees. It started with Bill cooking soup for the crew every Friday, and has since grown to have a fabulous cook named Betsi who feeds all of the hungry Badgers! At this point Badger has grown to about 20 employees. New products are Baby Balm and Anti-Bug Balm.
2001

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.




2002


An early Badger trade show booth with Emily, Bill & Rebecca. Emily, Bill & Rebecca in an
early Badger trade show booth.


Bill's wife Katie and daughter Emily join the business full-time working in Operations and Customer Service respectively. Badger now employs 32 people including temporary staff for the busy season. Business is strong. In December, Badger holds its first all company retreat in the White Mountains for long range & strategic planning. The tradition of two full company retreats a year is established.


New products include mini Foot Balm, Evolving Body Balm & Anti-Bug Balm, 3 blends of Massage & Body Oil and 4 new gift sets.

2003

Economy is in a downward trend. Badger tightens expenses and slows down new product launches.

Two new Lip Balm flavors and an Unscented Healing Balm are released.

2004

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 ecological building.

Badger introduces 4 Organic Soaps, Lip Balm in Sticks, and Cuticle Care. Baby Balm and Bali Balm are now available in mini size tins.



2005

Badger Sunscreens Badger Sunscreens

Badger now has 38 employees. Large increases in sales overseas, particularly the UK and Taiwan, have helped with growth.

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.

2006

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.

2007

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.

2008 2008 Badger becomes a USDA Certified Organic Facility! This is the first year that the USDA Certified Organic Seal appeared on Badger tins. This was a big milestone for the company, which had always planned on achieving the highest level of organic certification possible. Yearly audits are conducted every year after, to be sure we comply with every stringent standard.

Badger Building Plans Badger Building Plans


Badger also begins to use Fair Trade Certified Cocoa Butter. Using Fair Trade Certified ingredients is also a long-term goal, and every ingredient Badger uses is ethically sourced.

Plans for the new building are complete and contractors are engaged. Badger releases Extra Strength Sore Muscle Rub, Cooling Blend Sore Muscle Rub and Sore Joint Rub. Cheerful Mind Balm and Clear Mind Balm are also added to the current line of Aromatherapy Mind Balms.
2009

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.

2010

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.


2011

The New Badger Mines The New Badger Mines


Badger reformulated all sunscreens to contain non-nano sized particles Zinc Oxide, and released a Baby Sunscreen and new Soaps.

In the fall, Badger moved into the new Badger Mines, and celebrated by inviting everyone to come visit. Folks came from all around (even Japan!) to celebrate the ribbon cutting. Badger also opened up a general store offering factory pricing on Badger products, as well as fabulous stuff like Soler Romero Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar (and organic snacks for the Badgers to purchase!).

In the fall, the Damascus Rose Face Oil and Beauty Balm were released.
2012

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!

2013

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'.

2014

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.