Welcome Sonja Sheasley!
We’ve been in need of an assistant here in the office of World Bamboo…someone who can focus on our mission to bring together progressive corporations focused on doing business in bamboo. We have tailored the new position of Director of Corporate Sponsorships, primarily because a very capable and very willing person said they wanted to help! Meet Sonja Sheasley!
Sonja is perfect for this position as she knows first-hand the trials and tribulations of owning and managing a successful business dealing in bamboo products. That is no easy feat during the past few years of financial crisis, and I feel very fortunate to have someone by my side as talented, dedicated and passionate as Sonja.
The extra special bonus is she lives nearby (10 miles by car), which as you know, for World Bamboo, is just nextdoor.
Please read about Sonja’s company, BumBoosa:
Clean and green: Saving the earth one baby bum at a time
By Alison Lee Satake, published in Cape and Plymouth Business magazine, October 2012 [www.capeplymouthbusiness.com]
<It’s been a swift ascent for Mashpee-based [Massachusetts USA] natural products company Bum Boosa, which launched in March 2009 and has garnered local and international attention since. President Sonja Sheasley founded the company that produces bamboo-based baby wipes with lavender and sweet orange essential oils, organic aloe vera, vitamin E and calendula extract, which is an alternative to the majority of tree pulp and plastic-based baby wipes with harsh chemical preservatives on the market today.
“I think first and foremost for my particular product, being a consumer was the most important teacher or guide for me, because I wanted to bring a product to market that I didn’t see. I’m obviously in a demographic – my age, my gender – so I really relied on my instinct,” says Sheasley, 41, who has two school-age children. The name of her company, Bum Boosa, is a play on the Latin name for a common type of bamboo, Bambusa.The baby wipes hit the market in July 2009. Sheasley added a second product – a diaper rash ointment with bamboo powder – by the end of 2009. Then, she brought to market a 100 percent bamboo-based toilet paper in 2010.
The company has since received recognition from Canada’s 2010 Green Parents’ List Award for Best New Baby Skin Care, was nominated for a 2012 Cribsie Award, was one of the three winners of the Positively Different Emerging Business Partnership sponsored by Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod and Cape Cod Young Professionals and was selected to give a business pitch to investors at Expo East in Baltimore last month.
At the heart of Bum Boosa’s mission is to create alternative forms of everyday products that are less harsh on the body and the environ- ment. On the horizon are more products such as diapers, paper towels and make-up remover wipes she would like to add to the company’s list of products.
How it began
Sheasley was a young mother with two babies, married to the captain of a large research vessel at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. “It definitely wasn’t easy,” she says. “My husband is out at sea. I have these two babies, young children. Both of them are boys [with] high energy. Both were difficult babies. I needed something for me.”
To alleviate stress and to create a more peaceful atmosphere at home, she turned to diffusing essential oils. She studied aromatherapy at the Sandwich Village Herb Shop and learned how to make soap, lotion and essential oils from herbs.
“I just started trying to make everything I could and it became an obsession. I would go into CVS, for example, and try to replicate some products I liked on the shelf in a natural way in my kitchen,” she says. She sold some of her homemade soaps and lotions at local farmers markets under her brand name of Aroma Waves and began to strategize about creating a company.
“It was actually important talking directly to customers at farmers markets. I think I learned a lot talking to customers, seeing what people were looking for and interested in. Honestly, many people asked me about baby products [and] baby wipes,” she says. Then she began to research, which is a part of the process she says she’s good at and enjoys. As she looked for an eco-friendly, sustainable material that would work as a baby wipe, bamboo textiles for t-shirts to bed sheets were the new rage. The problem was she could not find anyone in the U.S. making a non-woven fiber out of bamboo pulp in 2008. So she began emailing manufacturers in China, where most of the bamboo textiles were being produced. Three manufacturers responded. She began to work with one. At the same time, she contacted an organic chemist in China who worked with her to develop the formula.
“It was not easy to come up with the formula because there are some harsh chemical preservatives in baby wipes for a reason: to have a typical two-year shelf life or longer. So it was sort of going out on the limb to make a formulation that would make it to the two-year shelf life [and one] that I was happy with,” she says.
She worked swiftly from March to July 2009, when the product hit the market. As sales began to grow, a few U.S. manufacturers started to call her. She eventually switched to a manufacturer in Long Island, N.Y., for the bamboo baby wipes.
Once she switched to a U.S. manufacturer at the end of last year, sales grew substantially from 3,000 packages to 15,000 packages of baby wipes sold per quarter. Sheasley attributes this to the fact that her customers are conscientious consumers looking for products that are eco- friendly, which includes a low carbon footprint.
Know your customer
Bum Boosa invests some of its resources into obtaining third-party certification, which Sheasley sees as a growing trend. In the age of “green washing,” where many products and companies say they are environmentally friendly but are not, she believes the certification adds legitimacy to her company and products.
“For some of the savvy customers who are looking for products that walk the talk, those seals of approval matter,” she says. The certi- fication seals are a way to communicate to a customer about the ingredients in a product and a company’s values.
Bum Boosa’s baby wipes are USDA bio-approved certified. And the company underwent B Corporation certification, which designates businesses that “meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards,” according to the B Corporation website.
“I do think [third-party certification] is a tool for the consumer to rule out what’s legitimate and what’s not. The only problem is those certifications come at a high price,” Sheasley says. The certifications can cost a company between $500 to a few thousand dollars per year.
A warehouse in Boston stores and ships Bum Boosa’s inventory. Its products can be found at Big Y World Markets in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut as well as independent natural food stores and baby boutiques through- out the East Coast. A large portion of sales are conducted through online stores such as Amazon, Drugstore.com, Ecomom.com, Abe’s Marketplace and the Bum Boosa website.
Mommy bloggers have played a significant role in spreading the word about Bum Boosa’s products online, Sheasley says. The baby wipes even caught Hollywood’s eye as they were one of the gift bag items given at the baby shower of actress Tamera Mowry, who stars with her twin sister in the Style Network reality show, Tia & Tamera. Other celebrities in Bum Boosa’s high-sale regions of New York and Los Angeles have been loyal customers, Sheasley says.Bum Boosa’s baby wipes retail for $5.70 for a pack of 80 wipes on the company’s website.
Bum Boosa’s next steps include seeking additional capital to buy more inventory and to pursue more third-party certifications. Sheasley would also like to grow her home-based business and eventually travel to China to see the bamboo processing facilities. >
More about Sonja and Bumboosa!
Mashpee startup Bum Boosa brings sustainable approach to baby-care and bathroom products
By ROBERT GOLD in the Cape Cod Times, August 21, 2012.
MASHPEE [Massachusetts USA] – Sonja Sheasley started her business at the bottom, quite literally. And now, she said, things are And now, she said, things are looking up.
Sheasley launched Bum Boosa, a bamboo-derived baby wipe and tissue company, in 2009. Since then, gross sales have totalled $300,000. “That’s not a whole heck of a lot but for a small company, I’m still proud of it,” she said. But Sheasley said the demand for bamboo-based products should only grow.
“I think bamboo is about to tidal wave,” she said, pitching it as an alternative to tissue that uses plastics or pulp from trees. “We can’t keep cutting trees down because that is not sustainable. We have a huge problem with plastics.”
The company sells baby wipes, diaper rash ointment and 100 percent bamboo bathroom tissue. The baby wipes are made in New York, the ointment in Oregon and the bathroom tissue in China. The company doesn’t sell enough bathroom tissue yet to satisfy order amounts required by U.S. suppliers, but Sheasley said the company wants to move production to the U.S. when her company’s scope increases.
Sheasley took a class in 2006 on making natural products including insect repellents, lotions and lip balm started and selling them at farmer markets in 2007. She turned her attention to bamboo-based products and founded the company in 2009.
The items, marketed as sustainable and renewable, are sold online at bumboosa.com, Amazon.com and other sites and at small retailers throughout the United States. It has a small distributor in Canada and the Cayman Islands, and its products are also sold at a retail chain in Guatemala, Sheasley said.
Cape locations where the products are sold include Cape Cod Children’s Museum in Falmouth, Cotuit Fresh Market and ‘g’ Green Design Center in Mashpee. Bobby Pellant, vice president of marketing and organizational development, said the company is looking to move soon into a new larger Cape office with warehouse space. It currently has a warehouse in Braintree, but the company, with a staff of three, wants to add more space.
Sheasley said getting contracts with retailers can be challenging. “There is a whole heck of a lot of competition out there anyway,”she said. “Sometimes I feel like it’s like winning the lottery or getting a record deal.”
But Sheasley said she expects demand for bamboo-based products will grow. “I think it has to catch on,” she said.
If you are interested in becoming a Corporate Sponsor of WBO, please reach out to Sonja for more information about the reasons why bamboo businesses need WBO, and why WBO needs bamboo businesses!
Sonja can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thanks to you for continuing to support WBO.
My best regards, Susanne Lucas, Executive Director, WBO