Perhaps no one is more surprised that Barbara Gettes is building a business than Gettes herself.
But after travel fatigue from touring with a folk band across the U.S. and Russia, she ended up in her Philadelphia kitchen making food and medicinal blends. The concocting grew as she coped with her father’s terminal illness.
One of the creations — U-Bee-Well lip balm made from local beeswax and raw honey, with olive, lavender and tea tree oils — developed a fan base at concerts and craft shows, then at two local retailers. Gettes caught a big break when some Anthropologie stores started carrying it.
Along the way, Gettes was mentored by several entrepreneurial heavyweights, including David Schlessinger, founder of Five Below, Encore Books and Zany Brainy.
Today, U-Bee-Well is sold in about 100 independent retail stores — although Gettes lost the Anthropologie account — and is available for wholesale at U-Bee-Well.com. Ten percent of proceeds go to beekeepers for queen-bee-rearing initiatives.
Gettes has now hired a seasoned business manager and is moving into commercial space. A solid business plan has the goal of $1 million in sales within five years (revenue was $12,000 in 2015).
“I think her business has great potential as the world, especially the younger generation, really cares about buying truly natural products and supporting Earth-friendly causes,” said Schlessinger, a self-described nature lover.
For Gettes, who considers herself more a “dreamer” than a businesswoman, her lip balm has become a satisfying means to a gratifying goal.
“It’s become really clear to me that product is the most promising way we can effect change on this planet,” she said. “It’s become my activism, really.”