Bath & Body Without Harsh Chemicals
by Jodi Dean
Some say having children “changes everything.” For Jeanne Bayless, marriage and three children came before her career, but it was motherhood that led her to become an entrepreneur and small business owner.
In the early 1990s, Jeanne’s youngest daughter, affectionately known as Lulu, developed skin issues. Jeannie fretted over the rashes and bumps that repeatedly appeared across patches of her 8-year-old daughter’s skin.
Just like any good mother, Jeanne tried a few at-home remedies to soothe Lulu’s skin. And, she consulted dermatologists. Jeanne soon realized the solution was simple—but it would not be easy to implement.
Bath soap and shampoo were too harsh for Lulu’s sensitive skin. Jeanne says she was shocked at the number of harsh chemicals she found on ingredient labels.
A natural problem solver, Jeanne researched possible alternatives for the traditional shampoos and soaps. She found a recipe for soap and developed a version of her own. Once Lulu started using the homemade soap, the itchy bumps began to clear from her delicate skin. Problem solved!
Word spread quickly about Jeanne’s new soap, and friends and family with skin issues approached her to purchase the soap. And, Jeanne realized there was a need for other sensitive skin-friendly personal care items. One thing led to another, and the mother of three soon found herself operating a small business.
In 1998, Jeanne opened a retail shop, called Heartstrings, at her home in rural Markle, Indiana. She recalls, “It was the perfect opportunity to work from home while raising my three young children.” Jeanne’s sales received a significant boost when she launched a website and began selling her products online.
Nearly two decades later, Jeanne business has grown, but she is still known for her soap-making ability. She puts a lot of time and tender, loving care into the hand-poured products, which are sold under her own brand, known as Lather Up® (or, LU). Each bar of soap takes up to three weeks to make. LU soaps are available in more than two dozen varieties, including a few limited edition and seasonal soaps.
“I use the real organic stuff,” says Jeanne. LU soap ingredients may include a blend of several different moisturizing oils—including olive oil, aloe butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, kokum butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil, palma christi oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, and hemp oil—to make a rich, thick lather. Jeanne also uses high quality essential oils and fragrance oils.
Referring to LU soaps, a teacher recently told Jeanne, “I used them in my middle school classroom to mask the odors from teenage boys and girls after their physical education class. For the first time in days, the classroom does not stink like a foul odor.”
Jeannie, who started as a soap maker, has expanded her line over the years to include lip balms, body butter, hydrating mists, body lotions, and sheet sprays. One of her most popular products is lip balm.
“I will fill twenty-thousand tubs of lip balm this year alone,” she says, smiling. Her brands, which include LU Lip Balm and Gecko Grease, are sold in retail shops, dental offices, and of course, online.
More recently, Jeanne has begun selling gift sets. She says they are “perfect for college students living in a dorm,” or for giving as a housewarming present. Jeanne adds, “They are perfect for travel, as each item weighs less than 3 ounces and meets FAA rules.”
In addition to Jeanne’s personal care products, Heartstrings carries a variety of unique gift items, scented candles, home décor items, textiles, gourmet food, and more. The retail shop is open Wednesday through Saturday for much of the year, but Jeanne limits her business to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays over the winter months.
Jeanne is sole proprietor and sole employee. She handles everything, from marketing to sales to product delivery. “It’s easy to put in 90-hour work weeks,” she admits.
For a small rural shop, Heartstrings has a loyal following of customers. “Many of them will come to my open house,” Jeanne says. “I will have 700 or more people at my event in November.” The Heartstrings Holiday Open House is held annually just in time for Christmas—this year, on November 11th, 12th, and 13th.
Family is important to Jeanne. Her three children have become adults with children of
their own. “I have five grandchildren.” A sixth bundle of joy will arrive in December, joining four granddaughters and one grandson.
This youngest generation has provided inspiration for new soaps. Two of Jeanne’s grandchildren are twins who were born prematurely. The twins have benefited from soap varieties designed specifically for infant use. “Their delicate skin needed
something quite gentle, and my soaps were perfect,” Jeannie explains.
When Jeanne is not working in the shop or making soap, she enjoys dining with her family
and knitting. “I love to knit things for my grandchildren,” she says, with a smile.