Interview and Giveaway: BirdProject Soaps
Congrats to Emily for winning the giveaway, and thanks to everyone for participating!
What does a charcoal-black soap have in common with environmental disaster? Read our interview with New Orleans designer and social entrepreneur Tippy Tippens to discover the connection! Then enter our giveaway to win a BirdProject soap for yourself.
Walk us through the step-by-step process that you went through to develop the BirdProject soaps. What inspired you, and what was the first thing you did to create it?
I was living in NYC & as I watched the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill unfold over the news for months without end in sight, I became more and more determined to find a way to help with cleanup. My background is in product design (having worked for 15 years designing furniture, graphics, lighting, and faucets for Kohler) and so I began with drawings of abstract bird shapes.
From the drawings, I then wanted to create something in 3D & I began modeling the shapes in clay. Initially, I wanted to carve them in stone, inspired by worry stones. But then I had the thought that if I cast them I could produce more quickly. Then the idea that these could be made of soap and sold to raise funding for cleanup popped up & things started to click.
From there, I scheduled a research trip to New Orleans, having never been before. During my visit, I wanted to ensure that I would design all of the details of the project thoughtfully and respectfully for the area. I didn’t know anyone in New Orleans, so asked friends who they knew there, did a lot of online research, set up many meetings for my visit & met so many wonderful people.
Before going, I knew that the soap should having something in the center as a symbol of hope in the end, but wasn’t sure yet what that should be. During this visit, I realized that it should be a smaller, white ceramic bird & also that the project should take place in New Orleans so that all of the benefits of the project would occur locally.
I found Emily of Sweet Olive Soaps who was willing to try to make this crazy idea & I decided to make the ceramics at first as I didn’t find anyone immediately. I then decided to move to New Orleans and got my start on Kickstarter (you can take a peek at that video here). Now we’ve been making the soaps for over 4 years & have donated $23,000 to cleanup & restoration!
Explain the significance of the materials used in the product and why it matters to you where and how they are sourced.
Every detail is important and is thoughtfully selected to help tell the full story. The outer black bird’s material was selected to be soap as it is symbolic of washing from oiled to clean as you wash your hands. Also, this ties in with our mission of helping with the oil spill cleanup.
The ceramic bird at the center was chosen because ceramic is of the earth and the clay used is from the Gulf Area, so the keepsake of hope comes directly from this area. All of the paper used in packaging (tissue & gift box) is 100% recycled; the gift boxes are also printed with soy-based inks and are letterpressed here in New Orleans.
Matter is committed to using 100% eco-friendly materials and to making our products with love in the U.S. Eco-friendly materials are important to us as they aren’t harmful to the environment, humans, or animals.
We are proud to work with local artisans and small manufacturers in the U.S. and are dedicated to this as it creates work for people here in the U.S. in our tough economy. It’s also better for our environment and helps to build new healthier, sustainable growth. We also source our eco-friendly materials as locally as possible.
The soaps are wonderful for your skin and made of biodiesel glycerin, activated black charcoal (from Beeyoutiful!), fair trade olive oil, organic aloe, and a heavenly rigaud cypress scent. They are great cleansers but also very moisturizing. I’ve been using the soap now for four years & don’t use hand lotion any longer as the soaps aren’t drying like many soaps can be.
Tell us about a challenging moment that made you wonder if this product and project would actually work.
Well, there have been many challenging moments to say the least; this is my first business and I am always learning. I received a lot of support from family, close friends, and most people that I shared with the idea with; everyone was very excited about it & that was certainly encouraging. Some were not supportive too, of course, but you can’t let that stop you!
I remember sitting on my balcony midway during the Kickstarter campaign with a friend from Virginia who had come through town on the way to Texas. I remember thinking, okay, I’ve raised the funding for the first batch of soaps, then what? What if that’s it and that’s all that anybody wants? What if I completely changed my life, moved to a new city, spent savings, etc. etc. for something that is completely short lived?
I think that of course, you need to think on all sides, pro and con. What I do now for tough decision-making is write a simple pro & con list in spreadsheet form. It helps me to clearly see which is the best decision. At that time, for that decision, I felt determined to leap, to push, and to see what happens. I didn’t know the answer but I thought that I should just keep trying. I still find it so amazing and wonderful that we have been making BirdProject soaps now for over four years, since Dec. of 2010! Thanks to all of the wonderful people who have wanted them, thank you!
What prompted you to expand the product line beyond the original white bird?
In creating BirdProject, I found what I wanted to do with my life. I had wanted to start a design-based business for some time. I had freelanced, consulted, and worked as in-house designer for small firms and corporations, and hadn’t yet thought of what my business niche would be.
My goal for many years was to design products that are eco-friendly, and the market is slowly moving in this direction. In creating BirdProject and finding the world of social entrepreneurship, many things clicked for me. I realized that I could no longer wait for a ‘dream job’ where all of this would be possible, that I should create my own and use my skills for good.
I thought of the name ‘Matter’ and decided that I would continue to create eco-friendly products, in the U.S. and for elemental social and environmental problems. Now, each year we introduce at least two new products, thus far focusing on literacy, education, disaster relief, bee health, and wetland restoration.
Share about the cause that the BirdProject supports, and how the donations have made a difference. How does purchasing a soap contribute to both coastal recovery and sustainable local business?
BirdProject supports the Gulf Restoration Network & International Bird Rescue. To date we have given $23,000 to these awesome partner groups. GRN helps fight for a healthy gulf every day, both in legal battles and environmental monitoring. International Bird Rescue responds to oil spills globally. They traveled to the Gulf during the BP spill in 2010 and were the ones directly responsible for rehabilitating oiled birds. BirdProject also works with three amazing local artisans and makers: Emily Manger Davis of Sweet Olive Soap works, Jen Blanchard who creates the ceramics, and John Fitzgerald who letterpresses our gift boxes.
Thank you, Tippy, for sharing your time, warmth, and energy so generously with us! We’re delighted to be connected in a small way to the production of the BirdProject soaps!
Readers, Tippy just opened her new shop in New Orleans TODAY and still took time out from her busy preparations to sit down and talk with us. Let’s send some of that goodwill back in her direction by following Goods That Matter on Twitter and Facebook. (Insider tip: sign up for the email newsletter to get a 10% coupon!)
Now to the really fun part: one of our readers will win a sweet little birdie of their very own, delivered straight to your US address! To enter our giveaway, visit Goods That Matter and explore the products available, then come back here and use Rafflecopter to tell us which one, other than the BirdProject, is your favorite! (On a mobile device, or can’t see the widget? Click here instead.)
We’ll select and announce a winner on Monday, April 13th. Good luck!