In the beginning, Diana Stewart did what most mothers would. Desperate to soothe a rash on her newborn daughter’s skin, she launched a mad search for a cream that would do the trick.
“Even as a child, I was a compulsive label reader with an aversion to chemicals,” Stewart says. “[When my daughter was born,] I just couldn’t find products that wouldn’t aggravate her skin — everything contained artificial fragrances, dyes, and parabens.”
After combing boutiques in England (where she lived for three years while her husband pursued a master’s of fine arts), she thought she’d found a winning product. But upon returning to Nashville, she realized that the tiny tub of cream for which she’d repeatedly paid about $100 wasn’t getting the job done. And that’s when she took things one step further.
“I started making this very simple healing balm in my kitchen,” she says.
When all of her friends began asking for her homemade concoction, Stewart, once a graphic designer for the music industry, created a label for it, passed it around, and ultimately began marketing it to boutiques. Today, almost eight years later, her Cheeky Baby Butter, along with other signature goodies like Mama Belly Oil, Baby Bird Soap, and All the Better to Kiss You With lip balm, make up her organic BABYBEARSHOP skincare line. The all-natural, eco-friendly products are sold in big-name stores like Nordstrom and Babies “R” Us as well as smaller boutiques, and they have been featured in beauty magazines around the world.
But like other female entrepreneurs, Stewart marvels at how what began as necessity ultimately became a business, and she remembers the very moment when she made that realization.
“I had a 1-year-old, and I was pregnant with my second child, and I found myself being an alchemist, filling 400 bottles of oil on my kitchen counter for ABC Carpet and Home in New York,” she says.
At the time, pregnancy and another life-altering event were driving her.
“I believe there is something supernatural and quite divine about a pregnant woman — the creative energy abounds,” Stewart says. “And for me, it was pregnancy combined with the grief over the loss of my father to cancer that made me madly unstoppable.”
Soon after she fulfilled the 400-bottle order, Babies “R” Us expressed interest in adding BABYBEARSHOP to its new organic selection. At that point, Stewart realized it was time to move the business out of her kitchen and into a certified organic lab. And though doing so certainly wasn’t easy, she never shied away from that task or what has become another big challenge — creating awareness about the importance of using toxin-free products on your skin.
“People put multiple personal care products on their bodies/hair/skin each day, and they don’t realize that a large percentage of those chemicals are being absorbed by their blood,” she says.
In reality, it seems that for Stewart, BABYBEARSHOP isn’t as much a business as it is a mission. After all, she never forgets why she started it in the first place.
“I know the feeling of being desperate to help your child, so when people call me and tell me their story, I often send [Cheeky Baby Butter] for free if they can’t afford it,” she says. “I can discern the ones that really need it, and at the end of the day, that’s why I’m doing what I do.”
But she’s also committed to the environment and the community. For every order placed on its Web site, BABYBEARSHOP plants a tree to offset carbon emissions (they’ve planted more than 4,000), and through Nashville’s Rochelle Center, Stewart employs disabled individuals to assemble the company’s packaging.
In the end, Stewart and her BABYBEARSHOP are all about one simple philosophy.
“I feel like we get one chance to nurture the good in this world,” Stewart says, “and what is it worth if we don’t?”
READER BONUS! Find BABYBEARSHOP products locally at The Green Wagon and Escape Day Spa & Salon. As an exclusive offer to Her Nashville readers, Stewart is offering a free pomegranate lip balm with every purchase over $40 on babybearshop.com. Enter the code “iloveher” at checkout. The offer expires 12/31/10.
Little Leah Cordovez knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was four years old. “I used to follow my brother around with Band-Aids and cotton balls just waiting to jump in with first aid. I was all over it.”
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