By Design: An Asheville lotion business and Go Local spell success

Making possible more than $2 million in loans to Western North Carolina homeowners and small businesses, the Go Local Certificate of Deposit has made a significant impact. Launched in March by Self-Help Credit Union’s western retail division, Carolina Mountains Credit Union, the CDs help small businesses get off the ground. One of those small companies is By Design Personalized Body Lotions and Creams, founded by Carolyn Burton.

Her passion is creating lotions and creams that make everyone’s individual skin happy. For most of her life, experimenting with hand creams was primarily a hobby. But after some glowing praise from friends and family, Burton decided to make other people’s skin her business.

“I used to play around with lotions I’d buy at the store,” she says. “I’d add oils and scents and use them for myself and my family and friends.” After retiring from her job as a sign-language interpreter, Burton enrolled in a class at A-B Tech to learn more about herbs and oils.

“I essentially used my daughter-in-law as a guinea pig. She’s a nurse, so her hands would get dry from washing them all the time,” says Burton. “One day, I gave her some lotion I’d made to take to work, and all the other nurses asked where she had gotten it and if they could buy it for themselves.” For a while, Burton made lotions that her daughter could give her coworkers, until a friend said, “You know, Carolyn, you’re paying for all of this with your retirement money and getting nothing from it.” So Burton decided to turn her hobby into a business.

After attending classes at Mountain BizWorks and meeting with her accountant, Burton launched the venture. “I turned my kitchen into a lab, and my living room suddenly became my home office,” she says, laughing. Burton would like to move into a larger facility, hopefully one with a commercial-grade kitchen.

For now, she sells her products in local shops and purchases her ingredients and supplies from local businesses whenever possible. Through word-of-mouth and a new website, she can market her products everywhere.

What makes Burton’s lotions and creams different? “I customize every product according to each client’s skin-care needs, based on an idea from a New York City makeup store that matches customers’ skin color. I only use natural ingredients. For example, most lotions that list shea butter as an ingredient often have only a drop or two [of it] — and then people wonder why it doesn’t work!” Her formula “ is mostly shea butter — along with coconut oil and other natural ingredients. And I sell an all-purpose cream that can be used for your hair, your body — whatever; it’s made using shea butter, jojoba oil, Murumuru butter, olive oil, almond oil and a little bit of beeswax. It’s pure and simple, and it really works.”

Burton credits Kirby Berggren at Nature’s Pharmacy on Biltmore Avenue for helping her figure out how to “perfect the smoothness” of her creams. “She was tremendously helpful, and I am forever grateful for her willingness to help me.”

Burton’s willingness to experiment has been successful in unanticipated ways. “I customized a lotion for my granddaughter, and her mom told me, ‘I don’t know what you put in this, but when my daughter uses it, her eczema is gone. It’s amazing!’” Burton’s face cream seems to help to heal burns, too: “My daughter-in-law has a restaurant, and she got burnt cooking. She used some of my face cream, and it soothed the wound the same way aloe soothes a sunburn.”

With a great product, growing demand from satisfied customers and the need for an inventory of high-quality, all-natural ingredients, Burton realized she needed financing to grow her business. “I knew I needed more capital, so I talked to Jill Sparks from A-B Tech — which has helped me from the very beginning — and she recommended that I go to Self-Help.” 

At the Self-HelpH/Carolina Mountains branch location on Hendersonville Road, Burton applied for a loan. “They heard my case, submitted my documents, and boom — no long hours of waiting, no confusion; they explained the process — which was simple — and easy to understand.”

This fall, Burton began the entrepreneurship program at Western Carolina University in order to learn more about operating and marketing her business. Meanwhile, she’ll keep blending.

For more information about Burton’s business, visit carolynsbydesign.com

Helping fund loans to dedicated, creative entrepreneurs like Burton is what the Go Local CD is all about. Visit www.self-help.org to learn how you can fund your own business, or invest in a Go Local CD to help fund local businesses.

— Ginny Cohen and Halcyon Garrett are Self-Help Credit Union summer interns.

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