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BMore Media

Staci Wolfson
Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From Gifts to Growth for Biggs & Featherbelle

"When you were growing up, what did you want to be? A doctor, a firefighter, an actor, a singer? Baltimore sisters Kelly and Kasey Evick were going to be artists; Kelly would be a fashion designer, while Kasey was going to be a graphic designer, specializing in multimedia web design.

So how did they end up in the business of suds, soaks, and scrubs?

For the founders of Biggs & Featherbelle, a line of health conscious, all-natural bath and body products, it all started with one fateful Christmas. Having read about soap-making in a magazine, the sisters decided to create homemade soaps as gifts for their family and friends.
Putting their artistic skills to use, the Evicks put careful thought into the packaging and came up with cute and clever names for their products. It was then that Biggs & Featherbelle was born.

"It was kind of an a-ha moment," said Kelly Evick. "After we made the crafts, we always wanted to [go into business] together, and we were like wait! This is something we can do together."

Now, almost eight years later, shoppers can find the vegetarian (almost entirely vegan, with the exception of a few soaps and beeswax lip balm) line of lathers and other products online as well as in 25 states and Washington, D.C. Retail chain Whole Foods carries the brand as do other natural and organic markets.

Biggs & Featherbelle now offers 18 different varieties of soap bars, two lip balms, Belly Balm for mothers-to-be, as well as body butter bars, bath soaks, and body scrubs.

But success didn't come overnight; the Evick sisters worked diligently to get to the point at which they are now.

"It was a very slow process," Kelly Evick said. "We got started with researching and then selling in two stores and going to one craft show. We didn't start big; we slowly evolved over the years.

"We had no business background, so the actual part of forming a business and figuring out how it worked, took like two years."

Working out of their parents' house, the pair put their noses to the grindstone and taught themselves the basics of soap making as well as the science behind it.

Aware of the absorbent nature of the skin and knowledgeable about the abundance of artificial ingredients and chemicals on the market, Kelly Evick said it was important to the sisters to stick with healthy alternatives. Following the wholesome and natural lifestyle they were brought up with, the Evicks did their homework.

After the first batch of Christmas soaps, Biggs & Featherbelle was almost strictly about research.

"We really went back to the drawing board and spent about six months without even making a product, just reading about the different essential oils, vegetable oils, nut oils, and what their benefits are for the skin," Kelly Evick said. "And we really tried to get all that knowledge from periodicals and not the internet, because we found that there was so much contradicting information. It was just about being a nerd for a little while."

In order to maintain flexible hours while building the foundation of their business, Kelly began working part-time waiting tables, and Kasey followed suit, quitting her job at a design firm shortly after. The two peddled their wares at local festivals and independent craft shows.

Kelly Evick also did some dog-walking on the side, and that's where the inspiration for Biggs & Featherbelle's beloved Belly Balm came from. A pregnant dog-walking customer asked her if she could create a stretch mark-reducing moisturizer for her expanding stomach.

In 2006, the New York Post's Page Six mentioned the Belly Balm as a favorite of model Heidi Klum's and actress Maggie Gyllenhaal's. The company became inundated with orders.

"That was the moment where we were like, we can't be here waiting tables and back at Biggs & Featherbelle filling orders and making orders," Kelly Evick said. "We realized we had to quit our waitressing jobs."

From that point on, the company expanded, relocating to Hampden and hiring employees.

But the crafty packaging and the clever names remain the Evicks' signature touch. The soaps, $5 each, boast names as kitschy as the company's Beach Bar, Handle Bar, Tequila Bar, Barlesque, among others. And the company's two faces, Biggs (a character inspired by the sisters' cat, Diesel) and Featherbelle (a dainty combination of Kelly and Kasey a girl who loves her soap) still appear on all of the packaging.

The soaps and scrubs have come a long way from their Christmas present origins.

"It's hard to believe," Kelly Evick said. "Even to this day, it's hard for me when I walk into Whole Foods and look. I'm like wait, that's my product. It's a very surreal feeling."

In addition to the current products, the sisters plan on adding lotions and liquid soaps. Kelly Evick says she is particularly excited for another side project that's been in the works perfume oils. The oils will be affordable and all-natural, like the rest of the line.

Still, she says, no matter how large the company gets, the sisters will continue to remain hands-on.

"Kasey and I, we look at it like it's our baby, our children. It's like having children, because you never leave it. And it's your responsibility 24-7-365, and I don't think I'd ever be able to walk away and let someone else [run it]. We'll always be managing it."

So do these parents have a favorite child?

"My sister and I have the same favorite," Kelly Evick said. "The Handle Bar soap. It's actually our number one-selling soap. It's a complexion soap for breakouts for the face.

"I cannot live without it," she says. Judging by Biggs & Featherbelle's success so far, she's probably not alone.

Photos by Arianne Teeple
- Kelly Evick and Kasey Evick, Owners of Biggs & Featherbelle
- Biggs & Featherbelle soap
- A Biggs & Featherbelle combination soap package
- Biggs & Featherbelle soaking salts
- Biggs & Featherbelle soap
- Kelly Evick and Kasey Evick, Owners of Biggs & Featherbelle