Folk-Singing Free Spirit Finds Business Success With Natural Lip Balm

By Diane Mastrull
The Philadelphia Inquirer.


Perhaps no one is more surprised that Barbara Gettes is building a business than Gettes herself.

“I was supposed to teach,” the 38-year-old said of the plan she had while attending Keene State College in New Hampshire, from which she graduated in 2000.

But a less-than-stellar academic performance led her to the road, instead. She toured throughout the United States and Russia with a folk band, the Spinning Leaves, which went on to release three albums.

Then came travel fatigue and a need “to ground myself,” Gettes said. She turned to making all sorts of things in her kitchen, including sauerkraut, yogurt, bread, and medicinal and herbal blends.

“It ended up being my coping mechanism when my dad was sick,” she said.

Andrew Gettes succumbed to cancer in fall 2010. By the following spring, one of his daughter’s creations had developed a fan base at concerts and craft shows: a lip balm made from local beeswax and raw honey, and olive, lavender, and tea tree oil.

“I didn’t like to play Barbies when I was little, but I liked to play witch,” she said, explaining her affinity for concocting.

She landed two small retail accounts in Philadelphia for her U-Bee-Well balm, and then came a big break: Anthropologie started carrying it in 55 stores.

To her Anthropologie pitch, which a friend with connections to the hip retailer helped arrange, Gettes brought lip treatment and samples of her music.

“I was saying, ‘I want you to distribute my records,'” Gettes recalled recently. “I didn’t want to have a lip-balm company.”

This mother of a 2-year-old daughter, whose father she lives with in unwedded bliss, is a free spirit.

“I have really rejected shopping and consumerism for so long, I felt it was the antithesis to be put into the central offices of Anthropologie,” she said. “It took me over a year after getting connected with them to get my heart in it.”

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