By Tony Adams
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) It’s been about three years since Misty Reed launched Rebel Belle a company that makes and sells bath and body products. Her journey to female business ownership started out in her home, creating remedies for family members’ skin problems. Eventually she made the leap into a retail setting inside a small shopping center and since then, things have taken off!
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Ga.
Misty Reed readily admits that she marches somewhat to a different drum. After all, the name she chose for her shop that makes and sells men’s and women’s bath and body products is Rebel Belle.
“If there’s a difficult way, I’ll usually find it and take that route,” she says with a big laugh.
And don’t get her started by referring to the products she makes by hand at her 7801 Fortson Road store, in north Columbus, as “crafting.”
“I hate that word. It diminishes it; it does,” says the Columbus native, 41, preferring to call her talent artistic and creative.
It’s been about three years that Reed launched Rebel Belle out of her home because of family members’ skin problems. She eventually made the leap into a retail setting inside a small shopping center near the intersection of Veterans Parkway and Double Churches Road, and things have taken off.
The Ledger-Enquirer visited with Reed recently at Rebel Belle — with a little Waylon Jennings outlaw country playing in the background — to talk about her job, what it takes to make a good bath bomb, and to get her thoughts on small businesses in Columbus. This interview is edited a bit for length and clarity.
Q: How long have you been at this location?
A: I signed my lease in January, going into my third year. I did it for a year at home, by total accident. I never set out in a million years to do this. They say you won’t find your calling, it will find you. That’s 100 percent accurate.
Q: How did things start?
A: My mom and my sister had this weird place on their hands and any time they used commercial cleaners or something like that, it completely (turned their hands into) hamburger meat. They both are medicine takers and they go to the doctor a lot and I’m just not a big fan of that. I was always on them … telling them that’s probably a reaction from something you take. Then I started looking up natural remedies for skin ailments and I kept coming across the same eight or 10 ingredients. So I went and bought all of them and, kind of being a science nerd, I thought maybe I could put all of those together and make a (moisturizing) bomb. I did and it worked on both of them.
Q: You found lots of good resources online?
A: I did, but I also found a lot of bad resources online. You have a lot of — not being ugly — but stay-at-home mothers that have decided, oh, I’ll use something on this (ailment or problem) and now I’m at expert on it. So you can get a lot of misinformation that way, too.
Q: What’s been the response to your retail presence?
A: I would have to say fairly good. I would never have gone retail until I started having customers knock on my door at 9 or 10 o’clock at night. I was like, I have to set boundaries in some way. I figured the best way to set boundaries and make myself available at the same time was to go retail.
Q: How did you decide on the name Rebel Belle?
A: Anybody that knows me, I’m painfully Southern, and I’ve never been one to walk a taut line. So if there’s a difficult way, I’ll usually find it and take that route. (laughs) It’s not always a good thing. In trying to come up with a good name, it just kept popping back up. I didn’t want anything cheesy or that had to do with soap, because I didn’t want to put off male clientele. I do a lot of men’s and women’s products and I didn’t want anything that would put off anyone.
Q: What all do you make?
A: My main product is body butter, (with the names) Butter My Butt and Call Me Biscuit. Everything has mostly Southern names. The bath bombs and the cupcakes, those have taken off tremendously and I make a batch just about every day. It’s a bath bomb that goes in your bath. The icing on it is a butter base, so it’s got some natural butters in it and some natural oils. The whole thing dissolves and it’s definitely a treat. My men’s products are wildly popular. The beard conditioner is huge. I can barely keep up with making it. It just kind of softens the hair and makes it a little more manageable.
Q: What is the toughest thing to make, either time wise or getting the recipe right?
A: It varies. Anything with essential oils I’m super careful with because there are skin-safe percentages and that varies by product, whether it’s in a soap that’s going to rinse off the skin or it’s in a lotion that’s going to stay on the skin. What your base is changes it. It also just depends on how decorative it is. I have some soaps I do that are incredibly time consuming because of the decorative aspect.
Q: How long does it typically take to make a batch of something?
A: There are some that are three- and four-stage processes, so it may take an entire afternoon to get one just in the mold cooling and ready for the next day to cut.
Q: You’re juggling a lot?
A: I juggle the retail end and the making of everything and cleaning the bathroom. My 19-year-old works with me most of the time. He has another job with his dad also, so for the past three weeks he hasn’t been here. It’s definitely a balancing act because you have to keep up with inventory and keep up with shelf life and dates and making products. And not just inventory out there on the floor, but stock inventory. It can be overwhelming.
Q: What are your busier times?
A: Christmas, obviously. Valentine’s is usually a big gift-giving holiday. I do a lot of gift baskets at Valentine’s. And we’re really pushing Mother’s Day this year.
Q: Are you in any other retail shops or stores?
A: A few. I do some custom work for the Springer Opera House gift shop, and I also do some things that are show specific for them. We did some really nice stuff for “Sweeney Todd.” That was fun. I got to be a little gruesome. I’m a little off from center anyway, so that was right up my alley. I also do some things for Robin’s Nest boutique. I do some things for Patricia’s Pearls in Pine Mountain. She’s one of my bigger wholesalers. We actually do a bath bomb for her that has a real pearl on top. They’re very pretty when they’re done.
Q: Is it hard to keep from taking on too much?
A: It’s that fine line between overwhelming myself and wanting to get as much out as I can. We are hoping by early summer to have a website launched. So we will start with the basic products that I always have, the facial bar, and I make a hemp seed oil soap. It’s great and a little different looking, but it catches the attention and is a really good seller. So we’re hoping to have some of the essentials on the website that are easier to keep up with.