Have you ever looked at the ingredients in your cosmetics? Most of the time, it’s impossible to even pronounce them — never mind know what they are.
When artist Rachel Budde took a look at the ingredients in her cosmetics and hygiene products, she was confused — and wanted all-natural alternatives. Finding none that met her standards, she decided to make them herself in 2011.
She began crafting beauty products for herself in her Brooklyn, New York, apartment. When her friends became interested in the natural toothpastes and deodorants she was whipping up, she realized her personal solution could actually be a business idea. So in 2012, after finishing graduate school in New York, she moved to Grass Valley, California, and Fat and the Moon was born. The unusual name, she says, comes from the fats in plants necessary for healing and sea tides controlled by the moon, symbolizing that water is the ultimate life source on this planet.
The move worked out for Budde — today, she has eight employees, and her products are sold in over 500 stores globally, including Etsy and Amazon. Fat and the Moon’s most popular product — aluminum-free deodorant cream — sold between 8,500 and 10,000 units last year. Her venture has been featured in Vogue, InStyle, and on the Today show thanks to celebrity endorsements from actress Kristen Bell and singer Alanis Morissette. Budde’s decision also represents her philosophy on life: “If I don’t see what I want in the world, I make it,” she says — no matter how hard it may be.
Fighting All Things Toxic
Fat and the Moon has grown organically, and Budde has not taken out a loan or pursued investors. Instead, she says her seed money came from redirecting her usual budget for cosmetics and hygiene products toward ingredients for her products.
That slow-but-steady growth can make it tough to compete. The US cosmetic industry generated approximately $84 billion in 2016, with big-name companies like Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, and Proctor and Gamble Company to go up against. But Budde believes her message of self-love, self-care and healing sets her venture apart. Major brands, by comparison, push messages that are harmful to women, she says — “that something is wrong with you, and their product is going to help you fix it.”
That messaging is toxic in its own way, she adds. “It’s great to have non-toxic [product] alternatives … but what I really want to combat are these messages that make women in particular feel as though their bodies are wrong.” Her mission is to inspire customers to love the bodies they have while using her products that enhance their natural beauty.
Budde also aims to heal the environment, as well as the body and soul. “We are as low-waste as we can possibly be,” Budde says, pointing to her mostly recyclable, completely reusable packaging and her partnerships with similarly eco-conscious partners as part of her efforts. “I personally lose sleep at night thinking about better ways we can package our products.” Budde’s hope is that, by offering low-waste products, people will feel inclined to reduce waste in every aspect of their lives.
Holding firm to that principle made expansion trickier — and Budde carries that on her shoulders. “The more the business has grown, the more I feel the pressure of all the people who depend on me,” she says. “I think that’s been my biggest struggle — how to grow.” And she wants to grow with “integrity, with what the ethics of my business are,” and struggles to do so sustainably She says there have been times when it would have been easier and more cost-effective to handle things differently — in how shipments are packaged, for example, as her company is firmly anti-packing peanuts — but at the end of the day, doing so would compromise her company’s mission.
And for Budde, that’s too big of a cost to handle.
Staying the Course
For anyone who is — reasonably — intimidated by the thought of being the one to solve a problem, Budde’s advice is to keep your inner drive. “I think if you have a part of you that feels passionate about something — especially if it is something that would work toward creating a better world for yourself and also your fellow humans and your fellow plants and your fellow animals — listen to that. Keep coming back to that as your reason to do it.”
As Fat and the Moon continues forward, Budde hopes to be able to expand their market to more countries and make her products as accessible to to as many people as possible.
For a long time she saw money and business as a strongly male-dominated world that only offered one way of doing things. But after starting Fat and the Moon, she believes business is a new creative medium for women to get involved with. “I think women have an opportunity as business owners to really change what business means,” she says. “I hope that as more women really get to manifest their dream in the form of business, business as an entity will change.”