Mom Makers: Christmas Shopping for Locally-Made Goods
‘Tis the season for shopping. And the season for coupons, the sales and relentless advertisements. But for our readers trying to be more conscious of where and how they spend their dollars this season, we wanted to help guide you to some products worthy of your open wallet. When tackling your gift list this season, consider buying gifts made by other local moms. You’ll not only be supporting local businesses and families, your gift will have special meaning to the recipient.
If you’ve ever walked into Oklahoma City restaurant The Jones Assembly and wondered how to recreate the intoxicating scent in your own home, we’ve got good news. The scent is a combination of tobacco, black pepper and musk that burns from a candle concocted and poured by Bisby Candles, a local company owned by Oklahoma City mom Nicole Bisby. Stop by the hostess stand and you can purchase the candles.
Bisby started making candles in her kitchen eight years ago and her hobby transformed into a full-blown business when a buyer from Whole Foods was given one of her candles. Bisby Candles are set apart by their unique scents and non-toxic properties. Bisby uses inspirations from travel to help come up with new scents. Purchasers can select full-size candles, or purchase “flights” of three smaller candles meant to deliver the scents of different destinations across the globe.
Bisby started the company doing every task herself from creating scents to shipping the final product. Although the candles are still hand-poured, she’s hired someone else to help with that part. She now has her hands full with her 2-year-old son Malik plus a full-time job in franchise development at the Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt headquarters.
“He kind of flipped everything on its head for me,” she said of having her son in 2016. “Becoming a mom gave me more empathy. I have a different work ethic now. I don’t spend time on anything non-essential anymore and he really created a sense of urgency in my work. If I wasn’t organized, I wouldn’t be able to continue.”
Malik also gave her a new understanding of the importance of keeping toxic products out of her home.
The American Chemical Society reports paraffin-based candles—the most popular kind—emit toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene when burned. Soy candles like Bisby’s do not emit toxic chemicals.
“I’m happy to give parents something that adds to your environment but doesn’t harm your family,” Bisby said. The candles also are made with lead-free wicks.
Although The Jones Assembly only sells their own signature scent, an array of Bisby candles can be purchased at Always Greener, On A Whim, Whole Foods in Oklahoma City and online at www.shopbisby.com. Candles range from $20-$36.
Steele Family Farm
When Angie Steele started making goat milk soap, she never imagined it would be anything more than a labor of love for her son. Her youngest of four sons has Down syndrome and autism and suffers from eczema.
“We tried all the prescriptions and everything for two years,” Steele said, “but then my sister told me about goat milk soap. It has natural healing properties so I figured we’d give it a shot.”
Steele purchased a bar and was amazed at what it did to reduce her son’s eczema. The family lives on a farm in Washington, a town 30 miles south of Oklahoma City. They already had goats, so Steele figured out how to milk them and make soap herself. In an effort to help other people, the family started Steele Family Farm in April 2014, making and selling the soap, plus a line of other natural goat milk cosmetics.
Steele describes the business as “a complete family affair.” Her four sons, ages 16, 15, 10 and 8, all pitch in from the milking process all the way to the packaging and selling.
“I’m busy all the time, we’re busy all the time. My husband and I have full-time jobs, our teenagers all play sports,” she said, “but we like to work together on the business.”
The family doesn’t milk their goats year-round like many other dairy farmers. Although goat milk sells for about $8 per half gallon, Steele believes it’s more important to let the mother goats raise their babies than it is to sell their milk. She milks between April and early fall and takes just enough to make the goat milk products for that year. During milking season, the entire family wakes up together at 5 a.m. to do the milking before starting their busy days.
Once the soap-making starts, the work continues to be fast and furious. The soap takes four to six weeks to cure, so Steele said they work year-round to make sure there is a steady stock for their customers. And while many of their customers use the goat milk products for their natural healing properties, many others just buy from them because they’re looking for more natural products to put on their bodies.
“Once they use a natural product over something mass-produced with a lot of preservatives,” she said, “they always come back. And we’ve worked really hard to price our products where regular people can buy them so it’s a win-win.”
Steele’s products are available at Chris’ Express Drug, Scissortail Gifts and the gift shop inside the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel. Bars of soap start at $7 each.
Wooden Hearts Boutique
Amber Flansburg is like any other mom of a 2-year-old, but when her son goes to Mother’s Day Out two days a week, she turns her attention to her workshop where she creates custom engraved heirloom gifts for clients across the country.
Everything about the business screams family, from the name and the product offerings to how she spends her time running the business day-to-day.
The name of the business actually stems from an old wooden heart she found at her Grandma’s house several years ago. She describes her Grandma, who died recently at 96 years old, as her best friend. One item she got to keep of her Grandma’s was a wooden heart with “I love you” etched in the back by her Grandfather when the couple first got together. Amber’s husband has given her small wooden hearts to mark special occasions over the years, she said, like the first time he said “I love you” and at an ultrasound appointment when she was pregnant with her son, Konrad. Having her son was one of the big reasons she wanted to work for herself, she said, and he influences a lot about the way she works.
“It’s definitely a slower pace since having Konrad,” Amber said of work. “It’s a process. Your mind is always just somewhere else no matter what you’re doing so I’ve had to work hard to get as much done as I can when I’m without him so I can really be present when we’re together. We’re figuring it out slowly.”
Konrad has inspired a lot of the products Amber and her husband have created. Before Konrad was born, they created a massive wooden cutout of his name for the wall. It’s now a popular offering with their customers. She also creates personalized ornaments for baby’s first Christmas and can engrave a sonogram picture or a child’s silhouette on an ornament. As Konrad gets older, he will certainly continue to influence the products they offer. They offer ornaments engraved with your child’s Christmas list in his or her own handwriting.
Amber is proud that working for herself and creating a life that allows her to spend time with Konrad also means giving people heirloom gifts they can cherish for generations. Personalized gifts can be purchased at www.woodenheartsboutique.com. Prices start at $20 for personalized ornaments.
LUX Baby Bottles
When Oklahoma City mom of three Lisa Blacknoll contacted a manufacturer to make a special bottle nipple for her infant son, she wasn’t intending to start a business. She just wanted to equip her son to be able to drink from a bottle before she returned to work.
“It was so hard thinking about going back,” she said of returning to her job while breastfeeding. “I was trying every single nipple I could find and he wasn’t having any of it.”
She studied exactly the way her own body worked and asked a manufacturer to replicate that. The manufacturer was confident something could be made to her specifications, but it would need to be a large order to get them at a reasonable price. So the baby bottle brand LUX was born.
“I figured if my son, who was really picky about it, wanted this bottle,” she said, “then maybe it could help other moms, too.”
The LUX Big Boob Bottle (called the Natural Baby Bottle on Amazon) is made to mimic actual breastfeeding. The design allows squeezing to mimic breastmilk letdown and is made with soft silicone in a shape and size that aids with easy latch and prevents babies from swallowing air while feeding.
Whether or not babies will take a bottle oftentimes makes or breaks a mom’s decision to continue breastfeeding after they return to work. But Blacknoll said it’s also important to her to provide moms with a way to let dads, grandparents and other caregivers give comforting feeding experiences to their babies.
LUX bottles can be purchased on Amazon, Buy Buy Baby, Bed Bath & Beyond and locally at Cinnamon Bears in Edmond.
Stop by Twinkle Apothecary’s shop set up inside the trendy Siempre Viva boutique in Automobile Alley to shop locally-made perfumes, deodorant, body and bath oil for yourself or anyone on your Christmas list. If it’s after school, you may have a chance to meet Vladik, the 5-year-old son of Twinkle creator Stefanie Grant.
“Being a single mom,” Grant said, “work and motherhood are so intertwined and a lot of times he may be here at the studio with me while I ship orders or take care of things.”
Grant started the business about three years ago out of a twofold motivation: create a product she really needed while also creating a sustainable life to be able to spend time with her son. She was living in Los Angeles at the time. She quit her job as an actor after her son was born and started work in fashion production. It was a high-pressure job that came with a lot of stress, she said, which didn’t always vibe with her desire to use vegan products that were natural and cruelty-free.
When no other deodorant worked, she started making her own. It was such a smashing success that she moved back home to Oklahoma and started selling it at farmers markets and pop-ups. She’s since built a website for online sales and added a lot of locally-made natural products to her lineup, including perfumes and hair products. She cleverly creates body and hair care products like dry shampoo and deodorant to match her fragrances.
Her products aren’t just vegan and cruelty-free, they’re also made with no parabens, petrol, preservatives, phthalates, talc or artificial fragrances. And, of course, made by a local mom.
“I knew working full time and taking care of him on my own wasn’t sustainable,” she said. “I just wanted to be there for him and have a schedule that works for the two of us so that’s been my main goal from the beginning. He’s very much a part of what I do every day.”
Shop Twinkle Apothecary products at Siempre Viva or at www.twinkleapothecary.com.
The Round House Bakery
When Kayla Peters’ oldest two children were toddlers, she started looking for a job. Like many moms, she wanted something flexible that allowed her to be home a lot with her kids. Unlike most moms, she’d just left the Mennonite community she grew up in, a very conservative Christian group that didn’t exactly prepare her for the workforce.
“Girls weren’t really allowed to work outside the home,” she said of growing up Mennonite, “so I had no resume. I tried finding a job locally and I didn’t even have a reference. It was so eye-opening to realize I wasn’t raised in the real world and it was a challenge just knowing what to do.”
The one thing Peters knew she could do really well was bake. Girls in her community did a lot of cooking and baking growing up. In fact, she had run a very successful fundraiser selling baked goods to raise money for a home remodel. More lenient laws regarding how Oklahomans could sell home-baked goods passed in 2011, and Peters saw it as her perfect opportunity to generate income and spend time at home with her kids. So The Round House Bakery was born out of her geodesic dome house in Perkins, about an hour northeast of Oklahoma City.
What makes the bakery unique to most is that Peters uses organic, unbleached ingredients without chemical flavorings, colors and preservatives.
She admits it feels overwhelming at times running a business while being at home with three kids, but is working on delegating and adding help to keep things running smoothly.
She specializes in cakes with confection garnishes, which means the cakes are usually decorated with other edible elements like macarons. Those macarons are available for sale, too, along with cupcakes. Her cakes make an excellent addition to a holiday spread and macarons make a terrific gift, especially for the impossible-to-shop-for person on your list.
Another great gift idea Peters offers is a chance to bond with a friend or family member at a workshop. A Cakes & Sweet Breads Workshop is offered Dec. 8 at The Round House studio in Perkins. Attendees will get a crash course in baking cakes and cinnamon rolls just in time for the holidays, then enjoy brunch after the lesson. Tickets for the workshop are $130 and advance registration is required. A dozen macarons are available for $18, a dozen cupcakes are $36 and celebration cakes start at $30. Orders must be placed in advance and picked up at the bakery.