“Our plan was to be together as a family as much as we could and just live our ideal joyful life.” -Rachel Wolf, owner Queen Bee’s Earthly Delights and Baby Moon Products
Rachel Wolf, owner of Queen Bee’s Earthly Delights and Baby Moon Products, has intentionally nurtured her young family and her livelihood under one roof in Viroqua, one of Wisconsin’s fastest-growing progressive communities. After an exhausting first five years, Rachel, her husband Pete, and their two children, Sage and Lupine, are finally settling into their version of sanity—an in-town home (close enough to bike to the Viroqua Co-op) with ample room for their growing family as well as production, shipping and offices for their all-natural bodycare products company.
Rachel started her soap sojourn while studying environmental education at UW-Stevens Point. Later, while working for the International Crane Foundation, a devoted following for her rich, emollient soaps was building and orders began coming in from friends and friends of friends from around the state and the U.S. Since 2002, when Rachel officially launched her company, demand for her handmade soaps and other baby products has continued to spread.
Rachel credits her own need for quality products as a prime motivator in developing the company. All testing and product development focus has been largely perfected through her own uses. Rachel explains, “Before my business really took off, it was all lotion bars, lip balm. And when I was pregnant myself, I started making my own belly balm and massage oil for when I went into labor. When [Sage, now four-and-a-half] was born, he was really diaper rash-prone, so I definitely got to perfect my Booty Balm. I’d go to playgroups and people would just say, ‘You’ve got the best smelling kid!’ and it was just the smell of the Diaper Wipe Juice that I made and Booty Balm.” Soon after, Rachel started producing these items separately under the name Baby Moon.
Filling a niche for parents and babies everywhere, Rachel recognized the significance of her work early in the process. “[It’s] great,” she says, “because there’s not a ton of local baby care products available, and so it filled a need for folks in that way, but it’s also so good and effective.” Now that new baby daughter Lupine was born just a few short months ago, Rachel’s delighted to have the chance to use her own special blends again.
With a nod to one of her mentors, Jane Hawley-Stevens, herbalist and owner of Four Elements, Rachel gives credit where credit is due as she describes some of the challenges she’s faced on the road to becoming a professional soap maker. “For a long time I felt like I was on my own figuring it all out. I found a billion hobbyists and not a lot of professional soap makers to tap into,” she says. “So I just got comfortable with picking up the phone or shooting an email off to Sundog or Jane and looking for help.”
Ever mindful of responsible production and consumerism, Rachel recognizes the importance of purchasing Fair Trade ingredients as they’re available. She thoughtfully designs products intended to give great results while following a philosophy of sustainability. She says, “I always work with a Fair Trade, women’s, worker-owned cooperative in Togo for my shea butter. They’re really an incredible operation, and I’ve been working with them for years. And their shea butter [is] the best shea butter I’ve ever had. It’s unbelievable. The way they process it is a lot of hand-cooking and hand-stirring—a really artisan process—and they’re doing it right because they are passionate about what they do. It’s dreamy.”
Procuring local raw ingredients whenever possible, some of Queen Bee’s soaps feature Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee, Wisconsin-grown essential mint oil and beeswax. For other non-indigenous ingredients, olive, coconut, and avocado oils are purchased through a Midwest supplier, but Rachel admits she’s always searching for even more local and Fair Trade sources as a core goal of her company.
Lotion Bars, Baby Wipe Juice, Booty Balm and a growing list of local body care products made with 100-percent essential oils are complimented by minimal packaging and labeling using post-consumer recycled paper. Rachel developed the lotion bars as an alternative to liquid soap to minimize the packaging in largely unrecyclable plastic bottles and to reduce the cost of shipping water-based freight around the country. And because there’s no water added, the cakes, which are sold in refillable tins, also do not require any of the preservatives routinely added to water-based body care products to prevent bacteria and fungus from forming in the bottle.
Movin’ down the road
Only this past fall, Rachel and her family had been living their “ideal” existence in rural Reedsburg in an active/passive solar home on 25 acres, but a lengthy daily commute to Madison for her husband had begun to make less sense to the couple. Therefore, the decision was easily made to move to Viroqua, a growing community of greater sustainability including a K-12 Waldorf School. “There was this feeling of isolation. We had our dream house, we were living off grid, and it was just this amazing place but we had this realization that we were this little island,” she remembers. “We were totally alone.” But the most significant reason to move was based on their goal to combine the business and their home into one location in order to maximize the amount of time the couple could spend parenting their growing family. “We wanted Sage and Lupine, our kids, to grow up where they fit in, where they weren’t sort on the fringe of the norm. It was important for us to be around people who were not a monoculture but to have people in our community, who maybe ate like we did, or thought about the world, or parented the way we did, and so Viroqua was really appealing.”
Making the move to a house in town wasn’t much of a sacrifice for the couple. Rachel describes, “When we moved to Viroqua, one of our prerequisites was that we found a home that could house our family and our business. To have [the business] at home has been great because it gives us more flexibility and it allows us to be parents and work at the same time. We joke that we won the lottery by moving here. We thought we were in paradise in this solar house and wooded acres, and now we’re in a ranch house in town and we couldn’t be happier. So it’s really about who’s around you rather than being in a pretty place.”
As with any dynamic company, change is inevitable and Rachel expects to announce a name change for the company in the coming months that will combine both lines (Queen Bee’s and Baby Moon) under the same name. Prompted by trademark complications and still subject to approval, a new name combining the first two letters of her children’s first names will likely be released in spring or early summer of this year.
Asked about what’s most important to her about her craft and company, Rachel responds, “Creating something that is delightful and pleasurable and made with a really wonderful ethic behind it. So our goal is to provide something that is so great you really wouldn’t want anything else. Just for the sake of how it relates your body, but in the same way we’re doing something even better than that.”
Available at Willy Street Co-op
You can find a variety of their products in our Health & Wellness department including Moonbelly Balm, Booty Balm, Cheek and Chin Balm, Mama Massage Oil, Handcrafted Soaps, Lotion Bars, Baby Wipe Juice Concentrate, Sleeping Potions Essential Oils,
Baby’s Bath Bundle. For more information on the company or to check out their complete line of products, log on to www.queenbeesoaps.com.