Sisters Kasey Collier and Kelly Evick-Parker remember the precise moment everything changed for Biggs & Featherbelle, their all-natural soap and body product business now headquartered in Howard County.
In 2006, the sisters were working as waitresses while they tried to get their business off the ground. One day their mother phoned them at work.
Orders were coming in like crazy, their mother told them, and she didn’t know why.
It turns out one of their products, the Belly Balm for pregnant women, had been mentioned by Heidi Klum in a New York Post article. That’s when the sisters decided it was time to quit their day jobs and devote all their energy to the company.
Since then, their profits have been increasing steadily, the sisters said, and they’ve moved up from a small kitchen space in their parents’ house in Anne Arundel County to a sprawling warehouse space in Jessup in 2018, where workers create and package all 20 of the company’s different soaps, along with its body scrubs, balms and butters.
“It’s hard because you’re in it every day,” Evick-Parker said, “and then every once in a while you step back and it’s still hard to believe how we’ve grown.”
Starting out as a small, family operation, the business now has about 40 employees. According to the company, Biggs & Featherbelle has experienced double-digit growth every year for at least the past eight years. For 2019, sales are expected to exceed $2 million.
The idea for Biggs & Featherbelle began in winter 2003, when the sisters decided to make soaps as Christmas gifts for their family, inspired by a Martha Stewart magazine. The company’s name is a whimsical invention of two characters: Biggs, who’s based on the family’s cat, and Featherbelle, who’s a combination of Kasey and Kelly.
The warehouse, which the family has dubbed Lather Lab 4.0, is the company’s fourth location. The sisters, who are both parents, had moved to Howard County with their families, and relocating their warehouse space out of Baltimore city just made sense, they said.
The Jessup warehouse is an eclectic mix of equipment for restaurants and construction, where you’re just as likely to find a concrete mixer as you are a french fry cutter.
Large, colorful blocks of soap sit ready to be cut into about 200 bars. And scraps don’t go to waste. Instead, the chunks are mixed into “medley” soaps with a combination of scents.
In addition to their soaps, Biggs & Featherbelle also produces bath fizzies, soaks, body scrubs, shea butters, lip balm and more.
In Howard County, Biggs & Featherbelle products are sold at Wegmans, Giant Food, MOM’s Organic Market and Roots Market, the sisters said. Products can also be ordered online at biggsandfeather.com.
The company doesn’t use a distributor, they said, and they have large displays at several stores where customers can select and package their own products.
It’s all part of the company’s renewed effort to cut out packaging and single-use plastics. It’s also more evidence the business is a family affair.
Don Evick, the sisters’ father, builds all of their display shelves by hand. He and his wife, Pam, have been “loyal laborers” for the business from the beginning when it “consumed” their house in Gambrills. He said family members wrapped and labeled soaps from room to room.
Evick said he sometimes wanders over to the Biggs & Featherbelle display in his local Wegmans. When people approach to sniff the soaps and scrubs, he offers a bit of a sales pitch before explaining his connection to the business.
Biggs & Featherbelle also works with Itineris, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that helps adults with autism find employment and other resources. Their partnership began out of near-complete serendipity, said Katie Vester, employment director at Itineris.
The two businesses had neighboring locations in the Woodberry Park area of Baltimore at the time, and Itineris decided to ask its neighbors one day to share some parking for an upcoming event.
They got to talking that day, and now there are four neurodiverse individuals working at the warehouse through Itineris, largely in packaging and shipping jobs.
“They recognized the value of employees that bring that attention to detail and enjoyment of routine,” Vester said. “Kelly and Kasey have just been so great. They have such a welcoming environment.”
In September, the sisters will set up shop in the Baltimore Convention Center for the Natural Products Expo, a fair with more than 1,000 vendors. To them, it represents how far they’ve come since learning soap-making from library books to prepare for local craft fairs.
Their first was Howard County’s Long Reach community fair, they said.
“I remember we pulled an all-nighter that night,” Collier said with a chuckle.