From her early days manning a booth at a local farmers market to her now loyal 6,000+ Instagram following, herbalist Kailah Tidwell has come a long way with her small batch apothecary company Bloom Co. We sat down with Tidwell for the latest installment of our Small Business Talk series highlighting and demystifying the world of women in small business.
Tell us about Bloom Co.
KT: Bloom Co. is an online community for plant lovers that serves as an apothecary and herbal education platform. I carry seasonal, handcrafted tea blends (many herbs homegrown here in Arkansas) and plant-based body care goods in the apothecary. I also use my blog and instagram page to provide free education about herbalism and sharing resources for natural and sustainable living practices. If you’re new to the scene, herbalism can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. There’s a ton of information out there. But I’m a straight shooter. My goal is to make this stuff easy to understand, and give folks an opportunity to interact with other plant and nature lovers.
Did you have a lightbulb moment when you knew this was what you were supposed to do?
KT: In 2017 I set up shop at The Bernice Garden Farmers Market. Working the market meant I was working seven days per week, but I felt absolutely energized at the end of a Sunday market (and that’s saying A LOT for this introvert). Having the experience of sharing information with the people in my community and seeing the same faces come back week after week for their favorite goods lit a fire in me. That’s when I knew.
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What was it like to go full time with Bloom Co.?
KT: In a word: miraculous. Mental health therapy was my main gig for the past two years, and I found myself unemployed this April after the COVID outbreak. I moved the few therapy clients I retained to an online practice and hoped I would have enough new clients by the time my apartment lease ended to renew it. In what seems like an act of God, Bloom Co. took off on instagram within a month of working from home. My following more than tripled, and orders are being sent out all over the nation every week. What I thought would be my side hustle shifted into my full-time gig in a month’s time. While it’s not quite the timing I expected, I couldn’t be more thrilled. (I renewed that lease, too!)
What is something you wish you did differently when you launched?
KT: I wish I treated this like a legitimate career when I launched. When I stopped treating it like a side hustle, it took off in ways that I could not have imagined. People saw my dedication and they responded to that dedication with support and opportunity.
Since then, what was a moment that felt huge to you, but might not look that way to others?
KT: The moment of submitting a direct deposit to myself. It’s a small thing. It’s expected when you work for yourself. But after working for others and feeling tied to their money and their vision, even when I was being undervalued or blatantly mistreated, writing a check to myself feels like absolute freedom.
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How have your goals evolved since you first started?
KT: I’m not as rigid as I used to be because I embrace the beauty of living a simple life now. I’m less focused on hitting big earnings goals within a certain timeframe. My overarching goal is to be flexible and meet the needs of the folks in my community while living my life comfortably. When I’m doing what feels right, the money flows.
What are the best and hardest parts about working for yourself?
KT: Hardest part: Juggling all of the moving parts of operating a product-based business on my own. Best part: Knowing that all of the work I put into Bloom Co. is in service of my own vision. I know as long as I am working for myself, my time and efforts will always be valued.
Does being a woman affect how you do business or the way people do business with Bloom Co.? If so, how?
KT: Women make up most of my following. As a woman with an opinion, I encourage the women and femmes in my little chunk of the internet to do their research as consumers and speak up when they feel empowered to. I get a ton of feedback and questions from customers about the products I share. They want to know about the ingredients. They request resources to learn how to grow things on their own. I see a change in how the women in my virtual space are consuming, and I love that. In a world where women’s voices and concerns have historically been pushed aside, I hope the bold spirit I see in my customers spills out into every other part of their lives as well.
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What do you wish people knew about small business owners?
KT: We’re usually juggling a lot of things at once, and every single transaction and every bit of love that comes our way is deeply appreciated. Just knowing people are interested in what I’m doing and have a desire to support me goes a long way.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
KT: It’s probably never going to feel like you have it all together at once, and that’s okay. There’s a ton to juggle. Lots of people simply will not understand what you’re doing because it’s unconventional. I suggest talking to people who are doing what you want to do. Read the books, watch the YouTube videos, listen to all the podcasts and check in with your local Small Business Association office for guidance. There’s a ton of free help out there. Give yourself the best foundation you can and go for it!