Kasey Collier and Kelly Evick-Parker Have Turned Soap Maker Biggs & Featherbelle Into A Successful Sister Act
If a beauty brand was a comforting family home-cooked meal, it would be Biggs & Featherbelle, a skincare and body care range owned by tight-knit sisters Kasey Collier and Kelly Evick-Parker.
“Our mission is to be able to create a clean, simple, everyday product that everybody can use and is available at an affordable price,” says Collier. “In the natural beauty industry, it is more expensive to manufacture with essential oils and ingredients. We’ve always handcrafted everything in-house. All of our materials come in unprocessed. It’s a lot of extra hard work, but I think it helps add a little love in a special way.”
Biggs & Featherbelle is on track to hit $2 million in sales this year. Started after Collier and Evick-Parker made soaps as Christmas gifts in 2003, the sisters sold just 500 soaps out of their parents’ 800-square-foot basement during its first year in business while they supported themselves as waitresses. As of this year, Biggs & Featherbelle has sold almost 500,000 soaps, and the products are now produced in a 10,000-square-foot Jessup, Md., facility by a team of over 20 individuals, including autistic employees that were introduced to the brand through the nonprofit Itineris. Evick-Parker says, “It really warms our hearts to be able to provide jobs to adults on the spectrum who might otherwise not have an opportunity to work.”
Biggs & Featherbelle’s name is based on two cartoon characters conceptualized by the sisters’ friend Brian Dugan inspired by them and a family cat. The cheerful name and the brand’s fun packaging contrasts its serious formulas that avoid synthetic chemicals. Biggs & Featherbelle offers around 20 cold-processed soaps, bath soaks, bath bombs, body scrubs, balms, body butters, aroma mists and perfume oils. In 2006, the New York Post mentioned Heidi Klum and Maggie Gyllenhaal are fans of its belly balm. The press coverage spiked sales, and that’s when Collier and Evick-Parker decided they could leave waitressing behind.
On top of its finished personal care goods, Biggs & Featherbelle sells bulk materials like shea butter at Earth Fare and Whole Foods, where they appeal to health-savvy and crafty consumers. Evick-Parker says, “Their customers are typically going to take the time to cook their meals, so they’re probably going to take the time to make their own beauty products.” With accessibility a priority, Biggs & Featherbelle’s prices range from $4 to $17.
“Our mission is to be able to create a clean, simple, everyday product that everybody can use and is available at an affordable price.”
The brand’s core customers are divided into two camps. “The first is the health-conscious shopper with no specific age group or gender,” explains Evick-Parker. “It’s someone who chooses to make their lives less toxic. They usually are willing to pay a premium for their health. The second customer is someone who hasn’t yet to be educated and experienced in health consciousness, but, because we’re simple and they can connect with our ingredients, it’s not too big of a cost and easy to try.”
According to the sisters, the brand’s distribution has grown organically. In July, it launched at supermarket chain Lowes Foods’ South Carolina stores in Lexington and Mount Pleasant. The goal is for Biggs & Featherbelle to expand to other Lowes Foods locations. In total, it’s currently carried in 350 doors at grocers such as Wegmans, Giant, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Hannaford and MOM’s Organic Market as well as Lowes Foods. At select stores, shoppers can package their own products to cut down on waste.
“We haven’t had to constantly knock on doors. We’re very fortunate for it, but a lot of retailers came to us. The top executives are buying and looking at the top competition for their stores,” says Collier, advising her fellow beauty entrepreneurs, “If you can get into one location, just focus on doing a really good job in that location. If you don’t spread yourself too thin, the rest will come.”
Early on, Biggs & Featherbelle relied on craft fairs and expositions to get the word out. In 2006, Collier and Evick-Parker met Charlie Gardner, a category merchant for Nature’s Marketplace inside Wegmans at a trade show. It took six years to strike a deal with the grocer’s Columbia, Md., location. Within a year of Biggs & Featherbelle entering the store, it spread to five additional doors. Today, Biggs & Featherbelle is stocked in 48 Wegmans locations.
“If you can get into one location, just focus on doing a really good job in that location. If you don’t spread yourself too thin, the rest will come.”
Although elated to land one of their dream retail partners, the sisters faced capital constraints as they attempted to satisfy retail demand. “It’s exciting to get these huge orders from big-box retailers. You have to have the materials to make the products,” says Evick-Parker. Biggs & Featherbelle previously outsourced merchandising to an agency, but were disappointed by external results. As a result, Biggs & Featherbelle pivoted to bring the function in-house three years ago.
“We realized we lost complete control. We now have about 15 to 20 contracted merchandisers that work for us and go into our stores every two weeks,” says Collier. “We also have a new computer program and can see what’s happening at our stores on a daily basis. It’s like having our eyes always out there.”
Biggs & Featherbelle depends on the similarities and dissimilarities of its sister leaders to operate. “We grew up very close and our parents raised us to be close, as best friends. We’re different, but our aesthetics are very alike,” says Evick-Parker. Collier says, “I keep things running on the daily. Kelly’s more free-spirited, and I’m a little more organized. I’m very type A. We work through everything, and we’re completely honest with each other. We probably wouldn’t have made it past a year in business if we weren’t sisters.”
Their parents pitch in with the company. Father Donald Evick is the go-to problem solver for a variety of plumbing, electric and building maintenance issues. Mom Pamela Evick assists with shipping. Kasey’s husband Casey Collier joined Biggs & Featherbelle in January as digital strategist to handle communications, marketing and technical needs for the business. The co-founders hope their young children—Collier has 4-year-old fraternal twin sons, and Evick-Parker has a 3-year-old-son—take an interest Biggs & Featherbelle as they get older to continue the family affair.