Choosing a Charity

When we started Belle Terre, we decided from the beginning that we wanted to find ways to give back to our community.  One decision we made early on was to donate 5% of our profits to a local charity.  In 2010, we chose the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program and adopted 5 acres in the Appalachians.  We discussed quite a bit whether or not to continue the program and decided that we should choose a charity each year.

For 2011, we are asking for your help.  We have narrowed the choices down to the two charities described for you below.  Please enter a comment to the post with your vote.  One of our voters will win a gift set of Belle Terre’s new facial bars!

Belle Terre thanks you for your help!

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Choice #1 – Humane Society of Charlotte

The Humane Society of Charlotte is proud to be a “No-Kill of Adoptable Animals” shelter. “No-kill of Adoptable Animals” means saving all cats and dogs that can be rehabilitated and are manageable.  Euthanasia is reserved only for those cases where an animal is suffering or poses a public safety concern.  They offer surrender services, adoption services, education, and a low cost spay and neuter program.   For each animal they are able to place in a loving home, they take another animal in.   Their web site includes photos of adoptable dogs and cats in every shape and size you can imagine.

Those who know us know that rescued animals are near and dear to our hearts.  We, in fact, own four dogs that all came to us from less than positive histories, one by accident.  Our home has served as a temporary shelter for at least six dogs over the last few years.

Choice #2 – United Family Services

United Family Services mission is “to to provide hope and solutions for people in crisis.”  The organization is a member of United Way of Central Carolinas.  Although most people think of their shelters in cases of domestic violence, United Family Services also offers assistance for those in need of financial and emotional help.  Their services include counseling and education including  couples counseling, anger management, rape crisis assistance, credit counseling among other offerings.

After turning away more than 2,000 women and children from the battered women’s shelter last year, United Family Services started a campaign to open a new shelter in Charlotte.  From their site: “United Family Services, a 100-year-old family counseling and crisis intervention umbrella agency, established Charlotte’s Shelter for Battered Women in 1979. It had 25 beds for women and children victims of domestic violence. Since then, Charlotte’s population has doubled, yet the shelter has added only four beds.”  The much needed building project is underway and you can watch the progress on their website.

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Choosing a Charity

When we started Belle Terre, we decided from the beginning that we wanted to find ways to give back to our community.  One decision we made early on was to donate 5% of our profits to a local charity.  In 2010, we chose the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program and adopted 5 acres in the Appalachians.  We discussed quite a bit whether or not to continue the program and decided that we should choose a charity each year. Continue reading

big box vs. small shop

I have worked in large established retailers since I was 16.  With over 17 years of experience in retail, accompanied by too many years of business related schooling, I was confident that starting and growing a small soap company would be relatively easy.  Let’s just say, I’m still learning =).

I want to be clear, Julia and I are thrilled with the progress Belle Terre has made in its first six months.  We are amazed by the customers who have fallen in love with our natural soap and lip balms and who respect and appreciate our commitment to an eco-friendly business model.  But make no mistake, there has been a learning curve!

In my “daytime” job I’m used to tens of thousands of customers seeking out my store every week.  In my specific department, if there is product I want to move I build a display and the product magically disappears in quantities that are sometimes astounding!  I have learned, with some disappointment, that this does not happen everywhere.  In fact, there are places where you can build a beautiful display with great product and people may not buy anything for days at a time.  So much for the Great American Consumer!

What I have come to realize as we learn more about the small biz game is that neither Rome, nor anything else worthwhile, was built in a day.  Love ’em or hate ’em, every big box retailer started out as a small business.  The owner started with one store, worked like a fool and against all odds, not only stayed in business but was able to open a second location.  In truth, those of us working in big box retailers have it easy and are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.

I appreciate what that owner must have experienced while getting that first store up and running.  I understand the emotional roller coaster that is small scale retailing and I’m sure, small business in general.  Because I work in the reality of another’s dream I know that there is great satisfaction on the other side, when we have taken step after painfully slow step,  to bring our own dream to fruition.  I can see, in my minds eye, our little soap company, becoming a robust business that is spreading the gospel of natural products while setting a standard for responsible business in our resource constrained age.

But whatever becomes of Belle Terre, whether it stays small or becomes a sudsy empire, I can say that I am better for having pursued the dream, than having never never dreamed at all!  And this, I believe, is the great lesson of entrepreneurship!