The Story of Ohio Valley Herbal Products
In1984 I moved to Homer, Alaska from Southern California. I met an herbalist who was writing a book about the edible, cosmetic and medicinal uses of the Alaskan wild plants. I had a computer job at the time, but I was so fascinated with this new subject and with the wonderful spirit of my new friend, Jan, that evenings and weekends I would put on my hiking boots and walk all over the woods, bogs and coastlines with her identifying plants. I slowly learned about the properties of all the herbs of the north.
We hiked everywhere, and spent time at her log cabin in the wilderness across Kachemak Bay where we took pictures of the plants, and picked herbs for salads, teas and stir-fries. We concocted things in the kitchen that were interesting, unique, delicious and healing. We made seasoning blends, creams, lotions, lip balms, salves, liniments, oils, tinctures, bath salts, bath herb blends, sinus steams, scented powders and teas. We tried them out on husbands and friends. Herbal products were a novelty then. People were interested and intrigued.
We experimented with packaging: computer labels, cork tops sealed with beeswax, cloth tops wrapped with ribbons, recycled jars and bottles. We had such a variety that we thought we might try a fair. Our first fair was a great success. We expected nothing, but sold several hundred dollars worth of herbal products. We were thrilled. I wanted to continue and hone in on the products that had done the best. Jan wanted to focus on her book and teach. We parted ways, and I created my own company, Canyon Wildcrafts, and redesigning my product line, HerbAlaska, focusing on the seasoning, oil and lip balm. I even made beautiful wreaths from the herbs and wildflowers that sold well at Christmas.
I slowly grew the company to where I was doing over 20 shows a year, sold in over 100 stores, and had over 10,000 people on my mailing list. I had dozens of testimonials from people telling me how well the products were working for them. I was known all over Alaska as “the Herb Lady”. I got so busy that I had to hire several pickers to help gather herbs in the summer. I also had employees who helped me with packaging, my yearly mailing, and with selling at the fairs. It was a growing operation.
In April of 1996 I took an extended vacation in the Lower 48, filled my truck with product and sold at several fairs in California. I then continued my travels around the country, visiting friends and relatives, having every intention of returning to Alaska eventually. But in July I met my current husband and my life took a turn south, to the wilds of Ohio, where I stayed and have been ever since. After several years of working again in the computer field, I decided to take my nest egg and return to the business I love, this time using the plants that grow in the Ohio Valley.
With the help of a friend I built a large herb drier in June, 2001. I incorporated in July and spent the rest of the summer picking herbs and finding out where I could get the ones I needed to make the products. I researched ingredients and revised formulas. I wrote a business plan, got a loan, rented a kitchen and finalized my product line. In the spring of 2002 I began making products, wrote a recipe book, designed packaging and labels. After months of surging forward and many setbacks, I was finally ready to sell my products. During the months of August through November of 2002 I drove all over eastern Ohio, visiting over 300 stores, distributing samples and talking to the owners and buyers about the unique nature of my herbal products.
Besides selling to the retail stores we have tried to participate in many craft shows, fairs and festivals so that we can demonstrate the products and have direct contact with our customers. Though we never diagnose, we can listen to the questions you have about your various health issues and advise you on where you might look to find some answers. At each show we always meet a handful of people who stand out, who are especially appreciative of what we are trying to accomplish and who share with us invaluable pieces of information from their own realm of experience with alternative medicines and approaches to personal health.
This is what makes the shows such a special avenue for trading information and establishing a personal relationship with our customers, something that is lacking in the current economic environment. We pride ourselves on being a company you can talk to, that cares about how well the products work for you. We are in business to work for our customers. We are always tweaking the formulas and trying to make them better, using the feedback we get from you. Customer satisfaction is our number one goal.
In 2008 we moved into the Columbiana County Port Authority in East Liverpool, Ohio. We don’t have a store front, and our hours may vary, so you need to call, before stopping by. Our 50 x 80 workshop is divided into a secretarial office, finished product area, shipping and receiving, a newly renovated kitchen, a drying area and a grinding room.
I now have two employees, a secretary (Alyce) and a kitchen worker (Dot), who keep the business running while I’m away at shows. Last year I displayed at 30 shows. In the future I’m going to do fewer shows, and will be offering more seminars in herb identification and hands-on instruction making soap, creams, balms and other herbal products. Check out our website at www.wilderb.com and visit us on FaceBook. Sign up on the mailing list for occasional newsletters and specials.