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Bringing out her internal Natural Hippie

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Many business owners, both locally and globally, have had to deal with the question of whether they would be allowed to operate their business as governments around the world have had different regulations and restrictions to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic over the last year.
This uncertainty has backed entrepreneurs in a corner, forcing them to rely on government subsidies 
and their own life savings to make ends meet, shut down completely, or pivot their business model to adapt to the new pandemic-era economy.
One person who has found a new way to express her creativity and support her family is Jessica Bell, who has found new success in The Natural Hippie Co., her business of making handmade, natural soaps and body care products that often almost look too good to use.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bell enjoyed working in the hair industry for the last 15 years, the most recent years of which were being an independent stylist.
“Throughout my career, I took opportunities to try new things, taking a few years off here and there, but I always found myself being pulled back to the industry,” said Bell.
“In early 2019, after a few years break from doing hair, I made the choice to begin preparations to re-open my clientele. 
I spent the majority of the year taking certification courses to update my techniques, extensive research into product lines, various updates in the business ends of things and finally by late 2019 I was ready for business. Within a matter of weeks, my clientele was full, and by January 2020, I was having to refer customers to other stylists.”
Bell noted that January and February of 2020 were record months for her business, averaging the most business she has had her entire career. That all came crashing down in March with the rest of the world, with the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and the subsequent shutdown of many businesses deemed non-essential, including hair services.
Bell initially used the time to recharge, but as weeks turned into months, she began to grieve the loss of the second income for her family and the opportunities that come with it. “I have a drive inside of me that never lets me stay put for too long, and I decided to use this time I was given on lockdown to
brainstorm any and all possible ways I could use this opportunity to grow,” said Bell.
This is where natural soaps and body care products entered into the equation. “I am passionate about
a lot of things, and being eco-conscious is one of them,” said Bell, noting that in her past travels around the world, she has seen her fill of pollution and devastation that has ravaged the international landscape. “I decided I was going to hold myself accountable and be as eco-friendly as I could, remaining mindful of
waste.
“In 2016, I began researching and formulating my own body care products for my family. My daughter has very sensitive skin and after trying many over-thecounter options, nothing seemed to help her skin. I
took matters into my own hands and started creating soaps, on a whim. After a short time, many of her issues and sensitivities dissolved.
“Over the years, I would make soaps to give as gifts to family and friends and people would tell me how much they loved them, how much they have noticed a change in their skin since using it, and so on,” Bell
continued. “I knew then I had a great product, but as a busy working mom, spare time did not come by too often. It occurred to me not long into lockdown in spring of 2020 that I may be able to use this as an opportunity to generate an income if need be.” 
Summer saw some relief for her as her personal services business was abe to open up again and made her super busy playing catch-up with all of her clients. However, she eventually found that she was not getting as much business as before, with some people naturally not booking as many appointments in the summer, and some cutting back how many appointments they would book based on decreased spending or a change in style choices brought by the pandemic.
“November and December are some of the busiest months for stylists, and this is when we hustle through 12+ hour days getting everyone in before the holidays,” said Bell. “What a stylist makes in these months
carries them through the slower times in their schedule.”
She was ready again for the upturn in her business, complete with a full stock of supplies and chemicals to provide her service, chemicals that came with an expiration date. 
Alas! The second business lockdown came at the beginning of last November, a lockdown that would affect personal services like Bell’s for months. 
“Not knowing how long the second lockdown would be, I’d be facing a restocking chemical bill far beyond any savings I had,” said Bell. “I could ride out the second lockdown, or I can begin to take hold of the situation and do everything in my power to succeed even if it means doing something different.”
This is when Bell jumped in with both feet to develop The Natural Hippie Co., knowing more or less what she wanted it to be but faced with a lot of work to make it all come together. 
“I spent days and sleepless nights researching, ingredient sourcing, pulling together my supplies and resources,” she said. “I wanted to create a product in a way that not everyone has seen before. 
I knew I could add my artistic flair to the soap and people would love it, but I wanted the Hippie Co. to be about more than that.
“My dream was to provide a product to the public based on completely natural, organic and ethically 
sourced ingredients. 
My company was going to be completely free of single-use plastics, avoid the use of palm oil and the
packaging was going to be paper products or reusable containers, a company with a minimal footprint left on Earth. 
“The Natural Hippie Co. is just that, a company based on providing to you a product that is better for your body and better for our planet,” Bell continued. “I was extremely busy creating and developing our  product line for weeks, being mindful to create a little something for everyone, regardless of any  sensitivity.
All of our soaps are formulated with nourishing oils, butters and high quality fragrance oils or essential oils.” A nervous Bell finally launched her website – thenaturalhippieco.ca – on Dec. 13, anxious and
hoping that others would have the same passion for her product as she was, worried that people may
not purchase soap on a site where they can’t smell or touch it. Bell’s worries subsided when she received 100 orders within the first 40 minutes of launching the website, selling out of product, flooded with orders
from both the local community, nationally, and internationally into the United States and Australia.
“I was in shock, to say the least,” said Bell. “Since then, The Natural Hippie Co. continues to release new products regularly, having expanded into creating various body care products as well as formulating our
own line of hair care products. Our goal is to provide a completely plastic- free luxurious routine to the people who are passionate about helping our planet. We believe there can still be a lot of luxury in simplicity. 
“As the Hippie Co. grows and evolves, I still have to remind myself that this is real, and to be honest, I have COVID to thank for the push I needed to go for a dream.” Bell believes that people are responsible for their own actions, thoughts and outlook. 
“If you find yourself in a situation less than desirable, I urge you to look for the positive, and if you can’t find it, than make it or change it,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to take charge of your dreams. No one else will do it for you. “We are now in our third lockdown, and the COVID-19 pandemic may have closed the door for me as a stylist, but I opened a new one. We will all be forever changed by COVID for various reasons. If you are struggling, I urge you to get
creative, look deep within yourself and pull out the courage to do what it takes to succeed, even if it’s different. “The amount of support that I have received and continue to receive from our local community
is overwhelming,” Bell continued. “Our little community is truly amazing and I appreciate everyone for the words of encouragement and continuing to show up for the families that need you most. The small businesses that make up our community need you now more than ever.” 

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Jeremy Bergen
REPORTER
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