Fi: One of the things that differentiate your boutique company Herbalist & Alchemist from mainstream manufacturers is the hands-on sourcing and processing of raw herbs. How does that change as companies grow?
BL: We still work with many of the same growers and collectors that we've used for many years. With the issue of sourcing, reliability and quality are critically important to a company like ours. But you also have to consider that we work with a natural product. Weather is a factor, especially for certain crops. For example, Indian pipe, which is a fungus, needs a certain amount of moisture to appear. You have to have collectors in different areas because what's most important to our customers is that we deliver the product that they need.
As we mature, and the industry has matured, our sources have also matured. Sometimes farmers who have expanded to meet the needs of the market will dry their plant material. They might grind it or have it cut or sifted to meet the demands of their customers.
You call us boutique herb companies, and many of us still are, but we have been able to access science and resources that give us that additional level of knowledge and experience.
Fi: H&A is also a certified B Corporation, which means that you've demonstrated sustainable business practices. What did going through that extensive process teach you about your company?
BL: Both David [Winston, company founder] and I came together as business partners partially because of our commitment to environmental sustainability. Having owned Permaculture Resources, a publishing and design company based on permaculture principles, those principles are really the foundation of how we conduct our business.
Going through the B Corporation certification process gave us a framework for measuring our practices. It really is helpful, because people are looking to metrics. You say you're sustainable, but what are the metrics by an outside, non-profit, third party's view? Going through that whole process brought an updated thinking.
Fi: You've been very closely involved with the American Herbal Products Association for many years – as a board chair and board member for a time. You're also involved with veterinary groups. How does your involvement benefit your company?
BL: They are amazing resources for small business. They cover legal issues, regulatory updates and scientific developments. You really get a chance to develop relationships with your peers in the industry and discuss issues that we all have. Both the AHPA and the National Animal Supplements Council have education programs. AHPA in particular – they're incredibly helpful.
Fi: I know you have a horse and you spend as much time as you can with him. What do horses mean to you?
BL: I enjoy many spectator events – I love baseball, I love opera. But one constant in my life has been my love of animals and horses is where I cross over as a performer. I've been riding now for more than 50 years. I guess I can say they're really a part of my soul. My mornings are spent going to the barn. It is always the most beautiful and spiritual part of my day – it carries me through the rest of the day.