On August 6, 2018, W.S. Badger Co. announced that Emily Schwerin-Whyte and Rebecca Hamilton, daughters of founder and CEO Bill Whyte and COO Katie Schwerin, have been named co-CEOs of the family owned business. Bill Whyte will continue in the role as founder of the company and Katie will remain as its chief operating officer.
Here, Schwerin-Whyte and Hamilton tell us what they’ll bring with them to their new role, what might change, and what will stay the same.
What lessons are you taking from your parents as you step into this new role?
Rebecca Hamilton: If you look at some of the initiatives we’ve taken on as a company, some are unusual and some are things other companies may say aren't practical, but it’s who we are as a business and it’s been beneficial in the long run. For example, we provide our employees with an organic lunch every day. There is a certainly a big cost that comes with that. But we do it because this program builds a unique culture that people are proud of, it helps us build bridges between departments, it helps us with good retention, and it puts our value of supporting organic agriculture into action. That’s what we learned from our parents—do the right thing, regardless of what kind of work it takes, and it will pay off.
How do you think you’ll make the role your own?
Emily Schwerin-Whyte: Because we’ve both worked here over 10 years and because of the collaborative nature of our company, we feel that we’ve already been doing this work alongside our parents for many years in a lot of ways. But we are excited to deepen our connection to our supply web going forward, lean in on regenerative agriculture, and travel to connect directly with farms. A 10-year vision may even include owning our own farms where we grow our own ingredients and process them ourselves.
How has it been going so far?
ESW: The biggest challenge so far has been freeing up time in our schedules to refocus our work. Traditionally, I’ve focused on sales and marketing and Rebecca has been on the R&D side, and while we’d like to move out of those more specific areas and be more connected outside of them, it’s not an easy thing to do in the short term. So we are excited to continue to work to develop our leadership within our team so we have more time to put towards whole-company work.
Where do you see the natural personal care industry going overall?
RH: If you look on macro level, our consumer base continues to get more well educated in demanding transparency and wanting brands they can trust. Especially with personal care, it's really hard to understand what’s in them, unlike food labels which often have recognizable ingredients. So, people are looking to find a personal care brand they can trust, as opposed to trying to read and decipher a label themselves. And people are looking to natural and organic for not only something that will be healthy for their skin, but that will also contribute positively to the planet.
What is your vision and hope for Badger under your leadership?
RH: We don't have a plan for how large we want to grow. Instead, we want to remain deep in our mission and become a better and better company. Better means that we’re stable but also healthy and good for our employees and community. We also want to have some kind of significant impact on the world around us and be a company using business as a vehicle for positive change. We aren't driven by profit—profit is the fuel that helps us bring change. That is our hope. That we will be able to impact the world around us outside our company.
ESW: We are excited about what Badger has done and is doing now, so we are just trying to figure out how to do more of and better that same approach. We think we’re in a good place to do that.