Beatrice Feliu-Espada, Image provided by Honey Pot
Originally published on MadameNoire.com
With feminine hygiene companies increasingly in the news for dangerous chemicals in their products, childbirth, fibroids, and fertility issues being of particular concern for Black women, we need to be more vigilant about what we put in and on our bodies. MadameNoire spoke to Beatrice Feliu-Espada, the founder of the all natural feminine care company Honey Pot, about the origins of her products, the challenges of doing business and remarkable testimonies from women and girls whose lives have been made better because of Honey Pot.
Veronica Wells-Puoane: What inspired you to launch Honey Pot?
Beatrice Feliu-Espada: Back in 2012, I suffered from an almost year-long bacterial vaginosis infection and literally nothing that I could do or would do would make it go away because my pH was just all the way off. And around the same time, I had just initiated into my religion. I practice Santeria. And a lot’s going on when all those things happen. One night, a couple months after I got back from Cuba, I was sleeping and I had a dream. You know how you have a dream right before you wake up in the morning. It was ultra fresh and it was real. I was sitting down with one of my ancestors and we were talking about my problems and she was like ‘I have a list of ingredients for you.’ She said, ‘I’m going to make sure you remember this when you wake up. So don’t worry about it.’ And she starts spatting off these ingredients. And literally, I woke up, I remembered it, I wrote it down, I made it and it worked.
I felt like it was a gift from the other side. Somebody gifts you your life’s work, you don’t just walk away from it.
VWP: She gave you the ingredients for the wash?
BFE: She gave me the ingredients for this wash. And since then, we’ve added a few things, we’ve taken some things out but the base of it is the same, it’s from that dream. And as we grew the line and expanded it, I realized that the mission needed to change from just being a clean wash company to being a clean feminine hygiene company. So that’s why you see us doing all these amazing things. We’ve got a lot launching by the end of the year. So it’s a really beautiful time and things are growing and escalating.
We are also launching probiotics which are vaginal focused. We have one called habitual-which is for everyday use, if you don’t have issues. One will be called “Back on Tract,” which will be for UTI health and then we’ll have one called “Resistance” which will have garlic as the yeast fighter. We also have a deodorant spray.
VWP: This product line came from a very spiritual place and then you had to incorporate the business aspect of it, have there been challenges merging the two?
BFE: There are always challenges merging the two but it means a lot to me that I develop products that are clean. I was just in Israel seeing how tampons are made. How do you process your cotton? I want to see the machines? The cotton is chlorine free, pesticide free. Later, I go to Taiwan. Same thing with the manufacturers there. When I’m bringing on a new line, the process means a lot to me. Keeping the ingredient decks clean is the spiritual element for me. Even if it costs us more to make it, I don’t give a sh*t. All I care about is that when you put it on your body or in your body or near your body, my products are not going to affect you negatively.
And these things can’t work for everybody. Everything isn’t for everybody. Some women are going to use this and they’re going to get irritated and I’m fully aware of that but it’s few and far between. There will always be a spiritual element to this product line because it came from nothing. I didn’t come from companies that went through acquisitions. I came from a place where this came from nothing and now it’s turning into something. And for me, I never forget that. As long as I own this company, there’s always going to be a spiritual element to it.
VWP So you started in 2012, when did Target reach out?
BFE: We started in 2012, but we didn’t launch until 2014, at the Bronner Brothers’ hair show in February. We’ve been around for four years but not to the general public. Those first two years were just testing on friends. Like, ‘Hey can you try this? Can you put this on your vagina? It’s in a pickle jar but it’ll be fine.’ Seriously, that was the vibe. I still have the first jar of Honey Pot and it’s in a salsa jar. I swear to you. So Target reached out in 2016. We launched in Target in 2017 and we got our pads in at the end of 2017, in like Q4 and our panty liners are our best sellers. They sell too fast. They’re like gold.
VWP: What do you think it is about the panty liners specifically?
BFE: It’s the herbs. Because you can wear panty liners any day. You put it on and it’s like an air conditioner for your vagina. You feel the mint and you feel the lavender. It’s amazing.
We started with the wash because that’s the most important thing. You do that every day or I hope you do. And it’s the same as using beautiful skincare on your face or eating well. And then the wipes, in support of that and the menstrual pads because you’re bleeding every month. I just want to develop products for whatever the scenario is. So tampons are a big deal for us. The reason I started off with pads is because I’m still a wholehearted believer in free bleeding. Because women don’t necessarily know how to use a tampon properly. I meet so many women who go to sleep with a tampon in. It’s like, ‘B*tch, your arms might need to be cut off.’ Like, seriously. There is a high fashion model. She has these beautiful gold titanium legs now but she kept her tampon in too long. And the way that toxic shock works is it feels like cold symptoms. So you think you have a cold. ‘You’re like let me just lay down, eat some soup. See what happens.’ But by that time two, three days later your blood is toxic and you can die. They check your blood, it’s probably very acidic when it’s supposed to be alkaline. And they say, ‘We’re going to have to cut off your arms and legs or you’re going to die.’
So for that reason, I believe in free bleeding and a tampon in scenarios when you just need a tampon. I’m not in this business just for the money. The money is a f*cking byproduct of what I do. If I am successful financially that means that I am a success. But for me, if I am successful making products that work, that people can give a testimony to, that is success. And there’s not enough education and know how around using tampons. So that is why I did not want to launch tampons first. I would have made a f*ck ton more money by now but it wasn’t true to what I believed in.
VWP: Also, cultural. Black women…tampons are for when you’re like grown grown.
BFE: Listen! Our moms are like, ‘You’re putting something in your vagina? No ma’am. You’re not putting anything up there. Nothing goes up there.’ We couldn’t even put red lipstick on or nail polish. So you’re not putting a tampon in. But that’s a cultural thing for us.
Black women buy my products 220 percent more than anybody else. But that’s because we’re in the wash and wipe world. Black and Latina women use feminine wash 220 percent more in America. We’ve been taught that you shouldn’t use anything to wash your vagina. Which goes into the conversation about your vagina being a self-cleaning oven. And it is but that’s inside your body. That’s not the vulva. So culturally, we were taught to wash
VWP: In some dangerous ways sometimes.
BFE: My mother even thought that she should douche.
VWP: Mine too.
BFE: We’re a Black-owned company and so that’s coming out in the forefront. You’d be surprised how I get questions. I had a big known brand, huge brand that I was talking to and he asks me, ‘Is this product only for Black women?’ It was seriously a real question.
VWP: What are some of the benefits of using Honey Pot products?
BFE: A lot of women say that our pads lessen their menstrual cramps. Your vagina is a mucous membrane so it’s almost like you took herbs by mouth. Your vagina is like another mouth when you think about it. The herbs are being absorbed by that mouth and going into your body. And then, my period used to be seven days, my period is now four. Which is what it’s supposed to be. We’re not supposed to bleed like that.
VWP: So I know you’ve probably heard the conversation about Black women and fibroids. Are you talking or thinking about anything to address that because there are a lot of women who don’t want to have surgery.
BFE: I feel like Honey Pot pads are addressing that. When you’re talking about fibroids. A lot goes into fibroids. I’ll give you a perfect example. I was in a relationship that I did not want to be in and I was living with an untruth inside of me. When I went to the doctor, they said, ‘Your thyroid’s messed up.’ Your thyroid’s messed up because you’re not speaking your truth. You’re holding it in. Because there’s something you need to say that you’re not saying. Fibroids are like that too. There are the emotional things. There are the things that we eat. If you’re eating chicken every day, you’re eating out all the time and drinking milk–and look, I’m vegetarian/vegan most of my life and then there are some days when I’m like, ‘Hmm, I’m in another country and that looks good.’ So I’m not being judgmental but we as women have to be conscientious of what we eat of what we allow inside our body, what you allow on your brain. The happiness or unhappiness that you allow in your life, all of that when you’re talking about fibroids. There are levels to that sh*t. But if I develop beautiful products for you to use on your vagina, that’s helping because these herbs are going inside your body every time you use them. So that’s my way of helping. Also, we’re developing ways to educate the consumer. We’re working on a podcast and things for IGTV and YouTube so that’s going to be a part of the conversation. I’m thinking about herbs and supplements that I can create but those things will take time.
VWP: What are some of the best testimonials that have stood out to you from people who use your product?
BFE: One of the best testimonials I got, the lady wrote a letter. She had BV for years for like 5 years. And she said literally within a week into using Honey Pot, she never got it again. I’ve had women who use the pads say they had these terrible, terrible cramps and to the point where they can’t go to work. The herbs in the pads have helped them so much that they don’t have to do that. When we first got started, I had developed a line for kids, it was a wash for young girls. (I made the sensitive wash that same formula so a baby could still use it.) But one of the ladies I got to try my products, every time she would go to wash her daughter’s vagina, she wouldn’t want her to do it because she was like, ‘Mommy, it itches. It hurts.’ And so she started using Honey Pot and she would be happy for her mom to use it.
Have you heard of vaginismus? It’s when your vagina is at risk of closing. I had a young girl, she couldn’t have been any more than four. She had that and her mom found Honey Pot. She found it at Bronner’s. And she went to the doctor and the doctor said, ‘I don’t know what you’re using but whatever you’re using, her hole is opening up.’ And the only thing she was using was Honey Pot. So it’s been some beautiful stories over the years.
You can learn more about the Honey Pot Co., here.