Petty Butter Studio 2022

Petty Butter Studio 2022

From Itunuoluwa Ebijimi

I am fundraising for the Petty Butter Studio, a production and distribution hub for a small shea butter skincare business

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Petty Butter’s handcrafted skincare products stimulate daily moments of moisturization and meditation. Combining shea butter and four plant-derived oils, Petty Butter nourishes skin by creating a moisturizing barrier that prevents the loss of hydration. This not only leaves skin supple and glowing but also heals skin over time. This makes Petty Butter a great product for patrons who want to alleviate skin ailments such as dry skin, eczema, or psoriasis. Petty Butter patrons understand the importance of checking in with themselves and see lotioning as an opportune ritual for introspection.

Petty Butter is owned and operated by me, Itunuoluwa Ebijimi aka Petty Mogul. I am a DJ, interdisciplinary artist, and Yoruba-American residing and making in Chicago. I founded the skincare brand in 2016 after a family visit to Lagos, Nigeria. I saw women selling handmade shea butter and blacksoap, using profits from their businesses to support their families and themselves. I began researching the rich history of shea butter and the communities that produced it. I found that, across the globe, many oils had similar cultural, communal, and spiritual significances. I used this research to create the recipes for Petty Butter’s products.

During the summer of 2021, I embarked on the process of relaunching Petty Butter after a year+ long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. This time, my goal was to transition Petty Butter from a homemade business into a licensed business. This would allow Petty Butter to distribute directly to other businesses, with the hopes of bringing Petty Butter to local and national retailers in the future. In order to get a business license for Petty Butter, I cannot make my products at my home, residentially zoned. Petty Butter has to be produced in a clean and safe location zoned for business. While I wanted to open up a studio space in the future, I came up with the solution of utilizing a commercial shared kitchen to create my products. Over several months in 2021, I went through the tenuous steps to get my Shared Kitchen license which included getting a sanitation manager certification, food safety certification and business insurance. After fulfilling all these steps and applying for a Shared Kitchen license, the city of Chicago rejected my application in September 2021. Although Petty Butter is made with edible plant-derived oils, I was deemed ineligible becauseI am making cosmetics and not products for consumption.

In all honesty, this crushed me. I was embarrassed to say anything publicly after fundraising to get a shared kitchen license in the first place. Three months of hardwork and I was even more lost as to how to achieve my goals. And the city of Chicago’s Small Business Bureau did not offer any help. It took me a while to be okay with that experience and now, I am even grateful. Going after a Shared Kitchen license allowed me to get some momentum behind Petty Butter and open up my shop again. I now have insurance, which is a major for a handcrafted business. Most importantly, the owner of the Shared Kitchen space informed me of the Sunshine Enterprises’s Community Business Academy, encouraging me to enroll. After completing their business class this December 2021 and, finally after six years of operating Petty Butter, I can say that I am beginning to grasp the financial, operational, and marketing strides I need to take to ensure that Petty Butter is a consistent, efficient, and successful  business. I am excited to continue expanding my business acumen through Sunshine's 90-Day Coaching.

With this new knowledge, I have created a plan for a Petty Butter Production Studio on the South Side of Chicago and I am asking for help to raise the capital for its first year of operation. This studio will be a production and distribution hub, allowing Petty Butter to increase its inventory, maintain a consistently stocked online store, and shorten order processing times as Petty Butter distributes nationally directly to consumers via its website. Most importantly, a studio will allow Petty Butter to obtain a City of Chicago Business License, opening up the path for wholesale distribution to retailers in Chicago and across the nation. Lastly, funds raised will be used to hire a part-time Production Assistant and a part-time Operations Assistant, increasing Petty Butter’s production and distribution capacity as it sets forth to conquer retail avenues and maximize online sales. 

Additionally, increasing Petty Butter’s access to funds and showcasing Petty Butter’s support through a successful capital campaign will make Petty Butter a more competitive applicant for future grant and incubator opportunities. Since 2020, I have applied for several grants on behalf of Petty Butter and have been rejected by all of them. These rejections have been difficult because my vision for Petty Butter has only become clearer over the years, but I continue to utilize what I learn and build on these experiences.

Petty Butter WebsitePetty Butter in Paper MagazinePetty Butter  in The New York Times Style MagazinePetty Butter in Glamour

How Petty Butter Changed My Life:I created Petty Butter in 2016, after returning home from a family trip to Lagos. The part that I usually leave out of that story is that I was deeply depressed and wounded after that trip. I faced a lot of misogyny, traditionalism, and entitlement over my body, culminating in a domestic violence incident with a family member. I returned to the US emotionally unraveled right before a new semester at art school. I was questioning myself, my womanhood, and my boundaries. Plus, I was being blamed by family members for my own hurt. There was an expectation to forgive without any support or guidance on actually healing from a traumatic event. 

I am grateful for having Petty Butter at this time. It was my source of pride when I had very little confidence in myself. I was able to research recipes and produce an effective healing product on my own terms. Even though I dropped out of art school, I was able to use my artistic skills to cultivate an aesthetic and create imagery for my business. Moreso, when applying Petty Butter, I had an intimate space to hold myself, caress myself, and safely connect with my body, which was especially important as I mentally healed from an assault. Petty Butter first showed me the benefits of pouring into myself before I could do so with my own mental and physical health. I want to emphasize that part of my healing journey was regular therapy appointments, but the process is multifaceted. A lot of healing happens outside the space of cognitive behavioral therapy and Petty Butter was a major part of mine. 

As Petty Butter has grown, I am happy to have grown right along with it. I have acquired new cosmetics and herbal beauty knowledge in order to create Petty Butter’s products. I am continually gaining new marketing and finance skills in order to better operate Petty Butter as a business. While I still have more to learn, I can successfully say I have done as much work as I can on my own and have taken Petty Butter as far as I can by myself. I am ready to reach outside of myself and to ask for help.

I believe Petty Butter has the potential to be a staple in the beauty industry, not only because the product works but because I am taking the steps to properly set up my business’s foundations. I believe that Petty Butter can put me on the path to financial sustainability and homeownership. And I look forward to having the financial means to employ other people. I hope to empower many future employees through sustainable wages and a respectful workplace that produces a healing product and encourages knowledge seeking and personal goal-advancing.

More about Petty Butter’s Spiritual Significance:In Yoruba, many words have double or triple meanings including the word for shea butter, “Ori.” “Ori” is the word for head and also the word for one’s personal Orisha that resides atop one’s crown. As defined by Ifa Priestess Iya Ehime Ora, “the ori is our personal guardian, our higher selves, keeper of our destiny, and the most powerful cosmic force that you *naturally* possess.” The shea tree, shea nuts, and shea butter are spiritually sacred in Yoruba culture. Shea butter is a balm that soothes the skin and soothes the soul; offers protection from the elements and for the spirit; and reveals our outward and inward shine. Culturally, shea butter is a vehicle that can directly align us with our destiny. And I have seen how it has aligned me with mine. For that reason, I am invested in honoring the social and spiritual history of shea butter as well as all of the oils I use in my products. These oils serve more than just a cosmetic purpose, but are integrated into different aspects of one’s life from birth, also serving culinary, ritual, and ceremonial purposes. These oils, as well as the fruits, trees, bushes, and plants which they come from, are sacred.  I want to share these histories as well as ensuring the fair pay of the indigenous communities responsible for producing these oils.

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