Kendra is the workaholic while Chad is the “volunteeraholic.”
Chad thrives in the front of the house while Kendra happily toils in the back of the house.
Kendra directs quality control and onsite production while Chad handles sales and customer experience.
For six years, those descriptors have defined the work life of Chad and Kendra Wester, owner/operators of Boll Weevil Soap Co., a natural soap and body products company founded in 1997.
The Westers bought the established business in 2017. “I did it by myself for a couple of years,” said Kendra. Both have been operating the business full time since 2019 when Chad left the wireless industry to devote his full attention to the growing family business. At that point, the soap company moved from Boll Weevil Circle, which bypasses the city, to Main Street in downtown Enterprise. That year, the Westers also bolstered the store’s online presence.
From the beginning, the couple has shared a clarity of mission.
“We want to be the best soap company in the world, not the biggest,” said Chad.
“We are absolutely, fiercely passionate about being a part of the downtown community.” – Chad
Chad and Kendra Wester own Boll Weevil Soap Co. on Main Street in downtown Enterprise. The company makes and sells “unbollweevible” handmade skincare products.
Makers and Sellers
Local nurse Rosemary Howell started the company to fill a need for natural bath products without harmful chemicals.
“I had made bath bombs and scrubs for personal use and gifts before we bought the store,” said Kendra, who previously worked as a church administrator. Once in the soap-making business though, “I immersed myself in it.”
“We purchased all of (Rosemary’s) recipes,” Kendra said, adding that the original recipe continues to be used today. “Now, it’s just second nature. I don’t even have to look at the recipe.”
The self-described “artsy” person “launches a new fragrance almost every Saturday. There’s always something new to smell,” says Chad, her proud husband of almost 25 years. The top-selling fragrances are Pink Cotton Blossom (pears and light musk); Southern Grace (a floral musk with touches of amber) and Orange Cranberry. Each of the almost 20 core fragrances can be found in the store’s soaps, candles and body products.
Kendra is the sole soap maker. She and the Westers’ 19-year-old daughter, Anna-Tyler, make all the candles. “I do have another kitchen person who helps with the lotions and the scrubs,” Kendra said.
At peak times, the store adds a couple of additional people as well to fill out the maker team. But for most of the year, the business operates on a staff of five, including two long-term loyal sales team members who report to Chad.
“We produce it all here,” Chad said. Behind the storefront are three separate areas for making soap, candles and body products. “When you look around our store, the things you see are made right here on Main Street in Enterprise, right here in Alabama.”
Besides wanting to own their own building, one of the reasons the Westers moved their store to Enterprise’s Main Street was to be closer to its namesake, the Boll Weevil Monument, the world’s only statue honoring an agricultural pest.
Boll Weevil Soap Co. is just a few doors down from the south Alabama town’s 103-year-old landmark, a white-marble, Greek woman holding a bowl containing a 50-pound replica of a boll weevil. The town calls the statue its “herald of prosperity.”
The boll weevil, which decimated area cotton crops in the early 1900s, inspired crop diversification and expansion of other businesses that returned Enterprise and Coffee County to prosperity.
The Westers sponsor the Weevil Cam, a 24-hour live broadcast of activity near the monument. Regional news outlets routinely spotlight the Weevil Cam during their weather segments and a CBS Sunday Morning feature that aired last year featured Boll Weevil Soap Co. and other businesses named for the insect.
“A lot of tourists come to town to take a picture with the lady holding the bug,” said Chad. There are even fiberglass weevils in an installation known as Weevil Way, including Ronald McWeevil (McDonald’s) and Mayor Weevil (City Hall).
Number of Employees 5
Kendra: Rosemary Howell, the former owner, mentored me and taught me all her recipes.
Chad: I learned from some amazing leaders in the wireless industry like Steve Maddox, president of what was Wireless Advantage Communications, my former employer. I have learned even more from him after owning my own business.
Moving to downtown Enterprise to be nearer to the Boll Weevil Monument, our company’s namesake.
COVID. We CAN overcome obstacles, and we ARE flexible enough to roll with the punches.
Before opening a small business, know that it is going to require 100% of your dedication.
Continuing to Overcome
Chad, who served five years as the man inside the University of Alabama’s Big Al mascot costume, tends to cheer for those dear to him.
“Chad is affectionately known by his neighbors and fellow store owners as the ‘Mayor of Downtown.’ His passion for small business extends beyond his own storefront as he continuously champions for the success of his neighbors,” said Erin Grantham, executive director of the Enterprise Chamber of Commerce.
Chad is the founding chair of Enterprise Main Street, on the executive board of Downtown Enterprise Business Association and has served as a chamber director. During the height of the pandemic, he spearheaded a virtual community event, helped other downtown businesses improve their online presence and assisted owners in seeking state grants.
“When one of us is successful, we’re all successful,” says Chad. “We form friendships and relationships with the other business owners,” adds Kendra. “We celebrate together, we cry together, we are a family.”
Chad also created and manages a marketing co-op program for the downtown association. The co-op allows small businesses with limited budgets to venture into marketing opportunities with shared messages through media venues that normally require a higher minimum investment. “If we can get folks to come shop in downtown Enterprise, we all win,” said Chad, whose most recent project involved promoting the July sales tax holiday.
In mid-October of 2022, five neighbor downtown businesses burned in an accidental early morning fire. At least one has closed, others have relocated and others are slowly rebuilding. “They were insured at pre-COVID property values and now you’re trying to rebuild at post-COVID building costs, which are close to double,” said Chad. The city of Enterprise and the other downtown merchants are doing what they can to support those businesses.
“We’ve really had to work hard to let people know that we’re open and that all of downtown is open, and that it’s still a great place to come visit and shop,” he said.
Those efforts have paid off. Chad classifies business in downtown Enterprise as “rocking and rolling.” So much so, downtown now has growing pains of not enough parking or public restrooms. “We are actively working with our local officials to resolve these challenges to continue to move downtown forward,” he said.
The Boll Weevil Soap Co. went from 80% of its sales instore to 80% online at the height of the COVID health crisis. That ratio has now swapped back to mostly in-store sales with 10% of its sales online. The company also has a wholesale side that includes a fund-raising component for the company’s No More Gnats All Natural Bug Spray and other products. The whole Wester family also occasionally loads up a trailer with product, attaches it to their motor home and attends regional craft fairs.
No matter the challenge or obstacle, “it’s like the story of the boll weevil, we’ll overcome,” said Chad.
This article is the cover story
of the July 2023 Alabama Retailer.
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