The idea for The Honey Pot Company came to Beatrice Dixon in a dream. After trying nearly everything on the market to cure her bacterial vaginosis to no avail, Dixon was fed up with the lack of options for women’s vaginal health. Then one night, her late grandmother appeared in her sleep with the idea to create her own natural remedy to treat the problem. The next day, Dixon went to the local Whole Foods (where she worked at the time) to buy a list of natural ingredients for a potential solution.
Fast forward six years and that list of ingredients Dixon tested and perfected led to the world’s first plant-based feminine care line, sold at major retailers including Whole Foods, Target, and Walgreens. The Honey Pot Company has since expanded from the first product Dixon concocted, The Normal Wash, to a full line of products ranging from wipes to menstrual cups to postpartum healing pads.
After successfully treating her own bacterial vaginosis, Dixon gave her homemade wash to as many friends as possible—testing and surveying to see if other women experienced the same positive reaction. Eighteen months later, in 2013, she brought The Honey Pot Company’s natural wash to a hair show in Atlanta, selling 600 bottles in one weekend. Within a year, Dixon had landed the brand onto the shelves of her local Whole Foods; it didn’t take long for Target buyers to reach out to her for a meeting.
Dixon’s success didn’t come from landing an early venture capital investment. Instead, she started her company with a $21,000 loan from her brother and co-founder, Simon Gray. She spent three years working a full-time job to support herself while launching The Honey Pot Company, but after landing in Target—and a first round of fundraising in 2017—Beatrice was able to quit her job to run The Honey Pot Company full-time. Now, as Dixon continues to grow her Honey Pot empire, she reflects on the challenges of spearheading a company through both COVID-19 and a cultural uprising, her experience fundraising as a Black female founder, and her crusade to destigmatize her ultimate goal: selling her company.
Statistically, Black female founders receive less than 1 percent of venture capital funding. Did you face any challenges in 2017?
One of the biggest challenges has been proving our worth. We have competitors who have poised themselves as tech brands so because of that, they knew how to speak data and all the colorful language you need when raising capital. They were able to get to higher valuations, they were able to raise more money. Culturally, they were able to raise capital within their community—it’s not anybody’s fault, but investors typically invest in founders and things that they understand. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, cultural differences come into play. You don’t necessarily see a lot of Black-owned brands growing fast and then selling. There are so many factors when you talk about the disparities of being a Black woman founder raising venture capital. If you were to talk to me a year ago, you probably would have gotten a different response.
Because at this point I’m grateful for all the things that we’ve gone through. I’m grateful that I wasn’t able to raise more money when I wanted to. I’m grateful that my path might have been more uphill than the next person’s path and I had to really work the muscle to be able to climb the hill. I’m grateful for that because that’s what was meant for me.
I’m happy to be in a position where the company is doing well. Everything that we have worked for we’ve earned, and it shows me that [Black women] can fucking do it. I have so many friends who are Black-owned businesses that are scaling, that are growing, that are one day going to sell and they have done that without a program behind them. They’ve done it because they’ve wanted to and we can do the same thing that anybody else can. We just have to be given the opportunity to show that we can do anything we put our minds to.
If you're raising venture capital, you need to have an exit strategy because if they give you $1, they want $10 back.
There’s still a lot of challenges, we’re still running like a bootstrapped business because the last time we raised money was over a year ago. But it’s made us have a successful business; we’re in a place right now where the day that we decide to raise more capital, the valuation that we put in place will be undeniable. We are the number one natural feminine care product on the market, and that’s next to world-class brands like Summer’s Eve and Vagisil. We have officially become a household name, and our goal is to be in every market that a woman shops in for her vagina. I’m the person who’d rather overperform as an underdog, not because I want to rub that in people’s faces but to show that the underdog can perform. The underdog can win—the underdog maybe should have been able to raise money a little bit better… but fuck should have, we’re here now. I’m grateful for everything that has happened with our business because it’s made us who we are.
What tips do you have for other female founders who are pitching their companies to investors for the first time?
Raise money when there’s a reason to. If you’ve found something that works, and you’re doing six figures, have strong year-over-year growth, and you know how you did that and you could duplicate that process to grow your business, then it’s time to raise money.
But if you haven’t figured out what that matrix is, don’t ask somebody for their money just to test the market. It may be hard to do—I know because we do it—but stay focused and aligned on your path and know your business backward, forwards, left, right, diagonal, and know where you want it to go. If you want venture capital, you have to really understand what your exit strategy is; that’s what venture capital is. If you want your company to be a legacy type of business that stays around forever, venture capital may not be the way you should go. If you’re going venture capital, private equity, anything like that, you need to have an exit strategy because if they give you $1, they want $10 back.
You have to know that, you have to be comfortable with it, and the last thing I’ll say is don’t look at your business as your baby. Sure, it’s your baby and I get that, but it is a business and it is meant to transact, that’s what businesses do. Don’t be so married to your business that you don’t think you can duplicate it again. If you want investment dollars, don’t be afraid to sell your business. You may see wealth running a business for the next 20 years, but if you can figure out a way to exit your business, especially if you have a brand that’s strong, growing rapidly, and the supply and demand are huge, don’t be afraid to let go of your business because it’s just a business.
Shop The Honey Pot Company
The Honey Pot Company
Sensitive Feminine Wash
Urban Outfitters, $10
The Honey Pot Company
Super Herbal Pad Pack
Urban Outfitters, $8
The Honey Pot Company
Feminine Hygiene Spray
Urban Outfitters, $8
The Honey Pot Company
Sensitive Feminine Hygiene Wipe Pack
Urban Outfitters, $8
The Honey Pot Company
Organic Tampon Pack
Urban Outfitters, $9
I imagine it’s hard to separate yourself and your personal life from your brand and the company. How do you manage taking care of your mental health to maintain a work-life balance?
I take it when I need it. It could be in the middle of the week but if I need to stop, I just stop. I’m not a machine; my health, wellbeing, happiness, and good fortune means more to me than money. It means more to me than my business, it means more to me than everything. It reigns supreme and so I just mesh it all together and if I need a day, I’m taking it. I don’t short myself on how I feel and I don’t short myself on the love that I have for myself.
That’s refreshing to hear. So often the message is, “If you want success, you have to work for it constantly,” which is not a sustainable way of living or working.
It’s not, but you can do both of those things. I work all day long, I’m on calls all day long, but if I want to go to the beach or if I need to get my nails done or if I want to meditate or workout or cook myself a meal, I take an hour or two to do that. You’re right, it’s not sustainable. If you’re not okay, what’s the point of all this shit? What am I going to do, work my fingers to the bone and not take care of my wellbeing and then become ridiculously wealthy and then be a shit show in my life? That doesn’t match. Having a lot of money and being unhappy, those two things are oil and water. We chase money before we chase wealth within our personal life, and for me, personal life and happiness—that wealth comes first, and then the other stuff comes second.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business? Has it taught you anything new about running a company?
It’s taught everybody something about running a company. The biggest thing it’s taught me is you’ve got to be ready: have backup suppliers and a stash of inventory just in case, just like you would have a stash savings account. The biggest way that it’s hurt us is in our supply chain. Our products are made all over the world, in the U.S., Israel, Italy, and Taiwan. Sustainability matters a lot to me, that we are offering the healthiest ingredients, materials, and packaging we can. We make menstrual products, but those manufacturers are now making masks. We make wipes, those manufacturers are making hand wipes and sanitizing cleaning wipes. We’re in washes and skin care products, those manufacturers are making hand wash. Some days are really hard, but none of this is in our control so we’re just doing what we can. It’s a tough time for everybody.
The last few months have led to a reckoning for companies in how they talk about and dismantle systemic racism. Do you envision The Honey Pot Company being part of that dialogue?
Sister, this shit’s not going to stop happening because The Honey Pot Company says a thing. My focus is creating ways for people to heal because I don’t feel like we need to keep having the same conversation.
Sure there are great cops out there, there are fantastic cops out there, but when racism is built in the fabric of the nation that we live in, my thought process is, the way to deal with it is not to continue to say words like “systemic racism” and “racism”. My thought process is, let’s do some shit so we can heal because if a white police officer thinks that the only way to deal with a Black man who is in his car sleeping, who’s been drinking, who may be a little belligerent because he’s been drinking…if he thinks that the only way to deal with that is by murdering him, meanwhile the young white man that went into that church [Dylan Roof] who murdered those people can be driven to Burger King…there’s clearly a problem. There’s clearly a need for healing.
My focus is on what we’re creating. I don’t like to call it a content strategy, but I’m going to use that for lack of a better word because this is not strategic for me, this is an investment for our business, into our community which happens to be humanity. My community is not only Black, my community is humans. We focus on meditation, on doing yoga, we bring in fitness instructors, therapists who specialize in race relations, sexual therapists, OB/GYNs who specialize in fibroids. We’ve got to have a different conversation because this black and white bullshit is bullshit.
As a Black woman, getting investment dollars or exiting your company can be looked at as selling out.
I’m a human, if you took my skin off and I stood next to the whitest person in the world, sure I got some melanin under there but I bet you my lungs and my kidneys and my liver and my uterus look very similar to anybody else next to me. I want to focus on that, I don’t want to keep talking about systemic racism. I want to create a new wave, I want to jump onto the bandwagon of healing humanity, of being earthlings, that’s what I want to do.
The community-building you do on the brand’s Instagram account goes hand in hand with that.
Yeah, I just want to raise the vibration. We can choose to change the narrative, we can choose to create programs for police, to create a new way of how they deal with humans and specifically Black humans. But we’re not going to do that if we keep having the same conversation of Black and white. Black people don’t need no sympathy, we don’t need your empathy, we just need to be treated like fucking humans, we need to stop being treated like we’re subhuman.
I don’t want you to create a program that just says, oh we’re going to put 15 percent of our shelves towards Black [brands]… I don’t want that. I want you to treat me like you treat everybody else. I want to be a Black brand who makes good products and I want to come and meet with you at a category review schedule and I want to sit down and talk to you about it and I want you to buy into it and see what the vision is. I don’t want the fact that I’m a Black-owned brand to even come up in your mind.
Sorry that I’m on a tangent, but this means something to me. We’re not going to get anywhere in venture capital and growing our businesses in retail, and building exit strategies, and being pulled over by the police, and walking down the street black with a black hoodie on. We’re not going to get anywhere with all of those situations until we are treated like regular human beings.
What’s the most important lesson or skill that you’ve learned as a founder and CEO?
Stay focused, get shit done, and believe in yourself. I believe in myself. I know that anything I put my mind to, I can do. Hands down. I’ve really grown into that place to where it’s not even an egotistical thing, I can just say it and mean it and I feel fine about it.
What advice would you give to female founders trying to launch a business right now, or who are simply trying to keep their businesses afloat?
Do whatever you have to do to make it work. If you have to stop paying yourself and get a job, do that. If you have to furlough people, let them know that they should probably get a job so you can get things back to normal, do that. If you have to figure out a way to take care of yourself while also maintaining your business, while also paying employees, be creative with your personal life, talk to some friends, see if you can move in together.
Don’t be afraid, just do whatever you have got to do, because if you can do it now in a time where shit is real hard and doors are closing left and right, if you can keep it afloat even if it’s barely living, if it barely has breath, as long as there is an ounce of breath, you can keep it there. You may have to give it some life support for a little while, you may have to, like I said, get a job, you may have to do whatever you have to do, but do it. And if you’ve done whatever you’ve had to do and it hasn’t turned out the way you wanted to, be okay with that shit too. And know that if you did it once, you can do it again.
What are your future goals for The Honey Pot Company? You mentioned selling the business, is that something you’re working towards?
Right now we’re so focused on building our business, creating a strong foundation because we are growing really fast and things are all over the place. Sometimes we’re really organized and sometimes we’re not organized at all. When things like [COVID] happen, it shows where the holes are in your business. It shows where the water can come through.
We’re paying attention to the holes and working to create a stronger, leaner, more efficient business to be able to supply for the demand that’s happening. We don’t have time to think about anything else. I absolutely do want to exit my company and I’m so vocal about that because culturally as a Black woman, getting investment dollars or exiting your company can be looked at as selling out, and what I want to regurgitate constantly to anybody, to any human that’s looking to The Honey Pot Company as a light, I want to be public that there’s no shame in exiting your business because that’s how you’re going to get to wealth. Once you can get to wealth financially, you’re able to really contribute to your community, to your family, to yourself. You’re able to see the fruits of your fucking labor.
You’re right, nobody really talks about women selling their companies as a positive thing.
In other cultures they do, right? That’s how Silicon Valley was created. It is a goal. Who knows what will happen but I work very hard, me and my team work very hard to work towards that end.
What would you do personally if that were to happen, what would your next steps be?
If we are successful and we exit this brand, my goal in life is to not need to have a goal. I want to be so financially well that I don’t even have to think about what I need to do. I can just do what I want to—that is what I’m working towards.