Melissa Fryar's Interview with
Cara Nicole Steinbuchel, Founder + CEO + Maker
Potter's Skin Butter
Melissa: Hello Cara! Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your business.
Cara: Hi Melissa! I live in West Asheville and I enjoy hiking with my spouse Michelle. I also enjoy making pottery at The Village Potters. I moved here in 2003 for the local arts community. I started my business soon after that and have found that Asheville is a wonderful place to own and run a business. I also work for a nonprofit organization called Arts for Life, making art with kids in the hospital.
Melissa: How did you begin making Cara Mae’s Potters Butter? What makes it a great all over moisturizer? Which is your favorite butter?
Cara: I started making Potters’ Skin Butter in 2004 in Downtown Asheville at a pottery story called Mud Hunter where we worked with local potters and sold their artwork. I was also making pottery there for fun. I made the lotion to help with dry hands from making pottery. Other people started buying and using it too – rock climbers, nurses, gardeners, or anyone who washes their hands a lot or works in the dirt.
As far as what makes it a great moisturizer, it has rich, botanical ingredients like shea butter, kokum butter, macadamia nut oil that nourish the skin. It absorbs quickly and lasts a long time without being greasy.
My favorite is the Lavender Potters’ Skin Butter.
Melissa: How do you source your ingredients?
Cara: My first consideration is the environment and getting ingredients as locally as possible. All of my ingredients are also vegan. I use local, gravity-fed spring water from Blue Moon Water here in Asheville. As far as my other ingredients, I did research early on and have used much of the same suppliers over 15 years. I looked for high quality, natural botanical ingredients. I also chose packaging that is easily recyclable.
Melissa: Do you have any new products on the horizon?
Cara: We offer a body lotion in pump bottles, which is great for use head-to-toe. It’s a lighter weight formula than the hand lotion and is great for the warmer months. Some folks like to use it as a face lotion as well.
Melissa: How has Covid19 changed how you do business? Do you have other employees or is it a one Woman business?
Cara: The business is operated by my partner, Michelle, and myself. We’ve shifted from in-person shows to primarily online retail and wholesale. I miss seeing customers face-to-face and hearing their stories at the shows we usually attend. We also now offer contactless local pickup from our front porch.
Melissa: What is the greatest struggle you currently have owning a small local business?
Cara: Getting the word out to the right customers through word-of-mouth without relying on expensive marketing strategies.
Melissa: What do you think is the most important thing conscious consumers can do today to support our community?
Cara: Buy from local producers directly or at locally owned businesses!
Melissa: Other than the Co-op, where are your products found?
- West Village Market
- Willow’s Dream
- Sensibilities Day Spa
- Second Gear
- Highwater Clays
- The Village Potters
- Nostalgique Antiques
- And our website! www.caramaeskincare.com
THE POTTERS' SKIN BUTTER STORY
In 2004, hobby potter Cara Steinbuchel made the first batch of Potters’ Skin Butter in the ceramics studio of Mud Hunter, a shop that sold pottery made by Asheville and Western North Carolina artists. The owner, Mary Helen, asked Cara, who co-managed the store, to come up with a lotion that would help potters with dry skin. Mary Helen loaned Cara money to make the first few batches of lotion and said, "When you pay me back, you'll have your own business!" After much research and several test batches, Cara developed the formula for what is now Potters' Skin Butter. Cara paid Mary Helen back within the year, and that was the beginning of this beautiful journey. Cara's quest for the perfect lotion was also informed by witnessing her Mom, a pediatric nurse practitioner, and her Grandpa, a Wichita lineman and hobby mechanic, suffer from chronically dry skin from their professions. In essence, this lotion grew out of a desire to help potters and others with dry hands be able to continue the work they love. And it all started with a little nudge from Mary Helen and the Asheville pottery community.