Bramble Berry is a small company located in Bellingham, Washington that provides the necessary materials needed for making bath products such as soaps, lotions, and bath salts. The customer base is comprised primarily of women who are amateur and professional crafters from around the world. Founder and CEO, Anne-Marie Faiola, created Bramble Berry with the simple desire to provide the highest quality supplies for soap making, but since its inception in 1998 Bramble Berry has expanded its offerings to include the materials to create a myriad of bath products, candles, and, perhaps most importantly, knowledge (About Us, 2010).
In consideration of the three classification levels offered in Focusing on Value: Reconciling Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability and a Stakeholder Approach in a Network World (Wheeler, Colbert, & Freeman, 2003, p. 11), Bramble Berry appears to seek to do the most good possible and maintain a sustainable organization (Social Responsibility Statement, 2010) which best reflects a third level corporate culture (Wheeler, Colbert, & Freeman, 2003, p.
11). Desire and vision do not always match the actual outcome and it is interesting to consider the great lengths Faiola has gone to maintain Bramble Berry’s customer, community, and sustainability focus. Faiola clearly understood the value of networking early on and was quick to jump on board, creating a number of blogs and networking channels that are of value to a number of different stakeholders.
Blogs and videos created by Faiola and other Bramble Berry associates not only serve to increase brand recognition, but also help current and potential customers create new products using sound manufacturing methods that will help ensure the viability of their own business and the safety of their customers. By doing this, Faiola is creating economic value not only for herself, but also for her customers. Taking this a step further, the depth and quantity of communication that transpires through these various mediums helps to infuse aspects of Bramble Berry’s culture and beliefs into the small businesses of their customers.
Upon viewing the Facebook page for Bramble Berry, it is clear that not only are their customers delighted with the products and services they get from Bramble Berry, but they look to Faiola and other Bramble Berry associates to set the standard (Bramble Berry, 2011). Faiola takes this role seriously and has stepped up as an industry spokesperson, speaking at numerous events and working to ensure that new cosmetic legislation protects consumers without forcing many small handmade soap companies out of business (O’Donnell, 2011).
The handmade soap industry prides itself on using ingredients that are healthier for your skin than those found in commercial detergent based soaps. In the past few years, however, the impact farming these healthier ingredients has on the environment left many consumers unwilling to use products containing ingredients such as palm oil, which is a favored ingredient for soap makers. Faiola recognized not only the effect this could have on her sales and her customers, but also how ignoring the environmental impact caused by farming palm oil went against the values held so dear by Bramble Berry.
To counter act this, Faiola sought to educate her customers and the community while also seeking out sources of palm oil that were certified to be sustainably farmed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (Palm Oil) creating environmental value for stakeholders. Faiola places great emphasis on community, both within her doors and outside of the office. Within the blogs there is an obvious culture of family driven values and employees who not only value their job, but also their customers and fellow employees.
Special events, birthdays, silly stories, cherished family recipes, and other tidbits are not only shared throughout the office, but freely on the Bramble Berry blogs. Reaching out into the community, Faiola has written books to help share her family values, knowledge, and creative ideas with other soapers, homeschoolers, and parents. Bramble Berry also donates a portion of their profits to a number of local community organizations (Social Responsibility Statement, 2010). These types of behaviors all add social value and add to the overall value received by Bramble Berry’s stakeholders.
There is no doubt that Faiola is passionate about the direction she envisions for Bramble Berry, and this passion has added value on not just an economic level, but also social and environmental levels as well. This added value has definitely enhanced the overall product and stability of the company as a whole. While it is quite likely that there are times when Bramble Berry operates on other levels, Bramble Berry’s history suggests that the majority of the time they operate as a level three: sustainable organization.