Tell us a little bit about yourself & what made you decide to start Pantry Products.
My name is Michelle M. Czarka but I answer to Meesh. In 2015, I founded Pantry Products: a handmade line of 100% all-natural skin + body care products in response to a consumer marketplace hawking chemical-packed products and over-priced natural skincare. I was born in Michigan, raised in the Metro-Detroit area, and relocated to Lake Tahoe 12 years ago. (And yes, if you ask where in Michigan, I will pull up my right hand to indicate home). I am passionate about truth in marketing, supporting local business and my community, celebrating my inner child, singing all the songs, and eating all the noodles.
Where did the name come from?
When I first started creating natural gifts for my friends and family, I was sourcing ingredients from the shelves of my kitchen pantry. Items such as coconut oil, sugar, avocado oil, cocoa powder, etc. When I decided to turn my hobby into a business, I sought a name that was as clean as the products and conveyed the simpleness of the ingredients. Pantry Products was born.
How many of the products do you currently use in your home or day to day life, & what are your top three favorites?
This is a tough question! While Pantry crafts and sells skin + body care products, we are really more of a lifestyle company. Our products are developed to support and contribute to a healthy lifestyle. We strive to be a natural replacement for the harmful products lining most store shelves. For me, all of my personal care products are Pantry. I use all of our bath products including Coconut + Chai body wash, Coffee + Choco body polish, Grapefruit + Mint shave gel, Rosemary + Mint hair wash + rinse, the sea salt soaks for sore muscle and soul pampering. I use our Coconut + Chai Hand + Body lotion, Lavender + Neroli after shower spray, dry shampoo. My skincare is all Pantry (and this could easily be my favorite part of the brand). Product testing our oil cleanser changed my entire outlook on skincare. No splashing of water, no mad rush to slather lotion on my dried out skin only to feel greasy, no need to control oily skin throughout the day. Three times a week, I oil cleanse. In the morning after my shower, I use our Pack Your Bags eye roller, Aloe + Rosewater Toner, and Rejuvenating Facial Mist. I brush my chompers with our Tooth Powder, put on Bergamot + Lemongrass deodorant, apply Force Field roller ball as fragrance. At night, I treat my skin to more Pack Your Bags before applying our Nighttime Repair Serum, I spritz my pillow with Eucalyptus + Spearmint Air + Linen Spray and apply our Nail + Cuticle Oil before slipping into slumber. I could go on and on…lip balms, room sprays, candles, pet products, laundry products…I use them all!
My favorites (at the moment) are Combination Oil Cleanser, Tooth Powder, Rejuvenating Facial Mist.
Tell us what it’s like to be a female owner of a business? What’s the most fun part & the most challenging?
I absolutely love being a business owner. I love developing ideas, I love introducing people to healthy alternatives to the cancer-causing products found in today’s marketplace. I love sharing information and engaging in conversation with my customers.
Being a female business owner has challenges aside from the day-to-day tasks of operating a business and ensuring my passion and message are communicated clearly through all channels. There is a lot of talk of female empowerment these days but I also feel there is a lot of competitiveness between females and female business owners. I work hard to support the women around me and to share opportunities for promotion any chance I have. There’s enough opportunity out there for all of us so I believe in sharing the success and actively working to lift up my fellow hard working ladies (and men).
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I’m not certain small business owners have typical work days. Some mornings starts around 7:30 a.m. with computer + coffee time on my couch where my pup, Lou curls up around me while I address emails, review my daily/weekly calendar, manage inventory, develop new products + labels, and tackle various aspects of biz ops. Some days, I’m up early for a run or road bike ride followed by local errands: picking up packaging and labels, shopping for ingredients, dropping off orders to our area stockists. Other days, I head right into the shop to work on production, test recipes for new products and our monthly workshops, custom blend requests from our customers, brainstorm with my neighbors in The Basement on collaborations. This variation of schedule is one of my favorite aspects of being a business owner.
You’re clearly all about living a natural healthy lifestyle. Do you have any tips on how to start doing that for a beginner?
The transition starts with one simple step. When you run out of a product, instead of replacing it with the same, seek out a natural alternative. Purchase a chemical-free body wash, trade out your hand lotion, toss out that terrible deodorant and allow your body to detox naturally. All Pantry products are priced affordably so folks can afford to purchase healthy without emptying the piggy bank.
Here are a few simple questions:
Dogs or cats?
All the animals! I love both dogs and cats and share my home with a Bichon-Poodle named Lou and a tiger striped kitty named Emma. I value Lou’s playfulness and companionship while, with Emma, I appreciate her independence and ability to oftentimes desire nothing from me than a warm place to curl up and a couple forehead butts.
Coffee or tea?
Strong coffee with a splash of cream in the morning, spicy ginger tea at night.
Morning or night?
I’m at extremes with the times of day. I love the wee hours of the morning before the world wakes and the late hours of the night after the world has gone to sleep. Like most people these days, I’m often distracted by my iPhone: text messages, social media, emails. The “off” hours allow me to focus on work, writing, designing, and planning without interruption.
What else are you passionate about?
In today’s current political state, I’m passionate about social and political activism and about speaking up and out about inequality. While I am but one woman running a very small business, I believe small actions can have highly complex and large impacts.
How has starting Pantry Products changed you & your life?
It has changed so much of my life. For nearly 20 years, I worked in corporate marketing in various industries including automotive, mortgage banking, commercial construction, and healthcare. I loved my career but I always desired to create something for myself, a place where I could pave my own path and bring my ideas to life. The skills I honed during my Marketeer years have aided in bringing Pantry to life as a brand and the experience I gained working side-by-side with the C-Suite of highly successful start-ups has guided my practices as a business owner. I’m passionate about what I do and every bit of me is poured into every aspect of Pantry.
What does the future have in store for Pantry Products?
The question I ask myself nearly every day! My immediate goals are:
- Become 100% organic in 2018
- Expand our partnerships with amazing stockists across the US
- Continue to serve as an educator in both my local and online community
- Land Pantry on Oprah’s Favorite Things list. 😀