Temple Body Butter Founder and Owner June Lyons spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about the benefits of entrepreneurship and how local resources can help along the journey.
NAN PRICE: Have you always wanted to own your own business?
JUNE LYONS: I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to work for myself. It’s about sovereignty. It’s about ownership and being able to have a say as to what direction you go in without having to have to ask someone for permission. You have more control of your life. Plus, I want to be able to help people.
NAN: How did you develop the business concept for Temple Body Butter?
JUNE: I grew up in Jamaica, where I learned to use plants and herbs to treat ailments. Around 2013, I was dealing with a dry skin issue and discovered the healing properties of shea butter, which I used to create my own line of body butters infused with natural and essential oils.
Helping others is at my core, so I began sharing the products and got a lot of positive feedback that encouraged me to take my products to a wider market. In 2020, I created the Temple Body Butter online store, where I sell a variety of 21 scented body butters.
NAN: Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your decision to start your business?
JUNE: I think COVID-19 did play a part in it. I’ve been making these body butters for years and officially launched last year on the web. So many people had been telling me they really enjoy the product and I should share it with more people. The pandemic gave me more time to think about building up the business and, after much debate, I just went for it.
NAN: Who is your target clientele?
JUNE: As long as you have skin, the body butter is for you. More specifically, it’s targeted to people who are looking for products that are natural, organic, and vegan-friendly—those who don’t want to worry about chemicals or synthetics in their products.
NAN: How are you marketing?
JUNE: My marketing plan is ongoing. If you’re a business, you never stop having a marketing plan. It’s a continuous process. Right now, my plan is to reach as many people as I can.
My background in media and public relations and having that creative sense has helped me a lot. But there’s a lot of technical stuff and you just have to figure out how to do it. For me, that’s been things like using Instagram to market my business.
NAN: You and I connected through an advisor at the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center (EC-WBC). What have you gained from accessing that resource?
JUNE: It’s been fabulous working with Nicole Polite and Jeanette Dardenne at the EC-WBC. Jeanette took me to a different level. Admittedly, I thought I’d I get hooked up with Jeanette and she would do certain things for me, but instead she said: I’m going to show you how to do this so when you have employees or someone doing this for you, you know exactly what you want and how it needs to be done. She also helped me understand a little bit more about how Instagram works. And she came up with a lot of different ideas for ways we could market my business.
NAN: Have you tapped into any other local resource?
JUNE: Upper Albany Main Street, Inc., another initiative of the University of Hartford, were the catalyst in helping me. They were really helpful in terms of answering questions and providing guidance. They also pair students with you who are in their Micro Business Incubator (MBI) program, which is a joint project by Upper Albany Main Street, the University of Hartford, and the MetroHartford Alliance. So, I’ve had some students assist me with a few things.
I’m very grateful for Upper Albany Main Street and the EC-WBC.
NAN: How are you manufacturing your products?
JUNE: It’s home-based. My business is totally e-commerce right now. When you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t always have the funding you need to open a shop. You start where you can. You have to crawl before you can walk.
NAN: What’s your future vision? Do you think you’ll eventually open a retail shop?
JUNE: My vision is for Temple Body Butter to be a household name. I’d like to eventually have a distribution center or warehouse because I plan on taking this business national and international.
I also hope that in the near future I can make a connection with the women in Africa who are actually harvesting the shea butter. Some of these countries are very male-dominant. The women do a lot of work and they’re not recognized. I want to buy from them directly and set up some kind of program where they can benefit and start their own businesses.
I want to help lift these women up where they are by helping them get the education they need so they can start to educate their children and break that line of poverty to hopefully improve their living conditions. I’m making something from something they’re doing; that’s what fair trade is about. I can’t be in business without them. It’s about giving back.