When Tiffany Harris ’13 was a Saint Rose student there were few beauty products available to help people with eczema and other skin conditions that make daily life a struggle.
“You could always take a steroid and use it for the rest of your life, but that doesn’t really solve anything,” Harris said recently. “What about your nutrition, and what you’re putting on your skin, and how you’re taking care of it?”
After graduating from Saint Rose with a business management degree, Harris went on to study occupational therapy at Maria College. She has three children, two with eczema. The products she tried did little to help. So, Harris researched how various natural ingredients, coupled with eating and avoiding certain foods, could ease the itching and burning. Within days of giving her children a buttery cream she created, their skin cleared up. Today, she sells the butter and other products under the name Whip My Butta Organics.
In two years, Whip My Butta has sold $25,000 of body butters, skin cleansers, plant-based haircare, and specialty items for children, all mixed at and shipped from Harris’ Schenectady home. Clients, who have come from as far away as Germany, hear about her products through word of mouth, online, at shops, and during pop-up events.
Harris juggles her company while working full-time as an occupational therapist at the Schenectady City Schools and raising her children, ages 6, 4, and a baby.
“I needed help with my social media presence,” she said.
To help her promote and expand her business, she has turned to students in the Saint Rose Creative Copywriting in Advertising class. Under the guidance of Jessica Otitigbe, a visiting assistant professor of communications, the classes have taken what Harris is offering and devised plans to get her story out. Students worked with Harris on various components of a plan. Those students were Samuel Kondracki, Emma Cicchetti, Chris Nowicki, Zachely Nickens, Sydney Sepulveda, and Nicole Frese.
Whip My Butta Organics products, jars, and bottles (Photos provided by Tiffany Harris)
To build the social media plan, students met with her, reviewed her strategies, and scanned the beauty products world to see where she could maximize opportunities. Otitigbe, who has extensive experience in marketing and strategic communication, has also had classes work closely with Albany Center Gallery, the Red Bookshelf, and Nelly’s Treats, a bakery in Cohoes. Whip My Butta, she said, fits perfectly fits with her classes’ emphasis on promoting community clients.
“They aren’t just reading about their clients. They are engaging in experiential learning and seeing how to tell stories of the people in our own community,” said Otitigbe. “I think our students do a phenomenal job of using the tools they have learned to capture the emotion and importance of someone’s story.”
The class suggested that Harris herself, rather than her products, are the story. They created a two-and-a-half minute video, in which Harris explores how her children struggled, the steps she took to help them, and how she found her own solutions. Harris also said she took great pleasure in helping other people. They presented their findings to the campus community via Zoom.
As a student, Harris said she appreciated the small community she found at Saint Rose, where she danced on the step team and made close friends. Now, as an alum, she is impressed by how the communications students support her gently, using suggestions to encourage, rather than fault her efforts. They also keep her up on the current platforms she is unaware of. Harris looks forward to continuing the collaboration.
“It definitely brings me back,” she said. “It’s nice how they come to love the company and how they use their different talents to support it. Half the time, I don’t even realize they are a lot younger than me.”
By Jane M. Gottlieb