Harmony Bowman has an especially inspiring story and a compelling business plan. Bowman is the sole owner of Blue Willow, a luxury CBD skincare brand. Just over two years in, Bowman is navigating a challenging economy to build her brand. A figurative fire drill pushed our call back a day, and Bowman assures me that the day prior’s manufacturing problem has been corrected.
The now 33 year old, married to successful runner Dylan Bowman, retraces her path forward, from 2017 when bed-ridden with Lyme disease. “We were living in Marin, California, and it was crazy, I remember the day before-I’ve run all my life-I did a 5:00 a.m. sunrise run down to Muir Beach, 12 miles before work and then drove into San Francisco. I’d always had that hard-charging lifestyle, early to bed, early to shred. It’s very likely that I got bit by a tick in Marin, but there were a lot of silver linings to it.”
“I was in bed for four months,” Bowman recalled. “Just awful neurological symptoms, a lot of pain. It may not affect everyone the same way, but I was really high stress. I mean, after college I was working 100 hours a week. Lyme disease was a wake-up call. It just shattered my immune system. It’s definitely a personal journey to come back from it, but it was a major silver lining, that experience happened for a reason.”
She avoided the prescribed opiates and instead leaned on her mother, an herbalist before herbalists were a thing. “Herbalist,” the word catches a memory for me and I think back to that recent New York Times bestseller. Bowman beats me to the title, Educated: A Memoir, and she jumps ahead. “My childhood was the exact opposite of that, I lived on four different continents,” and then she quickly returns our focus. “I wanted to heal more naturally and started using cannabis creams. I’d used them before for running, for sore muscles, in California you could get them at dispensaries and they were just greasy, smelly. With my mom’s help, we were able to use ingredients beyond CBD to combine and add things like anti-inflammatories.”
That episode, and recovery, gave Bowman the push to leave a safe but empty job in corporate America and instead chase a passion, and, well, Bowman saw that she could do it better too. Blue Willow’s beginnings were simple tinkerings in the home kitchen, and Bowman still makes everything herself, but it’s grown in scale and science. “It gives me the most oversight. I’m in a certified lab and we make much larger batches. Our full-spectrum hemp oil comes from a farm in Colorado. Everything is tested rigorously, tested twice. It’s tested for potency–CBD, THC–and purity–no heavy metals or mold. Our arnica is sourced from farms that my mom put me in touch with, really reliable places. Not just the hemp needs to be high quality.”
CBD is everywhere, including at farmer’s markets and pet stores, but Bowman’s differentiator is starting to make sense. It’s not just CBD, and it’s not the standard CBD oil. She sells bath soaks, and body balms, and they’re infused with a collection of essential oils too that impact the product’s success. Days earlier Jay-Z announced an entry into the growing cannabis market, but Bowman shrugs it away. “We’ve got super, super-loyal customers. The quality in the market really varies and there’s a lot of marketing out there, but our brand’s story and product really resonates. We’ve got a super-loyal following and I think during COVID-19, people are more willing to support an independent business that they think has great quality.”
She sells online, of course, but also in a number of small retailers throughout the country, including in her recent home Aspen, Colorado, and current residence, Portland, Oregon. She uniquely, and excitedly, is partnering with a growing hotel chain of next-level luxury built around an adventure concept. Their rooms are stocked with Blue Willow bath soaks and she’s eager to grow the partnership.
Bowman’s still a one-woman shop, but is nearing the need for her first employee. She pushes back on the potential for outside investment. “I wanted to bootstrap it, I’m in a good place, happy with the business that I have,” she said. “I’m happy growing it the way that I am.”
The married couple’s recent move from Colorado to Oregon wasn’t because of the business, but was instead about them being happy too. “We were in Carbondale, and it was just too remote. Aspen’s a really special place, but we’re just not going to be there year-round. We’re pretty social people,” she said of the relocation. They’re at home in Portland with their two German shorthaired pointers–GSPs, she abbreviates–and she calls the pair her CTOs, or Chief Treat Officers.
And Bowman’s still running too, just not racing. She’s a lifelong runner, and is quick to point out the years of experience she has on her newer-to-the-sport husband. “I love running, it’s always been a part of my life. I love to run for the joy of it, the social aspect. I love fall, and the mountains, I love race culture and crewing and being around the sport, but I don’t have a drive to race.”
That’s awesome, and her new business and life in Portland sound pretty great too.
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