Tucked outside the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, across the street from a coffee truck and standing at the entrance to the park, Spa Piggies sells their merchandise. The modest table displays all-natural and homemade beauty products, including lip balm, bath salts, foot scrubs, and lotions, and despite the cold, business is good. I snag the last foot scrub (a pale pink color and cherry blossom-scented) along with an orange and mint lip balm, and continue into the market to pick up some fruits and vegetables.
There would be nothing remarkable about this transaction if it weren’t for the fact that the young ladies who run the stand, the savvy business owners behind Spa Piggies, are eleven and twelve years old.
Meet Gaia and Emily: the motivated Park Slope duo who took a shared hobby and turned it into a profitable business. It all began when Gaia decided to make a basket filled with flower petals and handmade bath products as a gift for her stepmother. Inspired by the idea, Emily did the same for her grandmother. Since they had so much fun doing it, they decided to keep it up.
This was back in September of 2011. Since then they’ve worked on expanding their products and perfecting their methods. They currently sell bath salts, foot scrubs, lotions, soaps, lip balms, salves, and bath bombs. All of their products are made at home with all-natural ingredients that are well-researched.
“Sometimes we go to the store and we see a new product, and then we think that would be cool to make, so we look up how to make it,” Emily says.
Gaia continues, “Some of the ingredients I didn’t even know existed. If you go to flea markets you’ll see something like a beeswax company and they’ll have a lip balm and I’ll look up the ingredients and write them down, and try to find them later. We do a lot of online research.”
One of the things they’re most excited about is their incorporation of aromatherapy. They refer me to an informational print-out lining up the different essential oils they use (eucalyptus, lavender, jasmine, rose, and more) with their varied benefits (easing anxiety, muscle aches, dry skin, and sinus congestion). They are also quick to note that their lotions are anti-aging.
“We put green tea in them,” Emily explains. “Green tea is anti-aging.”
All of their recipes are thoroughly considered.
“Bath salts can kind of dry sometimes,” Gaia tells me. “So we decided to make them more moisturizing. The foot scrubs, too. They have oils in them. The salve is like a lotion butter. Those are really hard to make.”
They’ve come a long way from their first sales, which were held in front of their homes. After deciding the spot wasn’t “very professional,” they started to seek out new venues. In addition to the Grand Army Plaza spot, they’ve sold at Green in BKLYN. They’ve got their eyes on the market with some ideas about where to go.
“We tried to get our stuff into a store, and it sort of worked out,” Emily says. “We’re going to try to expand more into stores as we get older.”
“We’re also thinking– because people don’t really take baths that much–we were thinking about maybe selling [bath salts]to a nail salon,” Gaia says. “They pretty much use the same thing, but ours have the different colors and aromatherapy. If the bath salts aren’t selling that well on their own, I just think that’s a good area to go.”
“Foot scrubs as well,” Emily adds, “if you’re having a pedicure.”
The girls are yet to approach local salons.
They find that business is best in the summer, but it hasn’t always been easy. They share a story of a failed attempt to reach out to a local flea market.
“They never got back to us,” Emily says. “So we decided to just take a bunch of samples with us. And then it was closed! They never took down the website.”
“It was closed for two years!” Gaia says. “It was just an empty parking lot.”
They have generally aimed for one sale a month, though they admit that circumstances sometimes get in the way. When they aren’t busy being entrepreneurs, the girls are on top of their studies (both cite math and English as their favorite subjects) and extracurriculars (Emily likes to swim; Gaia sings mezzo-soprano in the school chorus). Most business owners aren’t also navigating the sixth grade.
When I ask them about the name of the company, their excitement is visible.
“Our favorite animal is a pig,” Emily says, “and we were thinking about it for a few days– what could the name be and how could it include pigs?”
“Originally it was between ‘Precious Piggies’ and ‘Spa Piggies,’” Gaia continues.
“Then we just started writing down Spa Piggies and that kind of stuck.”
“But as we got more into it, the business, we realized the coincidences, and how ‘Spa Piggies’ is a little more telling of what the business is.”
It turns out the pig is a perfect mascot for a line of bath products.
“Everyone thinks of pigs as being really messy, but they’re really not,” Emily explains.
“They have slop and stuff but the reason they have mud baths is that it’s like sunscreen,” says Gaia. “It cools them down. They’re smart. They sort of make their own spas.”
It makes total sense: a couple of smart girls creating their own spas from scratch.
Keep up with Spa Piggies through their website, where they’ll post upcoming sales. They’re hoping to set up a stand within the next few weeks. And if you’re a local business owner considering supporting the company, make sure to stop by! The girls generally have some product samples with them.