Alumni

April 4, 2017 at 9:49 am

Sociology Alum Combines Skincare, Sustainable Economic Development in Appalachia

Kelsi Boyd next to display of naturally made body care products in a white cabinet

Kelsi Boyd

Kelsi Boyd graduated in 2015 with an M.A. in Sociology from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University. She blended a passion for sustainable economic development with an entrepreneurial spirit and established Silver Market Co., which creates all natural and sustainable skincare using environmentally sound practices.

Silver Market is rooted in a career choice that went sour for her, hence the name Silver Market.

“This company is the silver living that pulled me from a day job that was crushing my spirit,” she explains.

From Grad Studies to Biodegradable Products

Boyd’s company’s products are biodegradable and come in recyclable or biodegradable packaging. They use only ingredients that are safe enough for ingestion such as herbs, botanicals and spices, while catering to individuals who have sensitive and acne-prone skin, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.

In grad school, Boyd specialized in poverty in Appalachia and information and communication technology. She found that economic diversity is a key factor in sustainable economies, and she sees this diversity as something that can be achieved by small business.

“Entrepreneurship is essential to digging ourselves [Appalachia] out of the hole we’ve dug over the past century or two,” Boyd explains. “Green technology is the second component. It’s the ‘big’ industry that we need. However, we’ve come to a chicken and the egg problem. Which comes first? Big industry or small business?”

small jars of SM Co. Probiotic Deodorant Cream and a cut open lemon

SM Co. Probiotic Deodorant Cream

Boyd said simply discussing theories surrounding economic sustainability and regional poverty wasn’t doing much good, so she decided to take initiative.

“Silver Market Co. was an aha! moment,” Boyd explains. She hopes her business can be used as an example for other individuals who wish to create something new and innovative. It’s her way of saying, “Hey, this is possible. Let’s see what we, every day people, can build from the ground up.”

The Best Part of Being an Entrepreneur

Within the past year, Boyd has partnered with a handful of individuals within Appalachia. She says many are already business owners who want to branch out and explore new ways to make their business more appealing and competitive, and some are aspiring entrepreneurs who are just looking for a place to start.

three yellow SM Co. handmade soaps hanging by string with a label

SM Co. soaps are handmade with pure vegetable oils and are free of synthetic dyes and fragrances.

Boyd was recently involved in the opening of Tuckerman’s on Lincoln (Middleport, OH), which is a collaborative retail featuring six women owned businesses. This is something she says none of them would have likely been able to do on their own, but by coming together they were able to create something unique within their community within a very short period of time.

Most importantly, Boyd says, is the friendship she now has with these women, who continually inspire her.

“Having the freedom to create and collaborate is by far the greatest aspect of being an entrepreneur. I work around the clock, but that saying, ‘Do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’ really is true.”

The Challenges

Putting theory into practice isn’t as easy as it seems on paper, Boyd observes.

“Despite my attempt to create something that is all inclusive and beneficial for all individuals in my community, I’ve experienced push back from my town’s own Development Authority. Overcoming certain attitudinal barriers is not something I had planned on spending much time on, but it has quickly become one of my main objectives.”

white and red bath bombs

SM Co. makes bath bombs designed to reduce stress and anxiety, made with therapeutic grade essential oils.

“In grad school, you learn how to receive criticism, process it, and grow from it. In Appalachia, the suggestion of change is often taken with a grain of salt, but in Appalachia context matters.”

Boyd sees this as her biggest hurdle, but says feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. She notes that “actions always speak louder than words.”

Running a Business and…Sociology?

There are lots of different components to running a business, she explains, and she credits her background in social science for how closely she pays attention to consumer behavior.

“It’s interesting how intrinsic marketing becomes after studying sociology.”

Boyd says running a business is both creatively and intellectually challenging.

“One thing academia teaches you is that there is always room to improve”.

Two classes that stood out the most for Boyd and continue to influence her are Dr. Steve Scanlan’s Environmental Sociology class and his Seminar on Poverty in that questions regarding globalization, fair wages, environmental destruction and waste are all things that she takes into consideration.

“For instance, SM Co. refuses to use palm oil, which is an ideal ingredient for soap making; however, its popularity is leading to large scale deforestation and pollution, loss of biodiversity and negatively impacting biomedical research. Truthfully, using palm oil would be cheaper, and it would make the process of what I do much easier, but knowing what I know, I just can’t do it.”

Sacrifices and ‘Good Will’

So, where can you find Silver Market Co. products?

SM Co. products can be found in eight different retail stores in Ohio, West Virginia and Florida, one of which is in Athens, OH (Mountain Laurel Gifts).

Boyd says that SM Co. has received inquiries from the West Coast and as far away as Seoul, South Korea. While she wants to expand her business and continue to succeed, both in her social and economic endeavors, she says she doesn’t want to lose sight of what matters most to her.

SM Co. Honeybee Salve with honey dipper

SM Co. Honeybee Salve made with raw local honey.

Boyd explains that sticking to certain criteria and principles becomes more challenging as business grows, but for her, remaining a genuine and transparent company is more important than exponential growth.

“Without my education, I’m not certain I would have thought twice about opening a business, but I do know that my company’s values and direction were heavily influenced by the professors and teachings from Ohio University.”

“I’m pretty grateful and, nonetheless, extremely excited to see what else comes of this endeavor!”

One Comment

  1. Charles (reece) Dalton says:

    Excellent article. I wish I had a fraction of Kelsi’s courage and vision into the future. I learn from her anytime we have conversation. Proud to know her for sure, and admire her very much.

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