JUNE 26, 2022
The Sweet Smell of Alignment
By Jemi Lassiter
Photo courtesy of Patrice Jackson
Patrice Jackson is the co-founder of Sweet Honey Rose Co., a wife, mother of two and a woman on a mission to align her life with her life's work and family's legacy.
The co-founder of Sweet Honey Rose Co. has a penchant for problem solving, but she does not see it that way. Patrice Jackson’s problem-solving approach is all about alignment — from the foods she prepares for her family to the products she purchases for her children and her family's company all the way to the work she does.
Even in the midst of creating solutions, Jackson was fending off two new problems at the time of our interview: accepting her new reality as an entrepreneur and releasing her old identity in higher education. Nevertheless, the 37 year-old mother of two was ready to share all that she’s learned in the past year and impart on me the importance of alignment.
No, Jackson does not say the word alignment. Instead she expresses a sincere desire to live out her family’s beliefs for food, products, and work that are fulfilling, clean and as natural as possible through the difficult conscious decisions she consistently makes. Her story reminds me that bringing life into alignment is not easy when the preconceived idea on what your life might be conflicts with what your life should be.
“Sweet Honey Rose Co. was created as I was with my full-time job. Sweet Honey Rose was just our business on the side to kind of start to build our legacy. [The company’s] inspired by our daughter,” explained Jackson.
She and her husband, Calvin, soft launched Sweet Honey Rose Co. in 2020 as an all-natural, handmade bath and body business. The company takes pride in using only the highest quality of ingredients, specifically chosen to hydrate and heal skin. According to the company's website, each item [sold] is created with the whole family in mind; safe for young children, as well as the elderly.
“[Sweet Honey Rose Co.] has always been our thing on the side up until recently,” said Jackson.
In March, Jackson resigned from her full-time job in higher education.
“It wasn’t to do Sweet Honey Rose full-time. It was for a mental break for myself because the environment was toxic. It was no longer serving me. So, if I needed to be Patrice for myself, Patrice for my family. I had to let something go,” she said.
In less than three minutes into our interview, Jackson voiced the sentiment of more than 1.5 million women who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Deb Boelkes, the author of “Women on Top: What's Keeping You from Executive Leadership”, explained the phenomenon and discussed the uneven workload placed on women.
Photo courtesy of Patrice Jackson
Calvin and Patrice Jackson soft launched Sweet Honey Rose Co. in 2020 after finding the answer to their daughter's allergic reaction to a soap that claimed to be all natural. They re-launched the company in Georgia on Nov. 11, 2021 with a renewed focus and sense of purpose.
"Many women found juggling business responsibilities with homeschooling, child care and elder care simply wasn't worth the effort or the income to justify staying in the job”, said Boelkes.
Although working remote, the culture of the company and its demands on her time were in direct competiton with Jackson’s family life. Something had to give.
“For me, that was my full-time job; my main money maker. I had to let that go because it was giving me stress. It was giving me anxiety,” said Jackson. “I found myself snapping because I was not happy at my job and I was 100% remote. So, how does a remote job make you feel that way?”
She told her family and friends who noticed she was not at work that she was on vacation.
The much needed mental break gave her an opportunity to collect her thoughts, get her home life in a new order that suited everyone including her, and breathe fresh air into her family’s bath and body business.
Photo courtesy of Patrice Jackson
Calvin and Patrice Jackson settled in Georgia with their two children in 2021.
In 2021, the Jackson family all but recreated itself.
“Being home during the Pandemic changes your perspective on a lot of things. We just got to a point where we were just done with Maryland,” said Jackson.
With a hot real estate market, the Jacksons tried their luck. They put their home on the market. It sold over asking price in just four days and they promptly moved to Georgia.
Jackson was eight months pregnant with her second child and had no worries beyond the pressures of her job which had agreed to let her continue to work remotely.
Two weeks before the Jacksons were scheduled to move into their new house in Georgia, the builder informed them that they had to increase its cost because the price of lumber went up.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, prices of processed wood products, such as softwood lumber and plywood, nearly quadrupled.
Wholesale prices for plywood increased from $400 to $1500 per thousand square feet (roughly equivalent to retail prices of plywood increasing from about $12.80 to $48.00 per sheet).
The Jacksons declined the increase because they had a signed contract that locked them in at their desired price. The builder agreed to honor the original price. However, the back and forth caused the closing date to be rescheduled. Their new closing date would never come.
According to Jackson, the builder and realtor conspired to run out the time on their initial contract so the house could be sold at the new market value.
“I knew something was fishy when [the builder’s realtor] emailed me and said, ‘Since we don’t have a closing date and I know Patrice just had the baby, there are some other properties that are available that we can get moving’. That was a red flag to me,” said Jackson.
“They waited for our financial contract to expire. They sent us a new contract and increased the price [by] more than $100K,” said Jackson. “We ended up being in the hotel for a month.”
Amid the mess of their housing situation, Jackson had to be induced and welcomed a healthy baby boy.
“Here I am. Hormones are crazy. Switching hotels. We had a house two weeks ago and now we don’t have a house. We’ve been living in a hotel. It was a lot,” vented Jackson.
The ordeals of 2021 would not end with the loss of a house or a birth induction. No, the Jacksons were in for a few more twists and turns.
Jackson and her husband continued to search for a home but kept getting outbid in an overheated real estate market. What once allowed them to prosper, backfired in Georgia.
Tired of living in hotels, the new family of four settled into an apartment.
Although upbeat and matter-of-fact for the majority of our interview, here, Jackson sounded dejected.
She thought they were making the best call for the entire family with the move, but this was nowhere in the plan. Prices skyrocketing. Having her son sooner than expected. Not being settled in their new home. And, a job that took more than it gave. Jackson’s ability to hold it all together was waning.
They moved once more from the apartment to a larger place but it still was not Jackson’s dream for her family. It was just a place that would have to do. Buying a house at that time was out of the question. She no longer had the energy for that. She needed to use her maternity leave to connect with her son and recover from his birth. (Hey, to all the moms out there who know postpartum is where the rubber meets the road!)
While on maternity leave, Jackson had her first postpartum check up and an honest conversation about her mental state. She could not go back to work yet.
“I [told] my doctor, ‘Mentally, I’m not ready to go back to work. I need some more time’," said Jackson. “I remember her response to me was, “Let’s see how you’ll feel when it gets closer to the time’.”
When the time came, Jackson was absolutely not ready and her doctor conceded. Jackson’s maternity leave was extended by two weeks.
The Family Legacy of Sweet Honey Rose Co.
In that small window of time, Jackson did something she had not done for nearly a year. She mixed and poured her first batch of soap.
“Once I made that first batch, I knew because it was just therapeutic for me. It was like a peace for me, like a calm,” she said.
Sweet Honey Rose Co. paused their operations while Jackson was pregnant. The smells made her nauseous and transporting all the products to Georgia was not cost-effective.
In August, Jackson and her husband decided to revitalize and hard launch Sweet Honey Rose Co.
“We officially launched on November 11 at 11. So, 11/11 11 a.m. of 2021,” she said. “Wanted to build a legacy that was consistent with the family’s lifestyle. In our products we use no fragrance oils. We use essential oils. In our soaps, we only use high quality oils, shea butter and cocoa butter. In our bath salts, we use epsom salt, Himalayan salt and botanicals. We don’t use any kind of dyes or colorants. We use natural powders to color our soaps like rose clay and cocoa powder.”
But, why these products? The choices the company makes on their ingredients, and even their suppliers goes back to the reason they began making soap to begin with -- their daughter.
As a baby, she began breaking out from products that claimed to be natural. The husband and wife team sought medical attention. The family’s doctor wanted to see the reaction happen in real-time but they did not have time to wait. Jackson began researching home remedies and came across the benefits of oatmeal.
“That really got us started in skincare first because it was a soap that broke her out first,” said Jackson.
Oatmeal has been proven improve conditions like eczema, inflammation, and other conditions associated with skin irritation. A popular home remedy, oatmeal is used in baths, soaps and face masks. Colloidal, or finely ground, oatmeal is often used in cosmetics, lotions and medications.
Today, Jackson is full speed ahead in Sweet Honey Rose Co. The company uses a cold-process method to make its soaps, so customers get more of the benefits from their ingredients.
She sources the company’s ingredients from Canada and the U.S., paying special attention to the quality and impact of her purchases. “I want to have complete control of what I put in my soap. With cold-process soap I have that control,” said Jackson.
Sweet Honey Rose Co. has used the same suppliers since its soft launch in 2020 and takes pride in working with Baraka Shea Butter, which offers handmade, fair-trade shea butter, cocoa butter, palm oil and coconut oil sourced from women and communities in Ghana.
Three Truths, No Lie
As we wrapped up our interview-turned-conversation, Jackson confided a few more truths.
Truth No. 1: Start Speaking Up About What’s Going On
“Quite honestly, it could have been some postpartum depression in there,” she said. “In the midst of all that [happened in 2021], I’m basically losing my mind trying to keep it together for the family,” said Jackson. “Us, as women, we try to take on a lot and we don’t always communicate.”
Truth No. 2: God is Always in the Mix
“I feel like God was trying to teach me a lesson: I got this. You’re being stubborn. I got this. I always say I feel like last year I was in a tug-of-war with God. I’m always like I can do it. I can do it. And, He’s like, no. You can’t and I’m showing you — as everything’s falling apart — I got this. Let go and let God, Patrice.”
Truth No. 3: Where You’re Going May Have Nothing to Do with Where You’ve Been… Then Again, It Might
“I don’t feel like entrepreneurship was huge in my upbringing. In this generation, you see a lot of entrepreneurs [start] at young ages… I was okay with working my way up in Corporate [America]. Part of me is still in denial because I’ve always had my career job. I’ve been working since I was 16. It’s a bit of a shift because I’m afraid to say I’m working for Sweet Honey Rose Co. full time. I have not looked for another job yet. I’m just on this mental break right now. I don’t know what that means for my career. I do know I’m pouring my heart and my soul into Sweet Honey Rose and, as of today, it gives me joy like no other.”
For someone who does not quite acknowledge herself as an entrepreneur, she sure does behave like one. Jackson sets an agenda for each day. She gets up everyday like she’s going to a 9 to 5. And, she is happily creating her own culture in her own company because it is all about the family’s legacy.