Our Retailer of the Month for July is one of our newest stockists, Natural State Parenting Supply in Arkansas. They've only carried Handcrafted HoneyBee products for a couple of months – but during that time, our kits, lip balms and deodorants have found a wonderful home in this small community of naturally-minded parents! I'm very excited to share the story of the owners of Natural State Parenting Supply, Jana and Sarah, with you today.
Fort Smith, Arkansas, has a rich history. Established nearly 200 years ago as a military outpost in 1817, it is still home to many military families – as well as the location of the state's oldest symphony orchestra and Arkansas' oldest continuously-running volunteer Little Theatre. It was even recently named by Forbes magazine as the number one city in America for the cost of living.
But until only a few years ago, there was one thing it didn't have: a place for naturally-minded parents to find community, resources, and a sense of belonging.
Jana Aydelott-Leeper and Sarah Hale have changed all that in a big way.
From Need to Action
Before Jana was even pregnant with her first child, she knew the type of mother she wanted to be. She researched babywearing, cloth diapering, and attachment parenting exhaustively. At the same time, she started actively removing products from her home that she felt could impact her fertility or her future baby's health.
Shortly after the birth of her first child, however, she realized something. Although she was armed with a vast amount of knowledge in natural parenting, there was a missing piece that was having a big impact on her ability to wade through those early months as a new mother.
She felt alone.
But Jana isn't the type of woman who sits back and lets life happen to her. She started actively seeking out other like-minded moms to find support with things like efficient cloth diapering systems and building greater confidence in babywearing.
When she realized that many of the moms in her area were also needing support with babywearing, she started a babywearing group. And when she realized the moms in the babywearing group were frequently talking about needing support with cloth diapering, she started a cloth diapering group as well.
Jana was laying the foundation for the very thing she had also needed. She was building a community.
More Than a Store
It soon became apparent that this growing community needed a store that carried cloth diapers, baby carriers, and other natural baby products. Jana had asked Sarah to help with admin responsibilities of the Fort Smith Babywearing Group on Facebook, and Sarah soon saw the potential.
"A community sprouted up so quickly," Sarah says, describing the growth of the local online groups. "It became apparent that a natural parenting store just made sense. Our town didn't have anything like our store, and the closest thing to it was 45 minutes away."
After a few years of careful planning, Jana and Sarah opened the doors to Natural State Parenting Supply. Today, it's a thriving part of the natural parenting community in Fort Smith.
"Seeing someone come in intimidated by babywearing or clothing diapering, and walk out of a class with a newly gained confidence because they've found the place to gain knowledge and supplies...[it] still gives me butterflies in my stomach," Jana says.
A Safe Space for New Parents
One of the most important aspects of running a business for Sarah and Jana is connecting and empowering. "I love being able to introduce new things to the community," Sarah says. "I always try to treat our customers like I treat my friends."
Jana, too, feels passionate about the support aspect of Natural State Parenting Supply. She knows that many new parents will come in unsure, searching, and–just like she was when she was a new mom–perhaps feeling a little bit alone amidst it all. She stresses that her store is a place for acceptance.
When asked what advice she has for new parents, Jana's response comes from the heart.
"Don't worry about what we think of you, your children, or your parenting," she assures. "If you came in for advice, support, or even just to shop, we will be real with you. We aren't perfect parents, and we don't expect you to be, either...we just hope that if you stepped into our little shop, that you had that moment during the day where you felt the relief of no one having any preconceived notions about you, and that you were able to feel like you belonged."
Today, Natural State Parenting Supply is one of the top sources of support and resources for Fort Smith's parenting community, but its reach doesn't stop there. Jana describes how their customer reach extends to anyone in the community who is seeking a lifestyle with more natural products.
"We love seeing people take charge of their health," she explains. "We love when non-parents come in for natural deodorant, skincare, and even feminine products. We love that these people know that our store isn't just for parents–it's for anyone who wants to clean up their home and daily routine."
Advice for Big Dreamers
Jana and Sarah know that Big Dreams sometimes emerge where you least expect it–but they both have good advice for dreamers everywhere. I asked them each to let me know what they'd say for any of our Big Dreamers out there, and this is what each of them said (such wisdom here!):
Jana: Be sincere and grounded. Sincerity will keep you honest about your motivation for pursuing an idea....Being grounded will keep you following your dream, not someone else's.
Sarah: It's totally ok to be scared, but don't give up on something you want just because you're scared. Even if it takes lots of baby steps, your dreams/goals are worth it.