A Living Wage

Businesses, especially small businesses, reflect their owners. My priorities and my values are reflected in the decisions I make every day, from the ingredients I use to the containers I buy to how I pay my employees. Or, because I’m so small, employee, singular.

This picture dates to my first year with bees--almost a decade and a half ago, now. I haven't used a frame grip since.
This picture dates to my first year with bees, almost a decade and a half ago, now. I haven’t used a frame grip since.

Getting ready for your first employee is a pretty daunting task (at least it was for me!). Payroll, worker’s comp, payroll taxes, and all the rest seem so complicated. I’ll admit that it was a bit scary. But it was made much easier by using a service (I use Gusto.com–here’s the link for both of us to get a gift, if you sign up by 1/15/17).

Once I decided to face that daunting task, I had to decide how much to pay my first employee. He was a first year beekeeper and would need to be taught how to make all the formulas I make from scratch. He was a trainee.

I would have been justified offering minimum wage.

I chose to let my values guide the decision: I pay Cole a living wage. Or maybe that should be “Living Wage,” capitalized, because it’s a term that is defined here in Tompkins County. A Living Wage is currently defined as $14.34 an hour, which means just under $30,000 a year. I rounded up, in fact.

I also chose to provide paid sick leave as an earned benefit. It’s important to me that an employee who is too sick to work stays home and gets well. I don’t want the germs, and I don’t want someone distracted by illness making products.

As of last week, I’m now an official Living Wage Employer, certified by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center.

I’m really proud of this. It has always been important to me to “start the way I mean to go on” in my business. No skimping on ingredients, containers, or labels. No short cuts “just this once.” Ideally, I’d be able to turn on a camera and livestream my production for you, and you could see exactly how everything is made, and feel great about buying it. (I may yet do that, by the way!)

What does this mean for you, as a customer? It means that when you buy Avital’s soaps, lotions, and balms, you’re helping to support a business that does right by its employee(s). When you pay for a bar of Avital’s soap, you know that it’s made by someone who enjoys their job and is well-paid.

Avital’s will never be the cheapest item on the shelf, but making cheap products has never been my aim. I can’t compete on price against companies that buy their ingredients by the ton and their containers by hundreds of thousands. And that pay minimum wage.

Here’s my goal instead: Avital’s makes quality skincare, provides well-paying jobs, creates a lively company culture, and we love teaching people about honey bees and the wondrous things they do for us and the environment. As my business grows, those goals are the foundation, whether I have one employee or a hundred.

I hope you find those goals worth supporting! And I’m always open to suggestions on how to improve anything we do. Just leave a comment!

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