Kim Cross is a small business owner who works for people with skin sensitivities by handcrafting natural goat’s milk soaps, lotions, and 100% soy candles. Having struggled with psoriasis for 20 years, Kim knows first-hand how problematic it can be to achieve soft, nourished skin without painful side effects from harsh chemicals. Learn more about Kim and her brand Zhi Bath and Body below.
Fancy: How would you describe your swagher? What makes Kim, Kim?
Kim: As odd as it may sound, I describe my swagher as carefree with purpose. I consider myself easygoing, relaxed, and not easily troubled. Approaching life this way has become a blessing and a huge help in tackling the purpose I believe I’m here to fulfill.
My family and friends have always acknowledged that I’m a different kind of kat. I totally remember being that way and admit to the same even now. I walk, march, and run to the beat of my own drum. The exception was serving in the military when I had to fall in line to get jobs done.
I’ve always loved uniqueness and felt a need to be different. Of course, I was teased in my younger years, but nevertheless, I remained worry-free about the thoughts of others. Just today, I read a quote that I wish I had back then. It said, “If you don’t fit in, you were born to stand out.” My life has been filled with standout moments I passed off as me being me. And now that I’m mindful, I try to take full advantage. My mellow mood allows me to be the sense of calm in tough situations and think outside the box for solutions—took a long time to realize that.
I’m a believer that I was born to do something great! Not necessarily in the sense that I’ll change the world and everybody in it, but if I can change the worlds of the folks I encounter…How awesome is that?! I want to use Zhi to help as many as I can—especially veterans and their families. My grandpa told us that you can’t get very far if your fists are always clinched. I hope I’ll make him proud.
Fancy: What inspired Zhi Bath & Body?
Kim: My occasional hobby turned into necessity and inspired Zhi Bath & Body to become official. I was initially terrified at the thought that I could start, never mind run, a business. I was confident in so many things; I had served my country, I was a hairstylist, and I was handy with a set of power tools. It was an amazing time in my life. Yet the thought of being a business owner was so intimidating. My source of guidance, however, was staring right at me for years before I decided to take the leap. My source was my mom. She had put in 30+ years as the Avon lady by then; answers to questions on running a business was literally a phone call away. So, when I FINALLY called and told her what I wanted to do, she laid everything out in honest, simple English. Long story short, she held no punches. I got the good with the bad and everything in between. Being intimidated became a flat out NO THANKS.
I continued with my hobby, making lotions and candles for family and friends, enjoying the compliments and side-stepping urgings to “sell” not “give” anymore. Two things happened: I got an email from across the country asking to purchase a bottle of Fresh Milk & Honey lotion. The sender said she received a bottle as a gift and wanted more. Then there was a supervisor at my 9-5 that snappishly told me one day “Stop calling your products stuff. Who does that? You’re good at this. Give it a name!” From those two things, my mindset changed. “Stuff” had gotten real, and it was time to name my hobby; turn it into a business.
It took weeks to come up with a name that would ooze wholesome goodness, irritation-free, and handmade all in the same breath. Stuff was officially my baby, and the baby had to have a name. Zhi embodies its base—the name is Chinese for wisdom and healing. Bingo!! My prayer from then on became “Lord give me the wisdom to make this business a good one. Touch my heart, mind, and hands to create from what you have given me that I might make a product that helps heal and never harms. Amen.”
The inspiration for Zhi is always evolving, always getting better. Zhi is inspired by so many things! A smell, a design, a name—Lord, let the inspiration keep coming!
Fancy: Can you recall creating your first product?
Kim: Oh my goodness, I do! It was a disaster. I was working at a new salon and our shipment of Carol’s Daughter products had not arrived. We were pretty concerned because the products sold at the salon were also used by our massage therapist and manicurist. It was imperative that whatever they used until our shipment arrived BE awesome. Our manicurist was known for her amazing pedicures using Carol’s Daughter scrubs and oils. I know you’re wondering, “What does that have to do with you?” Well, here’s the thing. I am never one to get stuck in a jam and not try to make a way to get unstuck. Maybe it was my Navy training, maybe it’s in my DNA. I’m not really sure, but my first thought (in my best Cookie from Empire voice) was, “I can make my own scrub. If Carol’s Daughter can do it, so can I.” That’s saying nothing bad about the awesome product Mrs. Price produces. I was and am in awe of her—that she created a product lacking chemicals I couldn’t pronounce.
So, there I go! Off to the Home Economist Market! I’m grabbing this, grabbing that. Get one of these, one of those, and don’t forget to pick up a book on all of this. I took my products and my pride home; spending the entire weekend mixing and reading.
The result was a super stinky, ridiculously oily, semi-cute foot scrub. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. Six months later, I was out of a job and had sold my first scrub to a friend.
Fancy: What do you think makes your products unique?
Kim: Zhi is unique, I believe, because of three main things. One, God plants the seeds for ideas and I’ve learned to act on them. Through my cousin came the seed to make candles. From my husband came the seed to make my candles look unique and still be functional. Psoriasis took care of the rest. Ideas, designs, and inspiration must come from somewhere, right?
Secondly, Zhi is unique, because I am my own best tester. Years of various treatments, from creams to pills to injections, for a host of service-related conditions have left my skin very sensitive to many products in stores. The driving force behind creating products with natural ingredients is my love of all things fragrant. I LOVE to smell great and for my skin to feel good. Severe psoriasis and or side effects from the treatment for psoriasis ALWAYS have other plans for what I want. That ties in with Zhi because I create my recipes in such a way that I can use each and every product that I sell—without irritation. I smell awesome, and my skin is ridiculously soft. Simply stated, if I can use it anyone can. When I hold true to creating incredible products that work for skin sensitivities, I know folks that don’t have issues will love them as well.
Lastly, I’m constantly researching ways to make my products better using natural ingredients. I truly believe there is a natural alternative to all things synthetic. Working to find those alternatives is a must. Nature holds the key to everything we need to live and thrive. My charge is to incorporate that into Zhi and provide maximum benefit to all those who use my products. I’m happy to accept the challenge!
Fancy: How do you market your business?
Kim: Historically, the vast majority of my marketing has been word of mouth. Folks that knew of me would buy for their family and friends; in turn, those friends and family members would do the same. I LOVE Twitter, so I have used that for years as my platform to send folks to my website to buy. Not really knowing how and where to market and attract customers has been a learning experience for sure.
With the age of social media marketing upon us, now a majority of my marketing is done via social media. Many kudos to Buffer for allowing me to market to all my social media platforms with a single post…it’s awesome indeed. I attend pop-up shops and trade shows as well as give product donations to organizations’ swag bags to get my product out to the public. My products, specifically the goat’s milk soap and body lotion, are what I’d refer to as hands-on. You can understand the quality when you use them so I keep sample products with my information all the time. “Oh you smell so good!” conversations always end with “Here, take this with you. Give it a try and let me know how you like it. Good, bad, or otherwise I’d like to know what you think.” It may seem awkward to some, but it’s inexpensive marketing that works! Then too, I LOVE the look on people’s faces when given little goodies.
Fancy: Where can your products be found?
Kim: Currently, my products can be found and purchased at my online store and through We Buy Black only. Zhi has been in two brick and mortar stores until recently and I REALLY enjoyed the experience of being a vendor in local boutiques, so stocking store shelves of businesses here in NC and across the country is a short-term goal, for sure.
Fancy: We see you are attending The School for Aromatic Studies. We had no idea such a school or study existed. What does it entail?
Kim: I’m so excited to learn about essential oils and how to incorporate them in my personal and business life! I love how they work together to heal and sooth and rejuvenate. I can’t think of a better way to find all the natural alternatives than to start with aromatherapy.
The nudge to study came years ago. I attended Dudley’s Beauty College to become a stylist and while there, I fondly remember my instructor saying two things that motivated me to think bigger than being behind a chair for 30 or 40 years. In short, she said that some people are much better at teaching students to do hair than they are at doing hair. I thought it odd, but found it totally true. She also told us we could be anything in the beauty industry. My ears perked up and eyes got big when she mentioned working on cruise ships and aromatherapy. The latter of the two stuck with me and became an itch that I had to scratch.
The School for Aromatic Studies gives me the basics of aromatherapy. It covers essential oils, base oils, creating blends, safety, the MANY different uses for oils, and an intro into the science behind it all. Certification comes after advanced courses that cover chemistry and botany. In depth discussion on aromatics for mind, body, and soul are coupled with case studies to complete the certification.
Fancy: Do you have any upcoming events or projects that you would like to share with our following?
With the kiddos out of school, I will have more vendor events throughout the summer. I encourage everyone to follow my blog for any special announcements or events. On my website, www.zhibathandbody.com, it’s called The Buzz.
Shortly after school starts back up, my husband and I will host our second Coats of Many Colors Coat Drive. We’ll collect winter coats for local homeless veterans and their families. I’m so excited to get started collecting coats again; we collected 250 coats, 40 hats & gloves, and Bombas donated dozens of socks for the kids at the last coat drive. Both of us are veterans and hold other vets near and dear to our hearts. This coat drive is an opportunity for us to give back to veterans who will need cold weather gear most.
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