Bill Whyte: A healing hand for the planet

This week on Nature of Business I spoke with Bill Whyte, Head Badger and CEO of the WS Badger Company. Badger manufactures organic body care products. We discussed Whyte’s background, the evolution of his company, its mission and principles, the impetus for becoming a B Corporation, and much more.

Whyte acknowledged at the outset that he was, perhaps, predestined to start and run a business, highlighting his childhood potholder business, where he went door to door hocking his woven wares with great success. As an adult, Whyte was a carpenter for years where he was both successful and fulfilled. His aim has always been to look at building a business as building a home and he is doing just that at Badger.

So how did he start Badger? It’s a good story. Back in his days of carpentry, Whyte’s hands were perpetually cracking and splitting so he decided to do something about it. Enter Badger Balm, a remedy for hardworking hands. He formulated the balm and, like he did as a child, hocked his wares in the local community with great success. This was back in 1993. Two years later, the company was in business. It now employs 45 people in the small town of Gilsum, New Hampshire.

Whyte makes it quite clear that it is one thing to be remembered as a good businessman but something entirely different and more meaningful to be remembered as a good person. It is from here that he runs his family-owned business as — well, a family. It’s a team effort and Whyte constantly seeks out fresh perspectives from his employees. Everyone has an integral part in strategic decision making.

Badger has recently become a B Corporation, a new classification for companies that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This aligns well with Whyte’s belief that companies should be run for the public good. For Whyte, one of the most appealing aspects of becoming a B Corp is the assurance that when companies change hands, the mission and principles of companies are built into the DNA, and will, therefore continue to run in a similar fashion. In Badger’s case some examples of this would be their very successful Babies at Work policy.

It is certainly refreshing to speak with a founder of a company so acutely passionate about his employees, the plight of the planet (Badger gives away 10 percent of pre-taxed earnings to charity), creating high-quality products, and making money. As Whyte makes clear, they all go hand in hand.