Things I Can't Live Without: Anne-Marie Faiola

Showing up to work in the right outfit makes the Segway a necessity.
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Occupation: CEO of Bramble Berry, an Internet retailer of raw materials for making soap and toiletries. Bramble Berry has more than 25,500 customers, primarily small handcrafters, who buy melt-and-pour bases, oils, herbs, dyes, lip-butter flavorings, lotion-making supplies, and molds.

Annual revenue and employees: $1.8 million; 18.

Age and home: 28; Bellingham, Wash.

Cleaning up the system: After graduating from college in 1998, Faiola took a job as a corrections officer, but it was a terrible fit. During one of her shifts, a prisoner managed to sneak away, get to Seattle, buy crack, come back, and smoke the crack in jail. Each night, she would go home and take solace in soap making, her hobby since age 16. After three months on the job, she put $15,000 worth of soap supplies on her credit card and left prison life behind bars.

The sweet smell of success: Bramble Berry has 125 fragrances and a 1,500-square-foot lab for experimenting with scents. Among the company's bouquets are Grass Stain; Lettuce; and Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey.

Scents and sensibilities: Faiola has come a long way since she had 2,200 pounds of glycerin soap in her living room--a 50-pound chunk of it doubling as a dinner table--and now she's opening up brick-and-mortar locations. Bramble Berry owns one Bellingham store, Otion, and plans to open a second branch in Seattle next year. Faiola says she would like to get five stores up and running and then franchise the concept. The idea is to create lifetime soap-making addicts who visit Otion regularly to join her in the sudsy culture.

Things I can't live without

7 For All Mankind jeans, $140: "These are my going-out clothes. (I make it a policy not to wear tight jeans in the office.) They are wonderfully cut for women who have a bit of booty. They stretch a little and never look sloppy."

Segway Human Transporter i Series, $4,995: "The office isn't far from Otion and my gym, but you can't wear work attire on a bike. The Segway fits my lifestyle. It's environmentally friendly and efficient at 12.5 miles an hour."

Toastmaster two-speed blender, $20: "Essentially, soap making is pairing up each fat molecule with a lye molecule and a water molecule to form a new chain. Hand-mixing them to bring the molecules together can take up to three hours. We use this stick blender in our test kitchen all the time because it cuts the process down to 10 minutes."

Coach leather bag, $298: "I have about 10 of these handbags. I love them. They are built like tanks with the best materials and trendiest colors. I like Coach so much that I'm a stockholder."

. . . and what I covet

Nine-foot Baldwin SD-10 concert grand piano, $154,875: "I've played piano my whole life, and I still take lessons once a week. This Baldwin isn't the flashiest model on the market, but it has the most reliable sound and will last forever."

Last updated: Oct 1, 2005




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