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Monday, Sept. 9, 2019

Local Makes Top Five

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Ben’s Body Basics woos judges with wholesome body-care products

Ben Whalen is a graphic-designing, marketing, product-crafting, packing and distributing one-man show. His company, Ben’s Body Basics, is home to Shreveport’s innovative and wholesome plant-based bodycare products and was recently chosen as one of Top Five competitors in the 2019 Startup Prize.

“Ben’s personality is a big factor in his success,” says Startup Prize coordinator Kris Holland. “Ben’s strong drive to succeed and his ability to present his products made him an extremely well-rounded applicant,” says Holland.

Close to 50 small businesses and entrepreneurs applied for the annual startup competition, allowing small companies to connect with investors and advance their business knowledge and skillset. The businesses and investors travel from all over the U.S. to participate in Start-Up Prize. Whalen was the only Shreveport participant to advance to the final round.

“I received a nice, little plaque and a lot of knowledge and growth,” says Whalen of his Prize-Fest Top Five advancement. “It showed me a mindset and mentality that I haven’t fully fleshed out yet, that there are areas that are untapped for me,” he says.

His offerings range from his popular kinds of body butters to refreshing body mists and facial serums, from bathing products and beard oils to his recently launched deodorant, cleverly named “Up in Arms.”

“The majority of my customers are people who have already tried tons of natural products and nothing works for them,” says 33-yearold Whalen. “They’re tired. People are ‘up in arms’ over it,” he says.

Whalen began his journey of crafting body products in 2015 after he realized that his personal products were full of a long list of synthetic materials.

“At some point, the light bulb went off. I went into my bathroom and grabbed a product, and something compelled me to flip the label around and look at it. I didn’t know what half of the products were so I started researching and buying natural products,” says Whalen.

Whalen admits that he became obsessed with the ingredients of his purchased products and decided to research recipes and take the plunge into the craft of homemade body products.

“I started making products as a hobby and for myself,” he says. Whalen was in Chicago at the time, working for a tech company while simultaneously exploring his new interest.

“My world opened up,” Whalen says of his time in Chicago. Before his 2010 move, the Caddo Magnet High School graduate recalls having little interest in matters of health and plants. “Chicago has a tremendous scene in natural products. I learned how powerful plants are during that time in my life,” he says.

His distaste for pesticide practices within the almond industry and his venture into oil-extracting was a turning point for his hobby.

“I bought an oil-expeller and started pressing my own almond oil,” says Whalen. “I press weekly and average about 30 pounds of oil per month.” He then uses his home-pressed oil in his products.

Whalen chose Shreveport over Chicago in 2017 and moved himself and his brand-new business back home. “I knew this was going to be one of the most challenging places to do it,” he says of his work. “Where a lot of people may look at their environment as limiting, there is a strong supportive network of people that I found here,” he says of Shreveport.

Whalen turns to this network of people for feedback and ideas. “I find comfort in the collaborative creative process,” he says. Whalen is currently working with several local artists in developing a series of original artwork for products of their choosing. “I want to help stimulate the artist community.”

With plans to expand the reach of Ben’s Body Basics regionally and nationally, Whalen stays rooted in his values of a plant-based lifestyle.

“Hippocrates says, ‘Let thy food be thy medicine,’” he says. “I would be doing myself a disservice if, at the end of the day, I haven’t started talking about internal health,” he adds.

“Let Nature Serve” is his slogan and clearly, the value system by which he lives.

Ben’s Body Basics is stocked at The Agora Borealis, Wellfed and Drug Emporium in Shreveport and Lafayette. Ben also supplies his products to shops in Dallas and New Orleans and is co-sponsoring the Texas Veggie Fair with three-time Olympian and Shreveport native Kendra Farris. Follow Ben on Facebook, Instagram, and visit his website www.bensbodybasics.com.

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