CHICAGO — For Itunuoluwa Ebijimi, shea butter constantly has been essential to her survival and self-treatment.
For six decades, Ebijimi has offered her handmade shea butter mixes under her Petty Butter skincare line, on a mission to “eliminate ashiness and instill self-preservation” with just about every lotion she sells. Petty Butter is part of Ebijimi’s lifelong relationship to shea butter, aiding her alter to Chicago winters, and heal from trauma and depression to establish a healthier partnership with her entire body.
But the Black queer entrepreneur is battling to continue to keep her enterprise alive.
The pandemic has taken its toll on Ebijimi’s overall health and slowed generation of Petty Butter to a close to halt. Cash are small, orders have stopped, and securing stable housing has been difficult, Ebijimi reported. Keeping the desire of Petty Butter heading has been challenging. But permitting it go and denying shoppers a home made, loving item that performs isn’t an solution, she stated.
“I go back again and forth about quitting each individual working day, but I know in my coronary heart that Petty Butter is my destiny,” Ebijimi said. “I’m missing proper now, but I have so substantially to provide.”
‘Petty Butter gave me a secure room to specific myself’
Ebijimi has cherished the thought of pampering oneself considering the fact that childhood, she explained.
As a teenager escalating up in Rogers Park, she favored studying “beauty books” and mastering Do-it-yourself beauty recipes. Developing audio also was a gateway to flexibility and joy.
People professions were being out of the picture in her residence, she said.
“I constantly understood I wished to be an artist, but currently being Nigerian American and owning a parent who immigrated to this state to greater your lifestyle and their family’s narrows your eyesight of what is doable and suitable,” Ebijimi stated. “There was no selection for me to play the drums or sing in a rock band. I did not see any probability of getting a joyful life. I felt like my path was predetermined and had to be in the tutorial area.”
Ebijimi struggled with depression and anxiousness, she stated. She didn’t feel witnessed or read. Pursuing her goals seemed unachievable. She skipped dozens of substantial faculty lessons and pretty much did not graduate, she mentioned.
But packages at Gallery 37, a location for youth, soon after-university plans, gave her a voice and an outlet. She held on to that enjoy for skincare magnificence, far too, she explained.
Ebijimi ultimately pursued her passion for arts as a college student at the Art Institute of Chicago, but her mental overall health deteriorated again. In 2016, she received $1,000 as a result of a college program to vacation where ever she wanted to go, she stated.
The 20-year-aged made a decision it was time to head again to her roots in Lagos, Nigeria, to “absorb the lifestyle and be with relatives,” she claimed.
Ebijimi stayed in Lagos just about two months. She experienced a violent altercation with a relative two times right before she returned property.
“I unsuccessful lessons. It immobilized me,” Ebijimi said. “It created me slut shame myself and doubt myself sexually. It built me question my sensuality and if I experienced a proper to my sensuality.”
The excursion nevertheless experienced one particular silver lining. She’d viewed gals in Nigeria craft and promote their shea butter and black cleaning soap at marketplaces. Motivated by their work, she introduced their items back again property.
That laid the groundwork for what grew to become Petty Butter, she stated.
“Petty Butter’s inception coincided with the return of my mental overall health journey since, just after a 12 months of not dealing with that assault, I went back again to remedy and committed myself to mend myself and working with the internalized concern of shame,” Ebijimi mentioned. “Petty Butter gave me a protected place to specific myself and forced me to offer with my psychological health to rise to the event to be fantastic plenty of to be the founder of the organization.”
When Ebijimi crafts Petty Butter, she does so with “an power of lightness and weightlessness,” she stated. Each merchandise is created with self-assurance and “self-assurance,” the indicating of her delivery name in Yoruba.
She only can make Petty Butter when she feels her very best, she mentioned.
“I do not like earning Petty Butter moves when I’m lacking self esteem simply because I really feel like that energy can be transferred over to the item, and I really do not want to make it from a determined location,” Ebijimi explained. “I want my product to be a car or truck for my patrons to connect with themselves, a partner, and other people today.”
Right after the bodily assault, it was essential for her to reconnect with her physique, she explained. Moisturizing and grooming the entire body is a way to “self link,” she mentioned.
She wishes every person to working experience that intimacy when they use Petty Butter, she explained.
“Petty Butter is not the end all be all, but I hope it acts as a harmless portal to self-treatment as it did for me,” Ebijimi stated. “I feel what my ancestors imagine. Shea butter can be a direct vehicle that connects you with your destiny and supplies a area for you to align your self with your aims and intentions.”
Like most self-made organization entrepreneurs, Ebijimi is hardly hanging on.
Just before the environment shut down, she labored as a DJ, The Spouse of Wrath, to fund Petty Butter. But Ebijimi juggles various continual sicknesses, so jeopardizing her well being to participate in a set in an unprotected place hasn’t been really worth the hassle, she explained.
Her facet hustle no lengthier an possibility, Ebijimi applied for a professional kitchen license and a enterprise license so she could sell her products and solutions in retailers, she said. The city denied both.
Ebijimi started a GoFundMe to elevate $65,000 for a Petty Butter creation studio where she can provide her products, but it’s gotten very little traction right after several months.
It gets far more tough just about every working day to hold the Petty Butter desire alive, specially as she tries to shield her health and fitness, Ebijimi reported. But she won’t give up just yet. For now, she will have to combat for her vision, she reported.
“I will totally proceed Petty Butter for the reason that it is my future,” Ebijimi explained. “I never think I can ever enable Petty Butter go, because my standpoint is so important. My ancestors gave me this product. They gave me this formulation.”
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