Kelly Waldren, our amazing VP of Operations, has been working with Old Whaling Company for five years now! At that time, Old Whaling Co. was at the Charleston City Market daily as well as the Charleston Night Market on the weekends. There were a few events occasionally and a handful of online orders a day from the Etsy store. Kelly made products in April’s garage, worked outside at the City Market, and shipped orders. “We were making about 300 bars of soap a week, compared to the 3,000 we make now, not including all the other products we make too! It was just a totally different business,” Kelly expressed.
When asked about where she saw the business going back when she started, she said, “I knew that April was a great entrepreneur and aspired to big things. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I knew that my stubborn, hard-working attitude would help April grow this business into something amazing.”
As a testament to her self-described stubborn, hard-working attitude, Kelly started her employment with Old Whaling Company before even being offered a job. Her sister, Celia was one of April’s first employees & after Celia left Charleston to go back to school, Kelly decided she could work for a soap company and contacted April. April told her that she wasn’t looking to hire anyone and Kelly said she would work for free until she was hiring (she didn’t ever end up working for free, however).
Back when Kelly first started at OWC she didn’t really know what she wanted her career to be. However, she soon found her new position to be one where she could be creative and every day brought something new. She and April clicked right away and were friends soon after. “Since the minute I started working with April I knew, ‘This is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.”
Kelly and April’s friendship continued to blossom over the years. Today, they are best friends and ‘work wives.’ “We’ve both grown a lot, not only professionally, but individually as well.” While April and Kelly don’t always agree, Kelly explained, they have a mutual desire to continue growing the business and make it the best it can be, so their disagreements are talked through and resolved, making the business and their relationship stronger in the process.
Kelly not only loves being able to see Old Whaling Company grow, but loves to see her OWC family grow as well. Whether bringing other family members and friends onto the team or watching some of her first hires transition into managing and leading departments, Kelly has seen firsthand how the company has evolved through hard work and a desire to constantly improve. “We’re definitely not perfect, but we’re always looking to improve. We always want to learn and try to better ourselves and the company as a whole. THAT is what makes an OWC employee.”
The biggest takeaway from my conversation with Kelly was her admiration for Old Whaling Co.’s customers. “All of the customers that buy from us are the reason we are successful and still growing even in this weird time. A lot has changed from our branding and packaging to our manufacturing systems and company culture. It’s been a process to get where we are now.” She went on to say, “There’s nothing like growing a business. Sometimes I get nostalgic looking back and miss the days of doing everything on such a smaller scale.”
Even so, when asked where she sees the business in five years, she responded, “I’m so happy with where we are now but also would love to keep growing in a more intentional way. We want to focus on the brand now that we have more time to plan and think about our next steps. We finally have an amazing team to keep the production, fulfillment and retail stores running, so it isn’t just full speed ahead, and just trying to stay afloat.”
Old Whaling Company has been Kelly’s life since she started five years ago, she jokes that it is her first child. She has since had a son who is now running her life as much as she runs the company. She’s a huge part of this business and she is definitely a workhorse. Happy five year anniversary, Kelly! OWC wouldn’t be the same without you!
Finally, we asked Kelly for a list of some of her favorite products she's had the chance to make during her time at Old Whaling Company. All of these sea-inspired products are available here on our website or in one of our local Charleston retail locations!
Kelly's 5 Favorites for 5 Years!
- Bamboo & Teak Body Butter. "I love the soft, clean smell. I have a travel size in my purse at all times!"
- Seaberry & Rose Clay Bar Soap. "I love this soap as a facial bar. The gentle exfoliation is perfect for my sensitive face."
- Castile Baby Bar. "This is the creamiest bar of soap. It isn’t our most popular, but man, it’s a good one. This is my favorite one to use as shampoo because of the creamy lather."
- Coconut Milk Salt Scrub. "I love the tropical smell - it makes me feel extra pampered. I love how soft and smooth it makes my skin."
- Seaweed & Sea Salt Candle. "My mom used to have a candle that smelled so similar! It’s so beachy and fresh."
Lauren Hedwall + OWC Family