Good Stuff Botanicals co-founders Maranda and Michael Johnson said their business ideas follow a common ethos: we all come from nature, so most of what ails us can be solved by it.
It’s hard not to see that throughout their storefront, which they purchased in 2020, on Grand Drive in Bigfork. The store is lined with small jars and bottles, skin care, makeup and perfume rolls, among many other products. Everything Johnsons makes is sustainably sourced and all natural – no synthetic chemicals, GMOs or artificial colours. As their products have grown in popularity, locally and across the country and the world, the Johnsons said it’s more important than ever for them to source sustainable and ethically sourced ingredients.
“Everything we get is sustainably sourced, certified organic, unless it’s wild-crafted. We are really conscious of where we get our stuff from,” said Maranda.
The business was inspired by Michael’s psoriasis, or MJ, and a family prescription in 2012. Maranda said the condition is something he struggled with for a long time, taking steroids to ease the symptoms.
Over two years, the couple tinkered with a family recipe, adding different types of oils until they settled on cold-pressed hemp seed oil and mineral water from a hot spring in Montana. This made a huge difference to MJ’s condition and it wasn’t long before they started giving out jars of Gypsy Cream to friends and family – who started asking for more.
“His parents really encouraged us to make a business out of it. So we quit our day jobs and started going to farmers markets. Then, two weeks later, we found out I was pregnant with our first. We wanted to raise babies, so we decided to put everything into it,” Maranda said.
They started going to local farmers markets, keeping them busy five days a week. MJ then landed one of their first major wholesale accounts: having their products for sale in Rosauers Supermarkets, available throughout Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. It continued to grow and now their products are available in 130 stores across the country.
They also donate some of their products to veterans and hospitals, and when the pandemic hit in 2020, they joined forces with Whistling Andy Distillery to be among the first in the state to provide sanitizer to first responders and the public.
couple continues to come up with new ideas for products as well. Lately, they’ve been working on flavoring the rolls and said they want to sell more loose leaf tea blends in the future. MJ said they also get inspiration from customers, but the couple look to their own lives and what they would like when thinking about creating a new product.
“This is where the whole business started. We make it the way we would like it and use it, which is how the whole Gypsy Cream was born,” said MJ.
After a group of new residents became interested in foraging, the couple said they became even more careful about their sustainability practices. Finding their patches of herbs like arnica, devil’s wand, and stinging nettle. Maranda said it’s important to be aware of who else needs the plant in the wild, adding that there are less invasive ways to gather items while foraging.
“When we pick cottonwood buds, we expect them to come out after a winter storm because the buds start growing in the winter — they start producing resin and they fill up with resin and they turn into leaves. These cottonwoods that we can reach, deer can also reach. It’s one of the first leaves to come out in the spring and is good deer food,” Maranda said.
Their practices follow the 80/20 principle for foraging, meaning you can harvest 20% of what’s available and still leave most of what’s left to keep the plant healthy. They circle various foraging spots, even tending to some patches to find them growing when they return.
“Our nettle patch is in the middle of nowhere and we’ve been nurturing it for the past few years,” Maranda said. “We’ll replant some of the stems when we go to our devil’s club, there’s never been a place we can’t go back to,” Maranda said.
“We’re going to go through and just remove the nettle tops and some of the little things here and there, then watch it grow and get healthier over the years,” MJ said.
There are some ingredients that can’t be found in Montana, like shea butter, which the couple sources from a group of organic and fair trade women in Ghana.
EXCEPT keeping their shelves stocked and dreaming up new products, the Johnsons want their storefront to be a welcoming place for community members. They have been working on their garden area outside and welcome anyone to come in and sit – without the pressure to buy a product to stay.
“It’s a great space there, there’s a sandbox where the kids can hang out. We’re going to do more workshops and some fun, like Friday foot dips by the fire there,” Maranda said.
Maranda grew up in Bigfork and said it’s important for it to stay quiet and secluded for locals to be alive and well.
“When Bigfork used to get so crazy and so hot, there’s a little secret place we’d go to that was all mossy and shady… so I just wanted to make sure there’s still a place like that here, especially when it gets bigger. and there are more people and maybe some of those secret places are not so secret,” Maranda said.
Good Stuff Botanicals products can be found in stores throughout Montana, especially in the Flathead Valley. Find a complete list of retailers and their online store at thegoodstuffbotanicals.com.