Photographed by: Rachel Maucieri | Interview of: Becky Waddell of Be Clean Shop
How did you get started?
When I really think about it, Be Clean Shop was many years in the making. As a high schooler I wanted to become an aesthetician, but my mom encouraged me to go to college first. While in school, I managed a skincare shop and fell for the whole experience: the hospitality, the ingredients, and the constant learning. Meanwhile, I obtained my BS in Applied Biology and was deeply rooted in environmental activism and community organizing, and after that, pursuing my master’s degree in public policy was a no-brainer.
Much of my study involved questioning, organizing, and exploring alternative views, and I was elated to plant myself firmly in the environmental policy field to really help usher in change. But, when I arrived in DC to pursue my big environmental policy career, federal policy failed to meet my aggrandized expectations, and I was turned off by the egos, unnatural work cycles and culture of working for free that’s so deeply entrenched in this city. Oddly, I found excitement, inspiration and freedom in the local entrepreneurial community, and made a leap from policy to creative retail. Much to my surprise, all that background that my mother probably still fears was wasted, has served me well as I work to create a shop that moves beyond typical retail and instead serves my community.
What influences you?/ Where do you get your inspiration?
My family, and my view of what a happy future looks like is what inspires me. There is so much more to life than our jobs, and it is sometimes painful to me to think that the majority of our creative energy is funneled into our 9-5 rituals. I want a future full of open space, simplicity, independence, and abundance (of love, compassion, kinship, quiet, chaos and all the other intangibles you get to embrace when your time is your own). That’s my main driver, the big picture inspiration: how can I create a life that sustains me and my family, but also contributes to a culture I want to foster and participate in?
Beyond that, the people and products that inspire me are the ones who are invested in creating a culture of support, self-care and community. It’s hard to not feel inspired and motivated when I’m surrounded by so many incredible people (women especially) and creative brands — whether it’s in my shop’s building at 52 O Street Artist Studios — or in the broader DC area. Heck, after spending 5 minutes on Instagram and witnessing the DIY, personal empowerment, and #girlboss revolutions taking place all over the world, it’s a challenge to not get lost in thought about what Be Clean can do next. It’s figuring out how to use that inspiration to contribute meaningfully that really takes time…
How do you balance your personal time + work?/ How do you create separation?
I wish I had a better answer for this given everything I’ve said, but I still struggle. Having compassion for myself and others, recognizing when a situation is out of my control and accepting it instead of fighting it, and prioritizing little things like healthy meals and meaningful conversations, all really help. Taking time to experience the world around me instead of just rushing through my day keeps me more at ease. It does take time, though, and I’ve just accepted that.
What keeps you motivated?/ Why do you love doing this?
My motivation comes from knowing that I’ve only witnessed the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Be Clean can offer our community. Many of our customers (I don't actually like calling folks that shop here customers or clients because it feels very sterile, but I haven’t come up with a better term yet!) come here because they have very specific health issues that drive them to seek specialized skincare. But in doing so, they share their stories, they commiserate, and they seek feedback. Some people are just beginning their natural product journeys, and others simply love to pamper themselves. Whatever the reason they come here, I’m humbled that we’re invited to help guide them in decisions about such an intimate part of their lives. It’s really such an incredible honor and I can’t wait to grow and offer even more to every person who walks through our doors (physical or cyber!)
Where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?/ What's next for your brand?
I wish I knew the future and could tell you the definite answer because, boy, would it put my mind at ease! I can’t really give you specifics, but I can share that we will grow and expand to provide a wider variety of products, classes, and other offerings that enhance a compassionate and thoughtful approach to skincare and self-care routines. Ultimately, we hope that we can contribute to the growing natural product and personal care movements by offering a space where people feel supported, engaged and excited for their wellness.
You can also find some of Be Clean's gorgeous products right now at their popup shop at Redeem DC on 14th St. More info here!