'Forest confetti' are the fun ingredients in award-winning body care products

A Wrangell company that makes bath and body care products has nothing to do with fish, but that's OK because it won this year's beyond-the-plate award at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood competition.

Waterbody won for its Deep Blue Sea Bath Soak, which counts Pacific sea salt and Alaska bull kelp among its ingredients.

Angie Flickinger started the business in 2015 as Gathered and Grown Botanicals. The idea began when she wanted to give handcrafted soap as a gift. She rebranded in 2020 as Waterbody, with sleek new packaging. It was a good time to completely overhaul her design, which had a hand-drawn look under the previous branding.

"My plan was to launch it in March, and then March happened," Flickinger said of the pandemic year. She ended up relaunching as Waterbody in August 2020. Waterbody sells handmade soaps, body lotions, facial oils and bath soaks.

Flickinger said those are fun to make. "I call it forest confetti."

Among the ingredients she uses is Labrador tea, known as S'ikshaldeén in Tlingit, which has medicinal applications for arthritis, according to the Southeast Alaska Traditional Food Guide, a publication of SEARHC.

She also offers seasonal products, like cottonwood body oil, that take all year to make.

Flickinger gathers cottonwood buds in early spring, February or March, depending on the weather, and soaks the buds in oil for months, which absorb the resin. The buds contain a compound called salacin, the historical precursor of aspirin, which is found in the leaves, buds and bark of cottonwood, and is high in antioxidants, which can be useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.

Flickinger, born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, double majored in environmental studies and communication at Western Michigan University. She came to Southeast for a conservation-based college internship in 2008, and worked on a trail crew. She returned to Wrangell in 2010 and "never went back down south after that," falling in love with the people and the town. It was also in Wrangell where she met Dan Flickinger, the man who would become her husband.

After her permanent move, she worked in natural resources for Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, a nonprofit. Flickinger said she loved the work, but her life had become grant writing and scouring for money. She needed a change. The self-proclaimed plant nerd turned her self-professed dabbling into a full-blown business that blended her passion for natural resources with the added challenge of building a business.

Flickinger's days at Waterbody, which is next to the laundromat, consist of manufacturing, marketing and social media, tracking inventory and accounting. One day a week she packs up goods for shipping.

And on the days she makes soap, she dons Breaking Bad-esque personal protective equipment and takes the whole operation outside for ventilation, much to the curiosity of people driving by on Shakes Street.

There have been hard-won lessons. A business owner is always taking leaps of faith, she said, such as where to invest money and which trade shows to do. It doesn't always work. When she was operating under Gathered and Grown Botanicals, she said she did a trade show in Seattle that ended up being a flop. It was devastating, she said. The show catered to vendors offering tchotchkes for gift shops - not handmade, natural products. "They weren't my people," she said.

"As far as Symphony of (Seafood), my product is inspired by the landscape," Flickinger said. "I use kelp. It has a lot of great properties. It's such a cool local ingredient. Bull kelp has been used for thousands of years."

The deadline to enter the contest was in October, and the results were announced in November. She was stoked to see she won the beyond-the-plate category, which the competition added in 2014.

"One of my driving goals is to show we can use local plants and extract from the local environment in a non-destructive way," she said.

Julie Decker, executive director at the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, which organizes the yearly competition, said she was extremely proud to see a Wrangell company among the winners.

Flickinger said she's working on scaling up and plans to hire some team members, but her company will remain rooted in Wrangell, sourcing local ingredients. And she doesn't plan to outsource production. Some of the ingredients she harvests herself with a permit, some ingredients she partners with Oceanview Gardens at Mile 6 to grow the plants and herbs.


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