Former finance exec launches second career as wellness brand founder
After a successful 13-year career at SEI, the Oaks-headquartered wealth and investment management solution firm, Cindy Barberes felt ready for a change.
“I was just burned out,” she recalled. As a result, she decided to leave the financial sector and pursue something entirely new.
During the initial six months after leaving corporate America, Barberes began honing in on what the next phase of her life would look like. Already health conscious, she took a program through Duke University focused on integrative health coaching. “It was just such a transformative experience,” Barberes said. In the two years that followed, she did some health coaching before ultimately forming her own wellness brand, H. Honeycup, in 2017.
The products came the following year. “Each year, there are a few more,” said Barberes, noting the company name is a nod to her love of honeysuckles and buttercups.
Wanting to create a tangible product, Barberes, who grew up in King of Prussia and graduated from Villanova University and Drexel University, combined her expertise with that of her husband, Kevin Parker, who has over two decades of experience manufacturing personal care and similar products, currently through his Raintree Laboratories. Both businesses recently relocated to Malvern from Wayne. “We've been a great team,” Barberes said.
When she launched H. Honeycup, Barberes knew she wanted to focus on natural ingredients and the brand has since grown to encompass cruelty-free and vegan practices, eschewing additives like parabens. Barberes is so dedicated to clean beauty that she is currently seeking certification from Made Safe, a U.S. nonprofit that deems products nontoxic certified. Every ingredient and supplier is scrutinized in the process. “It's very black and white,” she said.
Working on the formulation with her husband, H. Honeycup’s first product was its body scrub. Made with ingredients like pure cane sugar, sunflower oil and mango butter, the exfoliator remains a top seller.
Barberes has expanded to a line of body products including body oils and lotions. She’s also ventured into cannabidiol products, something Barberes said has gained a lot of steam among her customers. “It's really for all ages,” she said of the suite of products which include a body oil, bath crystals and body lotion. “Whether you go to the gym, you have an ache and pain, you want to take a bath to relax, or you're older and your knee bothers you, your elbow, you can rub this on as a moisturizer. It's like taking an aspirin, but natural.”
H. Honeycup's CBD-based products
Photo: Fig Industries
Her product line isn’t the only place Barberes is focused on wellness. As part of its initiatives, H. Honeycup makes donations to sober living facilities four times a year, aiming for them to be customer referrals. “We try to make a connection in how we donate, because then it's meaningful for our community, and for me even more,” she said. It's a cause close to Barberes, having a family member who faced that struggle.
The brand reaches as far as the West Coast through its donations and across the U.S. through its sales, which include wholesale and direct-to-consumer. H. Honeycup is currently stocked in a number of local boutiques, some of which she collaborated with this past year to create co-branded hand sanitizer.
Collaborations may be part of her plan going forward. In 2021, Barberes collaborated with a Maine-based ice cream maker, both making products with a coriander lemon profile.
As she continues her reach, Barberes hopes that one day H. Honeycup will be stocked by clean beauty suppliers like Credo Beauty. But like the creation process, she’s being intentional. Whatever comes next, self-care and wellness will be at the root.
Why was giving back to sober living facilities important?
We had an immediate family member struggle for a dozen years, and I'm certain it's a daily battle, but seeing her in recovery for a few years, and her lifestyle, people in sober living, that's all they do is they just focus on a clean lifestyle. And their friends are similar to them … and it's a really nice community. So I just was like, well, that makes perfect sense, because we're doing clean beauty.
What’s it like working with your husband on the formulation?
It's been good because we have different skill sets. He always was in a manufacturing environment, doing the formulations and everything. Whereas I was always in the business side, so I was more strategic. He would be like, OK, I'll worry about the production, the formula, I'll own it. You worry about the sales and the strategy. It's been a good way to combine our skill set.
How has your corporate background helped inform your decision making?
I think it was huge. … I definitely learned resilience, you learn you need to really challenge things, you need to ask questions, you need to plan. I'm a good planner. You need to measure. It was really great.
What’s next for H. Honeycup?
I had originally thought it would happen sooner, but we just sort of took our time. I think the home products would be something that we would explore, whether it's aromatherapy spray or candles. I'm not sure yet.
By Lisa Dukart - Associate Editor
November 28, 2021
With a focus on Greater Philadelphia small businesses and entrepreneurs, "The Creators" is a weekly feature presented as a part of PHL Inno. Check back each Monday for a new profile on a local business. Have a story you think we should know about? Email associate editor Lisa Dukart at firstname.lastname@example.org.