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The Honey Pot's Beatrice Dixon addresses social media backlash

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Earlier this month, a Black-owned company that makes feminine hygiene products faced a backlash online that seemed to come in large part from Black women who loved the brand. The company known as The Honey Pot markets its products as, quote, "natural." To some customers, that was part of the appeal, plus the fact that it's a Black-owned business. But when they noticed an unannounced ingredient change to a product, a rumor started online that The Honey Pot was no longer Black-owned, with some consumers complaining about Black-owned companies that, quote, "sell out."

BEA DIXON: I can't say why. I didn't start it.

RASCOE: That's Bea Dixon, the Honeypot CEO and co-founder, who says the company has not been sold. When we reached her last week, we asked what it meant to her to be a Black-owned business that clearly spoke to many Black customers. And she said it made her grateful and proud, while also emphasizing that she wanted her products to be for everyone.

DIXON: The reason why I got into this business - my intention wasn't, I want to make this to only serve Black women. And I don't say that to say that I'm opposed to the notion of buying Black, right? - that I'm opposed to the notion of knowing that it was Black women that invested in this company first and made it what it was and continue to make it what it is.

RASCOE: Do you understand why some Black women might feel it's important to support a Black business, why that might be a priority for them, even though, like you said, you made your business for everyone?

DIXON: I am grateful for that support. And I completely understand because of all the things that we have been through as Black women, that when most things are not made for you and then you find a thing that you can align to and a founder that you can align to and a company that you know cares and that you know puts intention and love in - they look like you. They feel like you. They connect to you. I can understand how change with those type of circumstances can evoke that type of an emotion and reaction. And all that I would ask for is grace to understand from my point of view as well.

RASCOE: I do think it's important to note, like, that gynecologists talk - when they talk about feminine cleaning products, a lot of times they say they're not necessary, and some can be irritating or harmful, even if they are plant-based or natural. But setting that aside, you changed the formula for the wash. And in the Instagram video that you put out, you apologized for not communicating better about the changes.

DIXON: Yes.

RASCOE: Like, what do you wish you had done differently?

DIXON: I wish that we were able to do just that - just to start to communicate that there was a change in progress, to communicate what all those changes were - you know, to communicate what that meant. We didn't plan for that change to happen when it did. But with the way that the global supply chain is set up, we had to kind of accelerate those changes much quicker, you know, while also running the business. There were so many things that were happening all at one time and, you know - and we had to accelerate our new formula, kind of bringing it into the fold because we were out of stock, and we wanted to get back into stock faster.

RASCOE: So I just want to be clear 'cause - since a lot of people were worked up about this. The change in the formula - part of it was because you were having supply chain issues getting some of the ingredients. And then the other part of it was about adding preservatives to extend the life of the product. Is that the case?

DIXON: Yes.

RASCOE: I want to get to what you were talking about earlier, about this issue of grace. Do you feel like Black people hold Black companies to a higher standard than they hold other companies?

DIXON: Yes, I do.

RASCOE: And is that because of what you talked about earlier, where Black people feel like they have not been able to trust companies?

DIXON: I know that we have not necessarily been in the conversation around health, around well-being, around product innovation. And so absolutely. I think that there is a root to that issue. And that root is because, historically, there is a lot of things that our society has to recover from. And I believe that that's one of them. I can't speak to the specific places of that, but I am a Black person in this society, and I have not always been served. And so yeah. I'm in complete agreement with that.

RASCOE: That's Bea Dixon, CEO and co-founder of The Honey Pot. Thank you for being with us.

DIXON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.