The skin-care artisan: Carla Miles of Popped Handmade | Feature | Chicago Reader

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The skin-care artisan: Carla Miles of Popped Handmade

Tragedy led this south-side "solopreneur" to develop luxuriant but affordable butters and balms.

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ISA GIALLORENZO
  • Isa Giallorenzo

Just a few weeks before Carla Miles's first vendor event, tragedy struck: at 19 weeks pregnant with her second child, she found out her baby had a fatal birth defect and wasn't expected to survive. "I put all of the frustration, anger, and hurt I was feeling into really hitting the pavement and promoting my products," Miles says. "Since Popped Handmade was birthed out of the loss of my son, it's even more important to me to give it my all and use it as a tool to help others."

Miles, 29, started her artisanal skin-care line after realizing that many cosmetics labeled natural include questionable ingredients and synthetic fragrances—besides often being ridiculously expensive. "I started experimenting with recipes for my own lotions, and eventually started selling them in the fall of 2015 to people with sensitive skin who were looking for gentle yet effective products," she says. Miles specializes in facial oils ($7-$17), solid body-butter bars that melt once in direct contact with the skin ($14), and whipped body butters ($18-$28)—a combination of melted butters and oils that have been cooled and whipped together into a creamy moisturizer.

"It contains no water, which makes it possible to keep it free of any synthetic preservatives that water-based moisturizers need to have," she explains. Her all-natural formula includes premium and responsibly sourced ingredients such as kokum and shorea butters, which aren't usually found in products at the price point she offers.

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"Affordability was important to me from the beginning because I know what it's like to have a tight household budget," says Miles, who in addition to overseeing her business and making all her products in her south-side kitchen also works as a real estate agent and takes care of her family. (She's married and has two daughters: Frances, a cheerful five-month-old, and London, a four-year-old whom she homeschools.) "I need to wear so many hats that I have to continually learn how to manage my time more effectively in order to meet goals," says the self-described "solopreneur."

"When you're growing a business, your to-do list is always expanding—but don't forget to write out your accomplishments in addition to the tasks that you need to do," Miles advises. "It can be hard to see progress when you're in the trenches, but don't be afraid to track even the tiniest of wins."

One of Miles's biggest wins is having come up with a product that both feels soft on the skin and fully restores it. It transforms the tedious experience of moisturizing into a pampering ritual. Popped Handmade, poppedhandmade.com.   v

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