New Richmond High School graduate Josh Neumann has had a problem with dry lips ever since he was a young man. Although his mother would give him Vaseline to help with the constant dryness, Neumann was always in search of a lip balm that would keep his lips from cracking. Eventually, after the ups and downs of several decades, Neumann created his own lip balm, called Kind Lips, to heal not only lips, but souls - one kind word at a time.
"This is almost perfect timing for Kind Lips because I feel like our culture is in a place where people need a reminder to be kind to each other. Everybody wants to be kind and have good interactions. We just need a little push every now and then to speak more kindly to each other," Neumann said. "The intention of this product is truly to make a difference. I need to figure out ways to get it into more schools and businesses so that it can make a difference. To be able to give back 20 percent of the proceeds to these anti-bullying programs has been really fun and especially to see the difference it is making in a small amount of time."
Neumann - who graduated in 1998 and whose father was a teacher and wrestling coach at New Richmond - went to college to become a special education teacher, but while he was student teaching in New Richmond his experience wasn't as great as he had hoped it would be.
"I found that teachers didn't go to the teachers' lounge and there were times where they were acting like high school kids rather than adults. That really turned me off of that career path," Neumann said.
While he finished out his student teaching, Neumann got his real estate license and went to work in real estate after hitting rock bottom in his life. For nine years, his real estate career was his dream job, but the job eventually lost its luster.
"I was successful as a real estate agent, but about two years ago, it just didn't feel like my dream job any more. One night I was sitting on my couch ... thinking about what I was going to do with my life. Since I had never had a 9-5 job, I knew I wanted to start a business of my own," Neumann said. "While I sat there twirling my lip balm, the thought hit me that I loved lip balm and that it couldn't be rocket science to make a good lip balm. I also hadn't found a lip balm I really liked, so I started doing research on how it was made."
While he worked to create his new lip balm, Neumann - now 39 - researched the power of words and how a few kind words make a difference. The research triggered something in Neumann and he knew he wanted to do something with his lip balm plan to make people's lives better.
"My mom called me one night and we talked about my idea. She told me that I'd be great at everything I'd do, which was a little bit of a let down since I was really excited about the idea and thought it was a good one," Neumann said. "But the next morning my mom called me and said she had had a dream about me and my older sister yelling at each other. My usual punishment was to write sentences, specifically writing 'the law of kindness is on my lips' 100 times over.
"In her dream, kind and lips were flying off the page at her. So she told me that if I was going to do this new project, it should be called Kind Lips to be a reminder to everybody to use kind words with others. I got the chills and knew she was right."
In 2016, Neumann began researching what other companies were putting in their balms. After writing down each ingredient he saw in other lip balms, which filled two full pages, he crossed out anything that was not 100 percent natural or organic. Neumann delved into the properties and benefits of each ingredient and further dwindled the list to what is currently on the Kind Lips label. Neumann spent every Friday and Saturday night for several months crafting his formula for Kind Lips lip balm until he found the recipe he loved.
"One of the things my parents instilled in me, coming from a Christian background, when I was a kid was giving back 10 percent of what we made to the church. Even in my life now, I've tried to keep giving back, even when it wasn't very much," Neumann said. "I had always wanted to try to give back 20 percent, but I had never been able to do it. So when I created Kind Lips, I decided to give 20 percent of the profits to a cause. Anti-bullying programs seemed like a perfect fit for Kind Lips since our hashtag is 'say something kind.'"
The Kind Lips website (kindlips.com) has been up and running as an online venue for lip balm sales since October 2017. According to Neumann, Kind Lip Lip Balms are currently in 65-70 boutiques, available on Amazon and in Coburn's grocery stores.
"One of the fun things that happened after the product got out to customers was that teachers started contacting me and saying that they would love to have the lip balm in their classrooms to give to their students," Neumann said. "I started donating lip balm to some teachers and then principals started taking notice, too. My degree in special education is a lot behavior management and I started to realize that this product is a form of behavior management in that it reminds people to speak kind words to others."
As the lip balm took off with schools, Neumann developed a card to go in his packaging that tells those who receive it what Kind Lips is and what it does.
"Two months after everything came out, someone bought 45 tubes of lip balm, which was a good order for me. I didn't know who bought it or anything about it, but then a woman called me and told me that she gave the lip balm to her co-workers. After a month and a half, the culture at her office had changed and she felt Kind Lips had a lot to do with it," Neumann said. "She said people started to speak more kindly to each other and even stop others from speaking badly about a co-worker. They'd even started to tell each other to 'put their kind lips on' if they were speaking poorly about someone."
After the lip balm is manufactured, Neumann packages and ships them from his home. Neumann said that, although he makes more money when people buy his product on the website, purchases on Amazon are actually more beneficial since it is a place where people can leave reviews and get more eyes on the product and positive reviews.
"It has really been a very spirit-led project and is something that is bigger than me, especially after hearing from my mom about the dream she had," Neumann said. "I feel really fortunate that I get to be the person to help people with a product like this. I wake up every day and try to be the best person I can. Things will happen how they will happen."
In addition to giving 20 percent of Kind Lips' proceeds to anti-bullying programs, Neumann is working with New Richmond Middle School, as well as other school districts throughout the Twin Cities area, to bring a better culture and spread kindness not only amongst the staff, but students as well.
"We have partnered with Kind Lips for our middle school theme 'Be Kind.' We will be rolling out the 'Kind Lips' on Oct. 2 and 3 to coincide with National Bullying Prevention month, which is October," said NRMS principal Doug Hatch.
Neumann has even created special orange packaging for his lip balm for national bullying prevention month.