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The business of friendship
sothernbellas 3
Emily Wright, left, and Isabella Johnson, right, get to work on a concoction for a facial scrub in Johnsons kitchen. The two 12-year-old friends have started a business venture of their own, after their fathers struggled through the recent and enduring economic turmoil. - photo by Photo by Calli Arnold

Jars and canisters were strewn across Cathy Johnson’s counter tops as the girls giggled to and fro, allocating who would be responsible for adding which ingredients.

A sweet calming scent waltzed around the room as the sugar, oils and natural extract combined in the mixing bowl. The contents, though sweet, are not meant to ease appetites; this concoction, dubbed Cherry Almond, is intended to exfoliate.

Best friends Emily Wright and Isabella Johnson, both 12, wanted a way to relax and spend more time together while helping their families during tough times.  Southern Bella’s became that outlet.

Both girls saw their fathers struggling to find work. Wright said her father underwent a period of unemployment and Johnson said her father saw his business trickle off for some time — although both families have now mostly recovered from that stress.

“I kinda felt the need to help out with my dad,” said Wright. “He was without a job for a while, and I just felt the need to help out and earn some money.”

Being like most rising seventh grade girls during the summer, Wright and Johnson confided in each other and began making small homemade beauty products, such as chocolate facials and Epsom salt body scrubs. The made-from-scratch scrubs, based on online recipes, were a hit among them, their families and their friends.With encouragement from Cathy Johnson, Isabella’s mom, they began to plan their own health and beauty venture to earn a little extra money to help out their families. They named it Southern Bella’s, combining “Southern Belle” and “Isabella.”

“I love their spirit,” said Cathy Johnson, “and I encourage it because the times we live in. I’m glad the girls are using their creativity to possibly turn it into a business one day and using their time to do things like that. I think it’s great. They love the creative aspect of it and feeling like they’ve made a product that other people can enjoy and use, and also teaching them to focus whatever they love doing.”

They don’t have a business license (yet) but they have ideas galore for their salt and sugar-based scrubs.

In matching outfits and aprons with their Southern Bella’s insignia, the girls described different themes they’re developing.

One would be an “Ingredients of True Friendship” line where the product would be named Silliness, Honesty and Dreams, for example.

A “Mama’s Kitchen” line features aromas from home, including Peach Cobbler and the above mentioned Cherry Almond.

“We’ve had a few that said they were a little dry,” Wright said. “But we appreciate the feedback because it makes our scrubs better.”

For now, they only accept donations for their products, raking in $40 so far, investing half of that back into their business. Their small jars, wrapped with girly fabric, will go for $5 and larger ones for $9 once the girls can get a business license.

Recently, they donated a Southern Bella’s gift basket to Elements, a new hair salon in Rincon, and they’ve given numerous sample jars to close friends and family. And they even have a small room in the Johnson home with a metal basin and a vintage lemonade pitcher full of water for folks to test their scrubs.

They both say that they can see themselves working together to continue a business in spa products, but right now, they’re getting back in the swing of school and adjusting to another life change.

Last month, Wright’s father was hired to a position in Wilmington, N.C, and these best friends are learning about sacrifice, saying goodbye and testing their friendship. They had a slumber party with all of their friends Aug. 27, a farewell to Emily as her family packed the last of its belongings for North Carolina.

They girls still Skype and talk on the phone, and Wright has been spreading the word about their products in her new school.

“It’s exciting because you think of the possibilities and where this could go, and it just makes us happy,” said Wright.

Cathy Johnson, remembering a photo in the Effingham Herald of her and her good friend, who passed away a few years ago, at their lemonade stand, said that she hopes the girls will cherish the friendship they’ve cultivated with Southern Bella’s.

“We’re just best friends,” said Isabella. “It’s kind of hard to explain how we’re so alike. She’s just made me so happy. And Southern Bella’s is just so fun and creative.”

They girls have set up a Facebook page for Southern Bella’s and have an e-mail address set up to communicate with interested parties: