Clean switch

Bluestem Hand Sanitizer fills pandemic need

Posted on Dec 31, 2020 :: Small Business Spotlight
Janet Weyandt
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

“We’re building a network of planners, photographers and venues in the wedding industry

in preparation for next year, when this backlog of weddings are going to be taking place,” he says.

Jim Waterman never thought he’d pin his career hopes on hand sanitizer.

In his real life, he’s a scientist in the fuel ethanol industry and that was more than enough. Then in April, a friend suggested a crazy idea and Waterman ran with it.

That’s how Bluestem Hand Sanitizer got its start. The Appleton-made hand sanitizer is sold online in a variety of package sizes, and Waterman says the idea was to create a high- quality hand sanitizer and package it so it would be accessible for individuals, families and anybody else — no 100-gallon tubs.

Bluestem is sourced from a manufacturer that produces USP-grade alcohol. It’s the highest grade for alcohol, Waterman says, and not all hand sanitizers can say the same. “We wanted to separate ourselves from the nasty-smelling stuff people got at the beginning of COVID-19,” he says.

Making the hand sanitizer was the easy part, as it turned out. Figuring out where and how to sell it was harder, so Waterman started out old-school — by advertising in newspapers. He hit big cities around the country, and it worked.

“We’ve sent hand sanitizer to 42 states,” says Waterman, adding that orders continue to come in even though he’s no longer advertising.

Eventually, a friend wanted to include hand sanitizer in her wedding favors and came to Waterman for custom labels on his small bottles. Waterman spent a few sleepless nights teaching himself how to craft the labels she wanted and wound up creating another avenue for the business — Green Stem Designs.

Waterman is building partnerships with wedding planners and companies nationwide, offering Green Stem private label sanitizer to their clients.

Waterman says he has learned from every advance Bluestem Hand Sanitizer has made and is beefing up its website and its e-commerce options.

While he still has a day job, Waterman envisions a day in the not-too-distant future when Bluestem becomes his focus.

“I definitely see the Bluestem expanding, especially in the local area,” he says. “I’m playing some part in keeping people safe.”