We at Conscious Sedona are constantly blown away by the level of talent, creativity, and integrity that shows up in small businesses across the Verde Valley. One of my personal favorites is Bison Boutique, where you can get handmade, custom fit bison leather boots, sandals, baby booties and more, all made by bison leather artisan Daniel Whipple. I’ve gotten boots and sandals made, myself, and absolutely love them. The fit is incomparable, and they are so comfortable – not to mention, gorgeous! The other special thing about Daniel is his approach to parenting. Anyone who knows him knows that his life is dedicated to being present with his young daughter. I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel recently about his business and about his main priorities in life.
CONSCIOUS SEDONA (CS): Hi Daniel, thank you for sitting with us and sharing more deeply about your business + life! When – and how – did you decide to create Bison Boutique?
DANIEL WHIPPLE (DW): I went to Wintercount, a primitive skills gathering outside of Phoenix, a few years ago because I’d had a growing interest in obtaining skills that would make me more self sufficient. One of the classes I took was boot making. I figured, it doesn’t get too much more basic than that as far as crucial skills to have for self reliance. Because of the class schedule, I had to take the class in two days rather than the originally allotted three. I really enjoyed hand stitching and crafting my own shoes. It really gave me a sense of pride to be able to take care of something so basic as that. My teacher, an older man who’d been living off grid for several decades at least, trained by an elder native American in many traditional ways, told me he’d rarely seen someone make boots that fast and that well on their first try and that he thought I could definitely make a living doing it. So I thought I’d give it a try. I started by taking some orders from friends and family to get some practice. I continued to enjoy it and found it to be a great way to use time to provide for myself and family. I got better and better and the response from the recipients and people that saw them was overwhelmingly positive. Bison Boutique was born!
CS: That is amazing. I have such respect for folks who find a craft they love and become super skilled at it. Did you have experience making boots or working with leather in the past?
DW: I had no previous experience in footwear or leather work. I did like doing handiwork like that though. I also really enjoy pine needle basketry, but it’s way too labor intensive to be anything more than a hobby until I really don’t have to think about money.
CS: I would love to see your pine needle basketry work some day. What does your family unit look like currently?
DW: Currently my family consists of my 2.5 year old angel of light, Sophie, and my wolf dog Ama.
CS: I know that you have fully embraced fatherhood like few others do. How do you manage parenting with growing a home-based business?
DW: My number one priority by far is my daughter and making sure she is provided access to what I consider to be the highest priorities for humanity. Namely, frequent, extended immersion in nature, plant communication, real interactions with the metaphysical background of reality through nature engagement. Basically prioritizing just being. I typically utilize nap times and nights for footwear making. I don’t get a lot of sleep, but I am filled with the energizing satisfaction of being able to just be with my daughter. Occasionally, I’m able to throw some stitches while she’s awake if she’s independently engaged in something, which is slowly beginning to happen and will only increase. But I want to make sure that she sees that life isn’t about work, it definitely doesn’t come first. ChocolaTree Organic Eatery has been an incredible support in that regard. Because I was a long-term, loyal management-level employee there for over 4 years, they gave me 6 months paid leave when Sophie was born and have been tremendously accommodating with scheduling and supporting me in any way I can ask.
CS: Wow, that is incredible. Jen + David Warr, the daughter and father co-owners of ChocolaTree, are incredibly compassionate, loving people and huge contributors to the health of our community. What did that 6 month paid leave mean for you and Sophie?
DW: I’ve heard so many many people describe how having kids goes by so quickly and that all of a sudden they’re all grown up and gone. But I think that is because our priorities in this modality of living are completely turned upside down. Because the ChocolaTree was able to give me 6 months paid leave, I was able to be super present for the entire time without having to worry about making ends meet. That really got the ball rolling for me as far as setting a pattern for prioritizing time with her and living a real life. Since then I have made it my highest priority to be as present as possible for her and with her, letting her to a large degree run the show. I have been able to cultivate a life away from a city so that we are not distracted by all of the normal accoutrements of western civilization. Most of the toys available to her are sticks, rocks, dirt, trees, birds and other wildlife, storms, sunsets, the moon and more and more. So in our case letting her run the show is in harmony to a much larger degree with our natural environment. The ChocolaTree did this knowing full well that it would change my working relationship with them. They did this because it was the right thing to do. Because to be the change that we want to see in the world requires actually doing that and not just putting a trite bumper sticker on a car. This will create an unfathomable ripple effect on the world. Sophie’s life will forever be changed and sculpted by the events that have been offered to us and will ultimately lead to a brighter future for many people.
CS: Beautiful! I am so happy to share about this here, hopefully it will inspire other business owners to support their long-term employees in this way. What does conscious parenting mean to you?
DW: Watching, listening to, being present for and largely scheduling my life around my daughter and having ever growing patience and the wisdom to learn as much as I can from her are a few aspects of conscious parenting that I can name. I am her care giver, I am responsible for cultivating the environment for her to grow up in that will have the potential to instill in her the ideals and principles I would love for her to have. I am responsible for modeling those principles in a very real way as well. I am responsible for doing what I can to make this world a better place for her, because she’ll definitely be asking questions later and I better have some good responses.
CS: Love that. Thank you for being such an engaged and present parent! The future of our species depends on it. What does a typical day look like for you, caring for a young child and running a small business?
DW: A typical day for Sophie and I looks like watering the fruit and nut trees on our land and singing to them all, light breakfast for her, then usually heading to the creek or hiking somewhere until she’s ready for a nap. While she’s napping I can get work done, including getting some stretching and mediation or even a little reading in. She wakes up, more play time at home or back to the creek or going to some friend’s house. Winding down the day at home or remotely until she’s ready for bed, then back to work.
CS: What products do you offer through Bison Boutique?
DW: We sell custom-made boots, sandals, slippers, baby shoes and are able to take special orders for small medicine pouch type bags and headbands at this point. I am open to collaborating with others in the future for other specialty items.
CS: Where are Bison Boutique products sold?
CS: Are your boots and sandals custom fit, and how does that work?
DW: The boots I pretty much only do custom orders where I take personalized measurements on the person’s foot. Sandals can be standardized or custom-made as well. All baby shoes are standardized.
CS: What are the materials used in your bison footwear, and how did you choose them?
DW: We exclusively use bison leather at this point. The reason for this is because the material is of very high-quality, tougher, more water resistant and will last longer. All of the bison are free range for their whole lives, field processed and the skins are vegetable based mineral tanned. It is the most ethical material that we could find for our purposes at this point. I am waiting for other vegan options to be commercially available. Things like mushroom leather or pineapple leather. I’ve looked into canvas materials or hemp and nettle materials but the cost is far too high to be affordable for me or for customers. I also have the capability of repurposing used leather jackets and other leather materials so that I am not engaging in the slaughter of animals.
CS: What are the colors available and what sort of custom styling is offered?
DW: The colors I choose to use are an earthy brown that is called tobacco, a darker brown called chocolate, a burgundy or wine colored red, black and sand colored. We have in the past done custom work like stitching symbols or words onto the heels or signs at the boots. However, at this time that option is not available. One really unique and important thing that I do is on the soles of the conveyor belt I inscribe positive affirmations and concepts. I tune into the recipient of the footwear and just allow words to come out trusting that they are the right words for that person. These affirmations are not visible on the finished pair of boots/sandals but a photo is sent to the recipient when I make them so they are aware of the energetic imprinting. To me this means that they are firmly planting themselves in higher principles and concepts that can affect the way that they interact with the world.
CS: Are your shoes grounding?
DW: Our shoes are not grounding, meaning allowing the person to connect to the earth. We can do leather bottomed boots but in many environments the sole would be destroyed rather quickly. We use conveyor belt material which I get from a company in Phoenix who provides me with their remnants at a reduced cost. This ensures that their scraps do not wind up in a landfill. The reason why I do not make an effort to make them grounded by putting in copper rivets or carbonized rubber plugs is because it would weaken the material and cause potential compromises. I feel that if a person really wants to get grounded, they should just take their shoes off and walk barefoot. I have been doing this for years and at first it may be uncomfortable but after continued efforts it becomes very easy and natural. For the most part I actually do most of my hiking and walking in nature barefoot and I keep my shoes in my bag for areas where it is not feasible.
CS: I appreciate your devotion to the integrity of the sole. Do you have any new footwear styles coming up in the near future?
DW: Although I am open to collaborating on new styles in the future, there are no new styles other than the ones that we have available for viewing and purchase on Etsy.
CS: Are you planning any new businesses?
DW: I absolutely have no future plans for new businesses. My typical to do list usually consists of about three things. The first of which is to do less. People in this society I feel like strive to do so much and we prioritize far too little time to just being. Our lives slip through our fingers, or rather we throw it at any number of things and years go by and we look back and far too often feel like we accomplished far too little. So many people don’t even know what human nature is and I think that this is because we spend almost no time contemplating it or using our God given gifts of intuition and emotions to engage with real life to figure out what our purpose is in this life.
CS: I am totally with you on this, I’ve worked hard to simplify my life as well, and spend a lot of time just “being.” What rewilding practices, if any, do you incorporate into your family’s routine?
DW: Rather than cultivating a lifestyle where I show my daughter rewilding practices, I like to phrase it as trying to lead a life that is more in accordance with our pristine origins. To me, again, this means as much engagement with the natural world in an innocent way. I try not to even walk around identifying plants with her. Rather I like to demonstrate that we talk with them as we would individual humans, in order to ascertain the unique character of each individual plant. I do demonstrate things like eating wild foods as we are walking about in nature. When the opportunity arises I’ve been able to show her hand drilling a fire. In the near future we will be doing some earth and building structures on the land here. I also spend time with other friends who have other skills such as candle making, body movement, artwork and more. Actually, I try not to teach my daughter very much at all! I feel like to a certain degree that is just so much programming that in the future may have to just be unprogrammed. I like to be with her in environments and let her discover them herself. I watch her watch the world. To me, this is much more like true rewilding.
CS: What a fortunate little girl to have such a wise Daddy – she will thank you in the future for all of this! What/who inspires you?
DW: I suppose at this point, my main inspiration is Anastasia from the Ringing Cedars of Russia book series. I am also mostly inspired by quiet meditative nature engagement practices that are formless and system-less. I do not practice traditional yoga or any other form of meditation like qigong or tai chi. I think that these systems have great value but over many centuries ultimately trap the Mind and Spirit into its system. I like to take bits and pieces of those things and incorporate them into an intuitive, dynamic practice that changes on a daily basis.
CS: What is most important to you?
DW: Right now, some of the things that are most important to me are listening to my inner intuition and listening to the natural world. I believe that the only truth left in this world is in nature because it has not been programmed and cannot lie. I do believe in a Creator and that creator has kept all truth available in nature, in addition to our hearts. And if, in silence and meditation, we are able to be changed by and listen to our wild natural environment, we can begin becoming closer to the humans that we are meant to be.
CS: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start their own business like you have?
DW: I can’t say that I really have any advice for people out there wanting to start their own businesses. I just found something I was good at and enjoy doing and slowly started building a practice. It is been a long process and it requires a great deal of patience and perseverance. Left to my own devices I probably would have abandoned it. But I wanted to show my daughter that a person does not have to go through their life utilizing a great deal of their life energy for someone else. She has been the main catalyst for me to make a great effort to be able to be completely present with her and to give her the life that she really deserves, and that I really deserve as well. Thank you for listening, be well, be well, be well.
CS: Thank you so much for sharing so deeply your Truth and for modeling how one can put parenting first before anything else and make it work. And thank you for producing such wearable + beautiful footwear. We are blessed to have you in the Verde Valley.