In the quest to read more books written by authors with unique perspectives, I recently stumbled across the book “Educated,” the critic and reader favorite by author Tara Westover.
Tara’s family runs a very successful business selling essential oils and related products.
I imagined some scenes detailing the inner workings or behind-the-scenes stories of a small but successful EO business, so I picked up the book to gain an inside perspective into the company.
Tara’s autobiography was at or near the top of many bestseller lists, including The New York Times, when it first came out in 2018.
In short, “Educated” is a memoir detailing the author’s life in the mountains of Idaho with her six siblings and unconventional parents.
During her childhood, Tara’s father is portrayed as a strict Mormon survivalist who is anti-establishment and anti-government, spending a substantial amount of time in her early childhood preparing for the “end of days.”
Tara is home schooled, in a loose sense, although she claims it was very sparse and limited.
However, she eventually takes her schooling into her own hands by studying for the ACT and earning her way into Brigham Young University, then eventually her Masters degree and Ph.D at Cambridge.
The memoir goes into the author’s estrangement with her parents and some of her siblings, an estrangement which remains to this current day.
The separation stems from emotional and physical abuse Tara claims one of her brothers inflicted on her in her teen years, incidents of which her parents claim are untrue, essentially refuting Tara’s claims and denying her memories.
Whether either side’s claims are true remains controversial, something that Tara even points out herself.
Origins of the Butterfly Express
Among all this chaotic home drama, Tara’s mother, who started out as midwife and herbalist, began to build a business centered around selling essential oils, herbal salves and tinctures.
Although Tara uses pseudonyms for some family members and the company name isn’t mentioned in the book, an easy search on the internet leads to the company, Butterfly Express.
According to the website, Butterfly Express was started 20+ years ago in the kitchen and home of LaRee Westover.
LaRee and her daughter, Valaree Sharp, have built the company into a successful endeavor which currently employs over 30 people and has expanded to more than one facility.
The education part of the business is called Butterfly Expressions and consists of a Youtube channel, live classes, and loads of written information on the website.
Despite the drama of her life, it’s a unique perspective to read indirectly about the growth of the company as viewed through Tara’s eyes.
She describes how her mother’s herbal salves, tinctures and oils are used in place of typical medicine/drugs for her family as she grows up.
She doesn’t get into specifics, but she does talk about how the house physically expands as business grows and is bustling with new staff members during her visits.
Tara herself is mistaken at one point as a bottle filler by a staff member who doesn’t recognize her as a daughter of the boss.
Her family gets into plenty of serious accidents which would typically be treated in a hospital by most people (including bloody gashes, broken bones and serious brain injuries), but are instead treated with her mother’s homemade remedies.
One compelling incident involves making vats of “comfrey, lobelia, and plantain” in a salve to treat a serious explosion which leaves life-threatening burns on her father.
Butterfly Express–The Controversy
While it’s not the main focus or intent, “Educated” provides an unintentional, inside perspective into the early beginnings of a successful essential oil business and insight into the life and thinking of its founders.
It makes sense that Tara’s parents embrace the essential oils and herbs and view them as medicine from God and nature (as described by her father).
For them, using that logic bypasses the established healthcare system and man-made drugs typically used by those who are not anti-establishment.
To this day, Butterfly Express remains a relatively successful EO company with a loyal consumer base. Tara doesn’t specifically mention anything negative about her parents’ business.
Some people will infer or project their feelings about a founder onto the actual company (e.g. the controversial founder of Young Living). I can see that happening with Butterfly Express.
There’s simultaneously positive and negative portrayals about both her parents and their home life which can affect how some people perceive the company and its operations.
A unique perspective would be a book written by LaRee herself, a self-taught herbalist who built up a successful essential oil company in the mountains of Idaho.
Now I wouldn’t mind some more education about how she did that.
Have you read “Educated?” What are your thoughts about the glimpse at how the company started?