GS Sisters on Harnessing Their Entrepreneurship

Caroline and Isabel Bercaw ‘24GS didn’t start making bath bombs planning to become small business owners. They just wanted a better bath bomb than the ones they found in stores! But entrepreneurs are exactly what these Minnesota sisters are now, as well as first-year students at GS. Caroline and Isabel reflect on their journey to Columbia, and what makes GS the perfect academic fit for their busy business lives.

December 17, 2021

Tell us about where your idea for Da Bomb Fizzers came from and how your business has progressed since it started.

It all started when we were in middle school. We were using lots of bath bombs to make our muscles feel better after playing sports. The bombs we had been buying at the mall contained several unpronounceable ingredients and would always stain our skin or leave grimy residue in our tub. So, with plenty of youthful optimism, we set out to make a better bath bomb!

We scoured DIY books, searched online, and eventually came up with a clean, simple recipe we felt really good about. Next, we decided to put a fun surprise in the middle of each bomb (like a small toy, piece of jewelry or charm), and gave each one a clever name. Our friends loved our creations, so when we heard about a local art fair that had a kid’s division, we borrowed $150 from our parents to buy the supplies we needed to participate. On the day of the sale, we were terrified that no one would buy our products. Thankfully, the fizzers were a hit! We even met a local shop owner who asked to sell them at his three retail locations.

Over the next few months, we learned the meaning of words like “wholesale” and “profit margins.” More stores requested our products and reorders rolled in. Soon we were logging several hours a day, seven days a week, making bath bombs. At one point, our fingerprints even calloused over from mixing everything by hand. Bath bombs were taking over our lives! 

We realized we either had to pull the plug on the whole project or figure out how to increase our production capacity. We eventually used some of our profits to invest in a 20-quart commercial mixer and, with help from our parents, hired employees to work with us in our basement. Before we knew it, we were making 20,000 bath bombs per month out of our home. It was a crazy time. Our big break happened the following year when a buyer from Target saw our products at a local shop and contacted us. They requested our bath bombs in all 1,800 stores for the next holiday season. Fast forward to today: Da Bomb Fizzers are sold at over 25,000 retail locations across the U.S. We now own a production facility in our hometown where we make and ship tens of thousands of bombs per day. We employ over 200 people during peak season.

What has the experience of running a business since you were teenagers been like?

What you hear about owning a startup is true: it’s all-consuming. We worked really hard, got less sleep than we should have. We had to give up our favorite sports, miss parties and school dances for client meetings and trade shows. When you’re 15 years old, these trivial things are important to you. Though our unique path has given us a lot of joy and we wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, the struggle is real when it comes to growing up and trying to grow a business at the same time. 

GS students Caroline and Isabel Bercaw on campus

When you decided to pursue college, what made GS the right fit for you?

When it came time to apply to colleges, the thought of following a traditional academic path left us feeling defeated. We were afraid we’d be forced to either give up our business or give up on higher education. We longed for a solution that would allow us to do both. When we discovered Columbia GS, we knew we had stumbled onto something truly extraordinary. Not only are we allowed the flexibility to attend school part-time (which is a game-changer), we get to be around an inspiring group of students who have some great stories of their own. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us and we’re tremendously grateful!