It's only been 3 official months since I've started Berky's Bubbles, but it feels like forever. What a whirlwind! My mind has been on constant overdrive. As I sit now and breathe, and finally reflect on these past months, I'm becoming somewhat emotional about what I've achieved, and a little bit nervous about where this is going!
I figured it doesn't hurt to be a little candid in my process of "building a business". For those who know me, I've never been one to keep quiet or terribly secretive. So why start now? Entrepreneurs all go through these same stages (I think…right guys???!!)
First, I'll start by saying how SCARED I was to start this adventure. It equaled the amount of excitement though, as I dove in pretty quickly. I've always been one to "learn by action." I guess some may think that makes a horrible trait for a new business owner. But you see, I'm a quick learner. And believe it or not, I do have a business plan (as iterative as it may be):
Now I know good business comes from good planning. But when you're new at something, there's also a period of trial and error. I know I'm wasting tons of time now on random product development. I'm hashing out various techniques, recipes, ingredients, so on and so forth, so I can quickly get through the "fail" stage, pick what I like and what I'm most efficient at, and move forward with that goal.
Only then can I sit and reflect on all that I've done, to strategically plan the next step, formulate the "scope" of my project, visualize the timeline, and project my future costs. I do have a vision of what I ultimately want to become, what I want my brand to be, and to be more focused. Berky's Bubbles (part 1, year 2016) is just the beginning. Start up costs, and invested time, are going to be casualties in this first year.
While much of what I'm doing now feels oh so very random, I realize that out of this chaos comes a marketing scheme: see what people LIKE. I don’t want to make a 100 of one product, just to find out everyone hates it. I'd rather make 10 bars of 10 products, provide choices, see what drives people…and go from there.
Now I say people, and not customers…because while by definition you're a customer if you buy my soap, I just find that word so impersonal. You're a person, with individual style - and I enjoy talking to everyone, getting feedback (good or bad), and hopefully making new friends along the way. My current friends and family have been insanely supportive - and I thank you for that. You can't possibly know how much I appreciate the support, interaction, positive vibes, and inspiration. It is what keeps me going.
While I haven't really met too many other real live soapers in person, based on what I see online, it's also a friendly and accepting community. One that shares a unique passion to create something artistic (yet practical!). I enjoy scrolling through my Instagram and looking at all the "soap porn" - beautiful and artistic soap creations, which I hope to one day recreate and develop my own unique ideas!
In closing - after the Salem County Fair this week (August 9-12), I just really need to slow down, focus, regroup…I simply cannot spend ALL of my free time thinking only of the SOAP. By slowing down and creating a plan for the rest of the year, only then can I really enhance my business, focus more on marketing, provide you with what you want, and save some TIME. And maybe get some sleep.
My interest to make soap started around January. I purchased materials through Amazon, and made my first bar of Au Naturel soap in February. Why did I start this? I don't know! I don't have a story - should I? I enjoy being crafty and making homemade products - then once I focus on a hobby, I become obsessed. Ask my husband - he'll tell you the stories. The endless nights of knitting sweaters, scarves, and socks. That time I made a few candles. When I felt the instinctive impulse to purchase a sewing machine with no idea what I was going to make with it.
The point is... I really enjoy creating things. The bar soaps at the store can be a bit rough on my skin, and cause it to dry out. I used to purchase natural bar soap, and found it's much more gentle on my skin. I guess I initially thought I could save a little money if I just made it myself. Once I realized my first Au Naturel soap worked flawlessly (minus the overdose of chia seeds) - the obsession hit. Now I've got 50 sample bottles of essential oil, tons of jars of coconut and olive oils, a brand new immersion blender. I wanted to make EVERYTHING. I started becoming a soap making fool, trying out various recipes and learning the ropes for myself. I would run home from work and just get started on the next batch (dinner? who needs to eat dinner?). The next thing I knew, I had like 50 bars of soap, and it didn't look like I was stopping anytime soon.
When I posted pictures of some of the final soaps on Facebook or Instagram, I was surprised at the comments and interest. There are those out there like me who enjoy using homemade natural soaps! So I thought I'd give it a shot trying to sell them and at least to cover the cost of the materials - then I could also continue making more. Things quickly snowballed - it's not as easy developing a business plan as I thought. Perhaps I'll bore you at a later time with the details.
So anyway, I am aiming for June 1 to officially "open" - given my hoops and hurdles with business and product development, I'm hoping this is still an achievable goal. My biggest fear is not that this whole business will fail - the business is just a formality to be able to officially sell the soaps. My biggest fear is giving up...becoming lazy...quitting before I even get started. I'm a perfectionist - If I don't make a perfect bar of soap the first time, I get annoyed like I've wasted time and ruined everything. I've become passionate about this so quickly - I'm wondering if I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't even know if anyone will LIKE my soap! But here I am with a website, a soon-to-be Facebook store, Instagram, and a BLOG. But that's all part of the game and just throwing your arms up in the air and running ahead full steam. Is that how every business starts?
Just a few disclaimers before I officially open:
1) Hang in there: These initial bars of soap won't look perfect - please don't judge me on these! They are all fully functioning, but I'm learning a lot in the process. I think they can only get better from here and I hope you stick this out with me. I encourage feedback and suggestions - if you purchase from me, and think your soap can be better or different, please email me and tell me!
2) Allergies; While the soap I make is made of natural, food-grade ingredients, and I sincerely hope everyone will love each and every single one, there is that pesky business of allergies. I don't want to ever cause harm to anyone from a product I've made. I just caution you to fully read the ingredient list every time you go to purchase a bar of soap to ensure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients. Please never hesitate to reach out to me if you're not quite sure what the product contains. Better safe than sorry! In this product development stage, I may switch up ingredients from batch to batch - so don't assume the first bar of soap you bought may contain the same items if you go to buy it the second time. Just double check the ingredients each time - I am very conscientious of ensuring I accurately represent the product you are buying.
3)Not mass-produced: I work full time and make soap in my spare time. In this product development stage, I may make only 6 bars of each soap until I perfect the recipe so as not to ruin a whole large batch of soap. I may even slice these 6 bars into smaller sample bars. There will be limited initial product, and limited products rolled out in the future. If you happen to like something, and it's not listed in my store, don't hesitate to reach out and request it! I will try to accommodate if I can - it may take some time depending on the process (it can take up to a MONTH for a soap to cure and be ready).
Thanks again and I really do look forward to getting started on this adventure.