I get asked this question quite often -- Often enough that I thought about putting it in the FAQ (by definition, it is frequent), but then I thought, eh, I'll just write a blog post. According to the people who advise on these things, I need more blog posts. First, I want to thank everyone who asked.
It shows a genuine interest in how things are going and I really appreciate that. Second, business is what it is.
Right now, I'm sold out of some soaps and I'm nearly out of others. That's pretty awesome! And the ones I'm out of or nearly out of are my favorites, which means that other people like my taste in soaps. That is even more awesome! That means that not only do people like what I'm selling, I like what I'm selling, too. To me, that is success. At the same time, there are challenges. It is hard to keep soaps in stock. After nearly five months in business (two of those months I was moving and getting married), I'm finally getting a routine down. I'm finally scheduling soaps enough to keep up with what I have in my business plan (and miraculously, I'm fairly consistent with what I've had in my business plan so far). That is amazing. Most businesses struggle to move product. They struggle to find a market. They struggle to get fans. They struggle to get press. I have been so very blessed
in the popularity of my product. I am glad I'm finally getting to a regular production schedule so I can keep up! But even when I do have a schedule, sometimes the schedule isn't possible to maintain. For example, we only have nine bars of my beloved desert sage soap
in stock because the only company
that makes realistic desert sage fragrance oil is really backed up. I tried a dozen or so samples of sage and I only like one, and that one only comes directly from the manufacturer. I'm such small potatoes that my "hi, can I have one pound of sage" request gets lost among the hundreds of pounds of fragrance this manufacturer moves. But I can't find another manufacturer, because this one is The Best (if you've smelled Sage Copper Canyon
, you know what I mean). How am I fixing that? I'm ordering more fragrances at a time and setting reminders to order them earlier. My software tells me when I'm getting low on a supply, and so I can just set that threshold to be higher. Not insurmountable. And then there's the quality differences in fragrances, which make it difficult to know how a fragrance will react. For example, the same manufacturer makes strawberry and blueberry fragrance oils that I have been using for Unicorn Poop Soap
. That has some weird reaction with the oil and I don't like, so it ruined two batches of soap (a batch has 37 bars plus some samples). Blergh!! And there goes $150 in supplies, plus then I have to replace the supplies... more time. That problem will work itself out in time, though. As I create and solidify my recipes, they get more predictable. I keep EXTENSIVE notes on every aspect of every batch, from the temperature of the oils when I add them to the amount of powdered color that I put in. "Rookie mistake," is what that is. Am I making a living?
No. Is it ok?
Yes. Would I do this again?
Oh fuck yes. In a heartbeat. This is LIVING MY BEST LIFE. ... that font was not nearly impressive enough...
I AM LIVING MY BEST LIFE.
I'm doing what I love, including the soap, of course, but I'm also a marketing machine. I love marketing. And I love PR. And I love writing. And I love talking with people about the soaps and the fragrances. The people who like Outlaw Soaps are unbelievably awesome (and I'm not just saying that because you're obviously a fan). The people who like Outlaw Soaps are exactly the type of people that I profiled in my marketing plan (oh yes, this is not just some messy fly-by-pants organization. I have many written
plans.). I based that profile on me and my friends, and I've found that my friend circle has expanded to include more people like me on the merit of our relationship around my soap.
And now, we're getting ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign to actually make a thing we designed.
This is so insanely awesome. As is my way, I wrote waaaaay too much about it in the Kickstarter description, but here's the summary:
This is a Kickstarter to make enough money for a single run of a beverage and soap holder called The Hang Over (because it hangs over your shower door or rod). The minimum pledge is $1 and you get a "I DRINK IN THE SHOWER" bumper sticker. The Hang Over is available at the $33 incentive level. I have offered several of the same Hang Over options so the expected delivery will be staggered enough for me to fulfill the orders. There are other things available besides a sticker and a Hang Over. If I am able to make things before the delivery date, I will send them early.
I'm not trying to build an empire on Hang Overs, I'm just trying to make 33. Why 33? Because three is the magic number
. Because I can make 30, but the original cost projections were $33/item (ended up being $36, also a multiple of 3), so why not? I'm making 33 and they're $33. I am not OCD. I am CDO. Alpha-fucking-betical. As it should be. Anyways, this is not about my Hang Over. This is about taking a risk and seeing when you have it good.
Sure, Oprah hasn't featured us (OH WAIT, THEY TOTALLY HAVE) and cutting-edge design retailers aren't picking us up (OH WAIT, THEY ARE). Business is slowish. But life is awesome. I define success like this and I had no illusions about what I was doing. If you are one of the people who has been inspired by me and the stuff I've done, know it is not all sunshine, roses, and freakishly huge profits. But two out of three ain't bad. If you are drawn to it, you should go for it.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” - Mark Twain
Find out why.
You may also enjoy our some of our most popular posts, which are:
- Is the Handmade Soap Industry Doomed?
- Eight things to do when you just can't
- How Russ and I Sustain our Enthusiasm
- Things I'm glad I didn't know when I started my business
- How to stop criticism from ruining your day
After more than 10 years as a corporate Digital Product Manager for such sites as Oprah.com, ABC.com, and ABCFamily.com, Danielle quit her career and pulled up her rubber gloves to make a living making and selling handmade soap as Outlaw Soaps.