Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in soapmaking but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kenna Cote, Owner and Founder of Modern Soapmaking, located in Cobleskill, NY, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Over a decade ago, I started a handmade soap and skincare company and found myself alone and dreaming of a community that understood the specific struggles of a micro business with a foot in two worlds: manufacturing and distribution. Today, I'm the founder of the community I craved! We provide a little tough love, a lot of encouragement, and tons of small business advice to soapmakers, skincare formulators, and cosmetic chemists who want to build successful and sustainable businesses.

Our students develop micro brands in every beauty niche under the sun, from artisan beard care products and men's grooming companies to natural essential oil candles and vegan-friendly skincare. We work together to develop their unique success story - whether that's seven-figure revenue and a national team or a sustainable full-time gig they can do from home.

Tell us about yourself

I fell into my business by accident! I started networking with other indie skincare brands as one myself. To kick it up a notch, I decided to host an annual conference in the midwest for all of us to get together and learn from each other and guest speakers. Leading that conference resulted in speaking and teaching myself, developing digital information products to bridge the gap between conferences, and writing blog posts about my business.

Before I knew it, a flourishing community developed around my blog. The sheer demand and interest made it clear where I was needed, so I sold my skincare company and went all in. Every day, I think about the thousands of women I've had the privilege to work with. Owning a successful business is life-changing for people, and it's so motivating to help people reach for their dreams.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I've gotten to work with so many amazing people, I've written a book, I've been featured in so many amazing publications, I hosted a conference for years, and out of everything I've done so far? My biggest accomplishment is that I'm still here. This year marks nine years here at Modern Soapmaking, empowering women to find financial stability and freedom doing what they love. I've always grown tired of previous jobs, jumping from one interest to another, and my life has changed a lot from the day I started my blog.

I think business owners often forget that success can be anything you want it to be - it doesn't have to be a revenue figure or a level of distribution or media placement. It can be waking up daily with the freedom to decide what is on your agenda. It can be consistency and showing up, and staying dedicated to your goals. We get to choose what success is!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The biggest challenge to being a business owner is overcoming all the ways we hold ourselves back without internalizing blame, grief, and shame. We often take failures personally. We stand in our own way and get lost in busy work and perfectionism... There's a lot to learn as a business owner when it comes to branding, finances, marketing, and product development, but it's such a small fraction of what actually makes a difference and moves you forward.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

In no particular order:

  1. Build YOUR business. You will get advice and input from everyone with a mouth - seriously. Really focus on filtering the advice that feels good to you and aligns with what you want from your business. You are the one who has to live with what you are building,
  2. Honor yourself. Put your human needs first. Too many business owners get caught up in the hustle and grind. Sleeping, eating, bathing, resting, laughing, loving, and learning are human needs, don't skimp on taking care of yourself.
  3. Work ON your business, not IN it. It's really easy to get caught up in the details and fill your schedule with jobs and tasks like an employee. In reality, you have to balance being both the boss and employee from the beginning. You are in charge of forecasting, strategizing, developing the plan, and then executing. So many people start executing and then never stop.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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