Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in soap making but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Rachel Brinkerhoff, Owner of The Raven and the Pear Soapary, located in Vallejo, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own The Raven & the Pear Soapary, a handcrafted boutique soap company specializing in artisan goat milk soaps. Sustainability is important to me. I use fair trade, ethical, and environmentally conscious ingredients, I don't test on animals, and I only use biodegradable packaging and shipping materials. I only use skin-safe ingredients that are phthalate and paraben free, and I do not use palm oil.
My customers are eco-conscious while also mindful of their budgets. They are drawn to the artistic flare of my soaps but also want a soap that they can use and feel good about. This has helped me develop my new Cornerstone Collection, which consists of my most popular soaps. These are soaps that I'll always keep in stock. I also have limited edition seasonal soaps that are more intricate, which make great gifts. The customers that purchase the more intricate soaps tend to use them as bathroom decor. As much as I'd like them to actually use them, I can't fault them if they love looking at them.
Tell us about yourself
I started raising miniature dairy goats in 2010 as a way to supply our family with wholesome goat milk. Over the years, I had made a batch or two of soap but never goat milk soap. I've always been very artistic, and for many decades, pottery and sculpture have been my passion. Then COVID hit, and the studio I was a member of shut down. I was in dire need of a new creative outlet, especially now that we were stuck at home. I learned about all the creative things that can be done with soap, including making a product that is saponified soap with the consistency of clay for sculpting. I started getting more serious about making soap, and I was hooked. Friends and family convinced me to start selling, so I came up with a name, got my business license and insurance, and the rest is history.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I really love when I get orders from people who I don't know because I know that they were more than likely recommended to my business by someone else. Building relationships with customers is so important for small businesses like mine because they can make or break us. So when we get new customers through word-of-mouth, it means that we're making our current customers happy.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Our current economic state with inflation has been the most difficult. People have less disposable income to spend on my soaps while my raw material costs are going up substantially. Figuring out how to price things so that I can still pay myself but also keep sales going has been a difficult balancing act.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
An actual business plan is crucial. Be prepared to spend a lot of time marketing yourself. Learn the best ways to take advantage of social media platforms because not all are created equal. And if you're producing goods, take good photos or none at all. No photos are always better than bad photos.
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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