It’s early December and the snow is gently falling; I am sipping coffee listening to Brent tell Avery how to fill a jar of baby butter. They are decked out in aprons, hairnets, and gloves watching Christmas movies and filling jar after jar of product. I am behind them in kitchen mixing another fluffy batch of baby butter; smiling as I listen to them bicker about whose jar is better.
Looking back, it is so ironic how family is such an intrinsic part of Handcrafted Beauty, when the business was founded by my sheer desire to have one. As many of you know Brent is a carrier of a cystic fibrosis gene that left IVF as our only option.
Scared and facing a procedure like IVF, I pulled on my holistic background to help clean up my mind, body and spirit during these tumultuous times. My quest for “clean living” lead to me start making my own skin care. After all, it was the fastest and easiest way to significantly reduce my exposure to toxins and chemicals. Your skin is your largest organ; and it readily absorbs anything you put on it.
Fast forward a few years and I began to give friends and family extra batches. They were loving the products and spreading the word; soon strangers were reaching out, asking if they could buy some. I was in over my head. My hobby and turned into a business; which was great.. just not part of the plan. I was unable keep up with demand, and did not have time to find proper packaging and labels (remember when things were made in jelly jars with paper labels?).
Raquel was always a huge supporter of the products.Her understanding of ingredient sourcing, strong financial background and general industry knowledge amazed me. It took me all but 5 seconds to realize (that like everything else in my life) I needed her! After a few dinners and several cocktails, I had finally convinced her to join…. And Handcrafted Beauty was BORN.
As we embarked on our Handcrafted Beauty journey; we learned so much about ourselves along the way. Every week we get emails from other hungry entrepreneurs and our amazing customers with all sorts of questions about owning and starting a small business. There seemed to be so much interest in what we do, that we thought you might enjoy a blog about the commonly most asked questions.
Q. My best friend and I are thinking about starting a business together. What have you learned about combining a friendship with business and does owning a business together ever cause conflict?
- This is going to sound insane, but friendships do not mix with business. EVER. If you are going into business with your best friend because she is your friend….odds are either the business will go down in flames or the friendship will… (or even both of thwm). Yes, Raquel is my best friend, but that is not what made her the perfect partner. I knew she had strong business and financial acumen and could put aside personal feelings to discuss business when needed. And in the past our friendship had weathered some pretty serious storms, so I knew that we would not shy away from a good fight if the business needed it.
- The truth is not all conflict is bad….. I always say you cannot start a fire without some friction. Which leads to the question; “Have Raquel and I fought?!?”… Um… Is the sky blue? Heck yes, we have fought about the business….. Lots of times. While we do not like conflict, we do not shy away from it. We try to keep the following things in mind whenever we are experiencing some sort of conflict.
- Being honest about how you are feeling or what you want/need brings much more value into the relationship than keeping those feelings bottled up.
- It is important to not be catty in these moments and personally attack the other person. It is also key to make sure that the conflict is self contained. Venting to third parties is not usually a good idea since it typically does not help with a resolution and only stirs the pot.
- Take ownership of your behavior… if I am a jerk I am not afraid to recognize it. Raquel has gotten a ton of messages from me that say, “I am a jerk, sorry” (ok… we all know that I don’t usually use the word “jerk” but I am trying to keep this post PG). It never works to become defensive about your behavior or your actions. Own it! Sometimes you are just going to act like a pure butthole. End of Story.
- Lastly try to keep your friendship and your business relationship separate. Raquel and I purposely set aside time to talk “shop” and then there are “friends only” dates, where we are not allowed to even mention the business. We keep the business side of our relationship very separate from our personal friendship, because we never want to lose sight of the fact that we are first and foremost friends, and partners second. Selecting a business partner is a lot like selecting a spouse. Make sure your friendship can weather the storm because there will be plenty. Above all else, always put your friendship first. There is no amount of success or money worth losing that person.
Q. I am thinking of starting soap or personal care business, what should I know?
- Ask yourself…. “Is this my passion? If you are not passionate about this Industry , you really have no business setting up shop. Start ups should always be rooted in passion and a desire to “change the game”. Odds will really be stacked against you if you are not passionate about your products.
- Ingredient and Industry Knowledge – since you have to be a bit of a chemist to ensure proper ingredient/oil ratios for your recipes. Lack of understanding could seriously harm your customers. Trust our husbands, there is a science in mixing up the perfect batch (they have experienced a few failures.. and would tell you that it totally sucks). Also, since you are selling personal care products make sure that you have a LLC, Proper Insurance, and that you are complying with all FDA guidelines and regulations. Failure to comply with any of these and you could put yourself at legal risk.
- Patience! Many of our original recipes were created years ago, and tweaked several times before landing on the final product we have today. Creation takes time. Ensure that you are putting the best, freshest products on the market (never compromise by cutting corners). New recipes take time and resources (trust us….. You will have to throw out LOTS of batches). That is the beauty of creation, the trial and error and knowing that no one will ever have a product just like your unique creation.
Q. Do you really use your products?
- This one kills us! We 100% only use every single one of our products. I for one cannot be without the Almond Honey Cleanser, so I bought special 3 ounce dispensers allowing me to carry it on all of my flights. Everything else with the exception of After Glow is the ideal travel size. Remember these products were created to cure our skin care concerns, they are rooted in our own selfish desires (lol). Originally there was never any intention of selling these, so we always created products that we could never be without. Even when Raquel and I are testing new products, we know that if we do not 100% love it, and if we would not use it every single day… then it WILL never make the shelves.
Q. How do you ladies have time for everything?
- While most people think Raquel and I are borderline insane for having a career and a thriving small business. The truth of the matter, is that Raquel and I look at Handcrafted Beauty as an amazing opportunity to; teach our daughters about business, the value of a dollar, and a strong work ethic. It was important for us to not having fear to try something new. We had built successful careers in our respective fields and starting a business was never about trying to leave our “Day job” we honestly love our careers too much. Running a small business was about getting out of the safe zone of our careers, it was about pushing ourselves down a path less traveled and relying on our strengths to create something of our own. Along the way we were surprised to find that owning our own business actually made us better Professionals. As we would bring that entrepreneurial spirit into our work lives.
- We are also not afraid to say no. We know we could sell so much more product if we brought Erase Paste on as a full time item. We also run out of stock on a lot of our items….. However, our priorities (faith, family, job) tell us that we could never keep up with the demand. It is these priorities that serve as a road map on how we will manage Handcrafted Beauty and we are not willing to compromise.