By AMBER ROY
Every big business out there started small at one point or another. They were just like you or me… They had hopes and dreams, they had fears and they made mistakes. And they kept growing.
I was inspired by a client of ours recently – Jesse Moe of Lilac & Clover (previously named Lilac & Clover Soap Co), and I wanted to share her business transformation with our audience because there are so many business owners in the start up phase that can gain value from (or become inspired by) the journey of growing a business. So let’s just jump right into it!
Jess, what was the exact moment you decided to go for it? From hobby soapmaker, to full time soapmaker, to becoming the “Maker of Makers”? What made you decide to take the jump?
Honestly, I feel like I may be one of the few who knew I wanted to start selling my products before I ever started experimenting! I had been on the hunt for a side hustle for a while. I wanted something creative, something part time, and something I could do from home with minimal start up cost. I was already making my own scrubs, creams, balms, etc at home for fun, but never soap.
Then I read a blog explaining how this person was making handmade cold process artisan soaps, selling them on Etsy, and making 5 figures in the process, and that’s when things finally clicked! That was when I knew I could blend my passion for natural non-toxic skincare with being an entrepreneur.
Taking that next step towards becoming an entrepreneur isn’t always easy. I’ve met so many individuals over the years that have really struggled with taking that first initial step towards becoming a business owner. How did you take the leap? What was your decision process like?
You know how it goes – I spent hours and hours after work reading and learning as much as I could about the whole process. I was working as an analytical lab technician at this point, so I already had the science and experimenting background, not to mention I had been working with dangerous chemicals daily so I was pretty confident jumping right into working with mixing up my own lye (sodium hydroxide) and working with all the PPE required for cold process soapmaking.
I had the support of my husband to work in our basement and he even helped me create a workbench and workspace I could really utilize. And everything else I just picked up as I went along!
What! Jess, I had no idea you were a lab technician! (The things you learn in interviews, I tell ya.) That’s bad ass! And it really gives your business some serious credibility when it comes to the science of soap. You and I both know that businesses have a way of changing and transforming as they grow… When you made the decision to become a business owner, what were your original goals? What did you set out to achieve when building Lilac & Clover Soap Co?
As a brand new entrepreneur, I had no really previous business experience. I would have to say most of my goals were revenue related, with a strong drive to help other people move towards healthier skincare products – no more of those sulfates, phosphates, and other unnecessary nasties.
I didn’t think about the long term implications of starting a business like that at the time, like how I would deal with growth, outsourcing manufacturing, and so on, and that’s where I ran into a little bit of a roadblock about a year in.
You’re absolutely right! In the beginning, we always have such simple goals. Without the experience, it’s hard to even know what kind of goals you should be setting outside of financial. Nowadays, when I think of goals and a future, I know that I need to align my business goals with my personal goals. Did you think ahead as to how your business would align with what you wanted in your personal life?
It’s funny to look back now, because I really didn’t align the vision of my business with the vision of my personal life at all! In my personal life, I was planning to move cross country in the next 5-10 years, travel extensively, and maybe even try out the ‘van life’!
Owning and operating a handmade product business like this definitely wasn’t the best option for me long term, but I don’t regret starting it one bit!
It’s interesting to look back at what your business WAS, and the journey you’ve taken to build it into the business you have NOW. As an entrepreneur that was originally location dependent, desperate to become location independent – how were you able to align your business with your personal goals in life?
Honestly, when I finally realized I desperately wanted to be location independent, I had a bit of a breakdown… I really questioned what I was doing with this company and lost a lot of the passion I had for growing my soap business. I let it coast while I explored my curiosity with a couple other business ideas I dreamt up – namely, starting a travel blog and then a drop-shipping product business, all while still running Lilac and Clover Soap Co. in my little spare time.
I had also started writing free blogs for my fellow skincare makers on my Shopify website, walking them through the Health Canada regulations as the process is extensive and confusing.
After checking my analytics on my website, I realized most (like pretty much all haha) of my website traffic was people viewing and commenting on these free blog posts I was writing. Other Soapmakers were asking how to create their labels, and about the Health Canada regulations and how to navigate them, or curious how I started my business and if I could help them, too!
This was literally the moment everything changed! I took notice of what people really wanted from me, and that’s when I decided to pivot (yet again) and try something new.
I think location independence is every Millennial’s dream! I can guarantee our readers are sitting there wondering: HOW? Tell us! How did you go from Calgarian soapmaker, to the Canadian “Maker of Makers”? How did you start to transition your physical business, into a virtual reality?
Looking back it seems like time flew by and that I knew what I was doing, but I really didn’t have any idea!
I started following some of the big names in online business and marketing like Amy Porterfield and James Wedmore and tried to soak up as much as I could! I do love to learn, so I wasn’t mad about putting my learning hat back on and basically being a beginner all over again.
I started small – the first paid product I put out there was a 7 page ebook/workbook for just $19.99. But, I got a few organic sales and that gave me the confidence to keep going!
I had started collecting the emails of the fellow makers way back on my old website, so I started to reach out to these lovely souls to ask what they were struggling with to see where I could best put my time to help them.
My offers got bigger – a $149 online course, and then a $299 online course – and my confidence in this new vision and direction grew, too.
One of the best things I did last year was invest in myself and my business by joining Business by Design by James Wedmore as this gave me the tangible behind-the- scenes knowledge I was really craving to make this legit and to scale it. I also left my full time job last year (before I was ready I may add), but that just added to the fire I had to grow my business into something big so I could help as many makers as possible!
YES! Continued learning is so important to small business owners. Would you share an important lesson that you learned throughout your business experience?
One of the biggest things I learned was to be consistent! As a visionary entrepreneur (read Traction by Gino Wickman), I love to be the ideas person… Always dreaming up new things to try, new directions to go, and new niches to serve. But, without bringing all these ideas back down to the ground and implementing them, you are really just spinning your wheels. Once I really sat myself down and gave myself a project to see through to the end, things changed immensely!
Also, just believing in myself when others didn’t. Knowing I was onto something and having the courage to keep up with it even if others didn’t understand or support it!
That is such a great little nugget! CONSISTENCY. There are many creative and visionary entrepreneurs that struggle to pull together the final product, but it’s necessary to get out there and grow our businesses. And girl, kudos to you for having the confidence to chase your dreams and your vision, despite the limiting beliefs of others.
One last thing! Where can readers reach you or see what you’re up to?