Over our 11 years in business there have been moments that pressed us out of measure, and we initially wondered why these challenges came along. There was not room for the why – but instead we needed to press on. But something interesting came of the challenge…. challenge brings growth…. and we pivot to adjust to the challenge. In the pivot came discovery…. and in discovery we improved our process, our product, and our outlook. The concept of silver linings speaks not just of a good outcome for what initially looked like an impossible challenge…. but it speaks of the mindset that is willing to look beyond the challenge and ask one question – how? How do we move forward, and find a solution. How do we source out the information to change the challenge into inspiration.
Our recent challenge was a request for a large wholesale order of soap. But not our current recipe. Instead they requested shea butter in every formula. We ran the calculations, reformulated, ran a trial and discovered that adding shea butter to the formula was not difficult, and the increased cost to the production was not significantly larger. Beyond scoring that deal, we discovered that the new formulation of our soap with shea butter cured faster, and made a harder bar of soap. Win : Win.
Another story of silver lining was in 2012 when we were courting Whole Foods to position our shaving soap in their Cleveland Area stores. Whole Foods has a huge list of unacceptable ingredients they do not permit to be in any of their products. We reviewed the list, and discovered that in our original formula of shave soap we had one of these ingredients. The ingredient was the essential oil/fragrant oil blend we buy from our supplier. The objection was the fragrant oil component. The scent was reminiscent of an old barber shop pomade. Steve began recreating the scent by only using essential oils, and the result was what we sell today as Barber Shop Shave Soap. All natural, nothing artificial. That scent of shave soap quickly replaced out best seller Bay Rum Shave Soap. Oddly enough, after all that work to create a natural essential oil blend for the formula, Whole Foods pivoted and decided not to carry our soap. This too was a lesson and silver lining. We discovered after the crushing news that vendors are required to spend a good deal of time in their stores pitching the product. A friend that was accepted cautioned us that she would not do it again, and was strategizing her exit from the relationship because the expectations of the retailer were in excess of what her fledgeling business was prepared to handle. Silver linings are gifts that remind us this life is a learning curve.
One last example of silver linings is our labeling dilemma. When we began our soap business we determined the entire bar would be wrapped in a light wax paper, then banded with the information. But we also determined that we wanted color on the label. We were buying scrapbook paper and cutting small bands that would be applied to the wrapped bar, then the label applied on top, leaving an edge at top and bottom of color. Each scent of soap had a different paper pattern… the problem was that scrapbook paper was not consistently the same each time we purchased it. We wanted to figure out a bit of consistency…. The answer was to build the border pattern into the labels we print. While this raised the cost of printing, it eliminated the purchase of scrapbook paper,, eliminated putting two bands of color on before the label, and looked cleaner. Pictured at the left is a photo of our redesigned Blackberry Sage Tea Soap labels. Wishing we would have done this years ago!!!!