One of my favorite things about being an Indie Business Network member is connecting with other indie brands through the events (like the recent blog challenge) and Facebook group. I couldn’t tell you whether I originally “met” today’s featured duo through IBN or not, but I can tell you that I’ve gotten to know them because of IBN.
The big thing that struck me about Caron & Michelle is that they successfully work together as a team, running Two Blooms Design Studio, even though they are sisters. (Hey, I love my two sisters, but I think I would kill them if we tried to run a biz together.) Caron & Michelle perfectly compliment one another and are fascinating to watch grow and evolve!
When I asked them if they would be interested in chatting it up for an interview, they gladly accepted, even though it’s a crazy busy time of year AND they also were participating in the blogging challenge alongside me and other IBN members. Seriously, a round of applause, please!
Let’s dive in to getting to know this fab duo:
MS: How were you introduced to handcrafted soapmaking?
Caron: The majority of soap makers on our island started making soap for their children. In our experience, it was our mother who had extremely sensitive skin and could not use soap. After extensive research we started on our quest.
Living on the Pacific West Coast, we were passionate about the beauty and awe of nature, and that greatly influenced us to use natural and local resources wherever possible. Michelle and I (sisters, often joined at the hip) were both single, successful career women living the dream on the island. Previously, we had each travelled and worked as international aid workers and that introduced us to cultures that valued artisanal work.
MS: How long have you been making soap?
Caron & Michelle: Thirteen years which sometimes feel like dog years, so let’s just say a long time.
MS: If you were stranded on an island, would you find a way to make soap? How?
Caron & Michelle: YES, I know the answer to this one! Living with a family on an island in Fiji, I learned the simplest way to wash dishes. You simply gather up the cold ashes from your dinner fire and scrub the pots, pans and dishes with the ashes. It cuts grease like a dream and gives you a very clean plate. The bubbles were non-existent but if I was stranded on an island, I’d mix a little coconut into my ashes. And then, of course, once I was rescued, I’d sell my recipe for millions and go on the talk show circuit.
MS: What is your soapmaking philosophy?
Caron & Michelle: Make the best soap that you can, source ethically, grow as many of our own botanicals possible and blow away expectations of your customers. From the packaging to the customer service to the actual product, we want people to say “wow, I get the difference between your soap and commercial soap.”
MS: Are you a by the book soaper or do you wing it?
Caron & Michelle: We have our tried and true recipes, but we are constantly pushing the envelope, always experimenting and always developing a better bar of soap. Soap will always surprise you, it’s not a stagnant ‘craft’ that will always turn out the same way, which is probably why we’re still going.
MS: Do you make soap for a specific niche?
Caron & Michelle: Soap making classes are popping up all over and suddenly, everyone’s an expert. So, we’ve honed in and found our niche, but that market is constantly evolving as well. You can never rely on what you did last year because it may not work as well. And that craft market you made a killing at last year?
We offer experience and choice and are constantly researching trends. We cater to the eco-savvy buyer.
MS: How fierce is the competition in your area? How do you compete?
Caron & Michelle: The competition in our area is fierce. Broaden your product line and not focus solely on soap. We have an organic skincare line, natural soy wax candles, etc. Educate your buyers, why are they paying the price for your product? What makes it different?
In Canada, we have to submit our recipes to Health Canada for approval (to ensure safety). It’s not a regulated thing, but we tell our customers that we have filed, so they can be sure our product is safe. And we’ll say to them “every time you buy a product, ask the maker if they are registered with HC”, so you’re educating them.
Stay current, be on trend and know your competition. It’s hard, but stay on top of what they’re doing, not to copy them, but to know how your product differs (and let’s just get it out there – how your product is better?)
MS: What is your favorite resource for business information and advice?
Caron & Michelle: People in business, not necessarily in bath and body, but find business groups that meet and just listen. We belong to a group who meet once a month for breakfast and so far it’s only been men and they provide a perspective that is invaluable. One is a college professor, another a professional copywriter, retired government worker, an entrepreneur that travels constantly and a life coach. Business is business and they ask us good questions and challenge us to think outside of the box.
MS: What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?
Caron & Michelle: The freedom not just with our time, but to explore different venues for our craft. We are well established in the organic apothecary line and decided to branch out from that. So, we introduced lifestyle pieces along with our candles including pillows, storage containers, purses, wallets, etc. We found out what skills we would need and we took lessons. We took classes from an artisan 10 years ago and just didn’t make time to pursue it. Now we’re pulled out all the materials we had and have started back up creating (notice I am purposely not telling you what that art form is, you’ll just have to follow our pages!).
We will always have our organic apothecary line but we’re also wanting to compete in different venues so when they say ‘oh, we’ve already got our 86 soap makers’, we can say ‘well, we’d like to be considered for these other areas.’ That’s happened to us this year and we’ve been able to get into some very good shows simply because we had another line to showcase.
MS: If you could offer one piece of advice to a soapmaker starting their business, what would it be?
Caron & Michelle: Don’t do it. Find another craft. Seriously, this would be my honest advice.
And if they still didn’t listen… I would tell them the 4 skills that are imperative to not only start a business, but you have to be a master at them to thrive. Follow our blog to find out more. 😉
MS: How do you use social media to market your business? Do you have any tips?
Caron & Michelle: We use social media consistently and it works for us because of that.
Become a master at social media, we are fortunate to have a social media camp event that happens every year and we make sure to attend. In our opinion, social media can make or break your business. You have to be on trend and know what’s happening in this area. I realize it can be daunting and difficult but find someone to help you and practice practice practice. Yes, it takes a lot of time but it gets easier.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog, Pinterest, and Linkedin are the must haves for us. We’ll dabble in YouTube, Periscope, and Snapchat, but so far, the ones mentioned above are must haves for us.