There is a tendency to want to make business very complicated. We think that we need hundreds of attributes and a lot of luck to make it. the truth is that its actually very simple. Success usually comes down to a few key ingredients that you excel at. Two of the most important ingredients are hustle and consistency. Shelley Waggoner has both in abundance.
One look at Slivers and Sudz was all it took to impress us. Her high quality soaps caught our eye with their unique dessert theme. However, we kept watching. We watched Shelley post everyday, hustle at fairs, get her soaps in grocery stores and constantly come up with new ideas and products. There was no denying that this woman was going places and we hoped she’d be willing to share a little bit of her journey with us.
We were ecstatic when Shelley agreed to share her advice and story! We learned so much from what is happening at Slivers and Sudz and we know you will to. You can check out her products on her website, Instagram and Facebook. Also head over to our Facebook page for a chance to try some of her incredible soaps for FREE!
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in West Linn, OR but moved to Vancouver, WA almost 20 years ago with my husband Don. Our blended family consists of six kids ranging from 34 to 14 years old. I am a dyed in the wool “Craft-Collector”….if I find an artsy idea I am even remotely attracted to- I have take a stab at it! I love to make soap, write, crochet, paint, garden, cook, bake, shop thrift stores, read, binge watch Netflix, YouTube and can spend literally HOURS on Pinterest admiring the wealth of creative genius that is being shared.
How did you get into your business?
I spent most of my adult life punching the clock in either customer service or sales…telemarketing of all things! I was really good at both and made a lot of people a lot of money! Four years ago, I was laid me off due to the decline in the services/goods I sold (copier and printer supplies) as more and more customers became savvy to the benefits of shopping with online retailers. For the first time in nearly 35 years, I was unemployed. My husband and I made the choice years ago, that one of us would be a stay at home parent – being present in our children’s lives was far more important than the perks of a second income. Additionally, my Mother-in-Love had moved in with us after a debilitating stroke and progressively declining abilities due to dementia, so it was imperative that one of us be home to take care of her as well. Don stepped up and went back to work – allowing me to be home full time….a dream come true!
Unfortunately, the financial balance was off so I needed to either find a way to supplement our income from home, or return to work. I tried, initially, to amp up my crochet business. I had found a lot of pleasure in it for years at local holiday bazaars. However, once you purchase an afghan or hat you don’t really NEED another one right away. Crochet accessories are honestly, quite seasonal. So, I added a few bars of handmade soap to my tables at the bazaars and found myself selling it more consistently than anything else I had to offer. Additionally, since it is a consumable product, I began developing a return customer base and a reliable revenue stream year round. Slivers and Sudz was born!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Work(ing) Space. The nature of the business requires dedicated spaces…multiple areas for production. I have had to carve out niches in my house to accommodate the various stages of soaping. Obviously, part of my kitchen is now off limits as I have chemicals, oils, additives and designated vessels and tools that must be kept separate from those l use everyday. I need a place to cure my soap away from the daily hub-bub of our household and an area for processing/packaging of the final product and storage for that as well. My husband has realized the scope of my growing business and is now designing an area where I will be able to combine and streamline the whole process….I am patiently waiting for this to happen.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
Purchase the best quality tools and supplies that you can afford. You will spend a lot more money in the long run replacing cheap tools and possibly compromise your product if you cut corners too much. I soon realized the importance of purchasing off season. I now shop “after” seasons for supplies that I will use next year and save a tremendous amount of money. Do not “shot-gun” purchases…compare prices, negotiate and barter if and when you can. The money you save and re-invested wisely will allow you greater profits in the future.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
Being unique. Soap is honestly pretty boring….not a lot of people get excited at the prospect of purchasing it. I can use the very best oils, butters, homegrown botanicals and fragrance combinations but unless I get people to become actually intrigued with it, I stand a very good chance of being passed by, without a second glance. So, I have designed a specialty line in my soap that looks like food – specifically desserts. People love food…soap made to look like food is fun and interesting.
Once that I have gotten their attention, they immediately recognize the quality of my product. Unique product and staging either at shows or in pictures on social media sets me apart from many of my competitors and allows me that moment of pause in which I can entice a “browser” to become a paying customer.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
In my new work space. My strategy is to have my soap in no less than 10 brick and mortar locations and increase my online sales by a minimum of 50%. I will have reduced the weekend events to just a few – and those will be ones I participate in primarily to support their charitable causes.
What are your top three tips for women starting a business?
First and most importantly – Do what you love and what makes you happy. I have found so much joy building Slivers and Sudz, primarily because I have incorporated my interests into its’ planning and development. For example, I grow the botanical elements I use. I use my paintings as some of the backdrops in my advertising vignettes. I fulfill my writing passion in my blog. Designing and decorating my soapy desserts is very much like making a cake (much to my family’s annoyance) and there is a plethora of items I can find at the local thrift stores that can be re-purposed and up-cycled to make and display my goodies. When your passions are reflected in the finished product, customers recognize and appreciate the significance of your efforts. This unequivocally sets you apart from your competitors who are simply trying to “make a buck”.
Secondly- Give to Get. When I first started making soap, I had an abundance of it. I found local non-profits that offered shower facilities for the homeless in my community, so I donated soap to their cause. I continue to search out groups and offer to donate soap to assist in their efforts. People will remember a person/business that gives to the community and will encourage others to support that business in turn. The response has been awesome and the rewards far more gratifying than simple monetary gain. I often time will give away a bar of soap if a person seems really interested in it, but I am not getting the “buying” signal…ironically the majority of these people have become some of my best customers! I keep sample sized bars on hand and include them in orders. People love getting that extra little something and they will show you their appreciation the next time they place an even larger order!
Third -Don’t be shy…advertise all the time! Nobody knows your business better than you. You are the prime means in which to get the word out about your amazing product. I take samples of soap with me everywhere I go and blatenly hand them out to anyone who will take them. I make sure that I have a business card that I give along with these samples and point out the obvious….”This is how to reach me when you are ready to order more of my amazing soap.” The assumption close works! Also, do not hesitate to ask for reviews and recommendations for your website and in turn, respond to every comment that is left, even if it is just a quick “thank you”.
What is a typical day for you like?
Up early and enjoy a couple cups of coffee. I spend about an hour checking my social media accounts and answer questions, etc. I will spend at least an hour marketing…looking for craft fairs or bazaars, following up on leads, and/or advertising my product. I do try to spend time everyday investing in gaining knowledge – looking for trends, watching educational training videos anything that will help me gain an edge in a very competitive industry. I have joined multiple Facebook Groups with like minded individuals so interaction and actively engaging with other members, reading their information and contributing input is all part of my growth as a business woman. Then the fun part of my day….I get to make soap!!!
Evenings I dedicate to cleaning up product for sale, producing labels, packaging and organizing my stock. If I have a craft fair scheduled for the upcoming weekend Fridays are dedicated to quality checking all product, taking an inventory, checking my display items, packing out the car, and generally getting read to take my show on the road! I believe it also bears mentioning the importance of dressing professionally and being attentive while doing business….but that is a whole new line of discussion that I could take a tangent on!
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
I would have completely immersed myself in learning everything and anything I could get my hands in regards to Social Media marketing strategies and used them effectively and consistently. I cannot stress enough how beneficial this would have been to the initial growth of Slivers and Sudz! (Admittedly I am still learning and exploring the opportunities and will continue to up my game as much as possible)