“Avoid Perfectionism Paralysis” provides an insider’s view of humble beginnings of my bath and body business. Ok, the present is still pretty humble. The point is we have to start somewhere. We have to take action to get traction. Moreover, we must keep showing up every day and learning as we go.
Today we are going to take a trip down memory lane. We will look at my beginning as a soap maker, the long break I took, and the second business I launched. During this journey, you will see I am a proponent of taking action, putting things out there, even if it is not perfect.
I enjoy observing growth along the way and never waver from improving my skill set and product outcomes. Perfection is not my goal rather excellence. Simply put, perfection often limits taking that first step. Fear of failure immobilizes and leaves you stuck in the aspiration stage. You remain a dreamer. Excellence means you start, get results, evaluate, learn, grow and press forward.
Failure is a beneficial part of growth. Hence, you must embrace it in all of its ugly to see your dreams come true. Pursuing excellence allows one to see notable progress over time. Hopefully, this overview will encourage you to take that first step no matter what it might be in business or in life. Let’s get started.
A long time ago in the far away past, 16 years ago to be exact, I made my first batch of soap and started a soap business. You can read more of my back story here. My first batch of soap like this:
This batch of peppermint tea tree was a complete flop, unusable. It had lye pockets caused by improper mixing. Oopsie. But, it was a first step. It was action that gave me traction.
The next batches were better … er…sorta. I cut them as best I could. Look at the overwhelming amount of help cutting soap. These were my midget terrorists or so I affectionately called them.
With this much help, you can see why I was so proud of my accomplishments. Here was my first inventory:
Success Despite Rudimentary Skills
My soap would sell out as fast as I could make it. The industry was not as saturated back then as it is now. Plus, I already had a built-in customer base eager to buy all natural soap. Apparently, they did not care that it was homely and various sizes. It sold well. True, it was a small quantity. It seemed to sell itself. It did well despite the crude cuts and poor product photography.
Experience gained by the passage of time along with trial and error would one day change my soap business. Oh, and the photos? They would only improve after this little girl with her messy toddler face …
…grew up, discovered her gift as a photographer, and changed my game.
My Second Soap Business
Fast forward with me to 2015. It was after we returned from living three and a half years in Central America as missionaries. We came home to care for our elderly parents and pick up where we left off with the life we love. Now to avoid perfectionism paralysis we used the joy of goat farming for traction. The delight in these creatures fueled me with energy.
We bought one goat after another. I couldn’t help myself. They were so cute.
Next thing we knew, we had a good sized herd and extra milk. Because we fell head over heels in love with goats, we just had to do something with their milk.
Making Soap Exactly the Same Way!
I was back in the driver’s seat making soap. My second soap company had an awkward geeky start. A lot changed since I closed my first business. For one thing, the market was saturated. At every turn, one could find artisan soaps. I proudly presented my essential oil based soaps to customers. They looked the same as my early creations. The labeling, photography, uniformity all severely lacked.
Oh wow! This hurts my eyes. Yikes!
To compete, I would have to shift and fast.
Flexing to Meet Customer’s Needs
Customers began to ask for color and fragrance soaps. So I obliged but it was a whole new learning curve. Once again, I was so proud of my meager inventory that took up space in the utility room.
Not only were my techniques rough but my inventory was fairly small. I stored a few hundred soaps under my bed then moved it to my utility room.
Over time and with lots of practice my designs improved.
Thanks to Charity, my product photography also improved.
Soon my inventory outgrew the utility room and I took over my husband’s office.
Taking Over Everything
Avoiding perfectionism paralysis meant we used what we had. We bloomed where we planted. There is a common theme for many business owners. That is, your home based business often takes over your home! It didn’t take long before I outgrew Jon’s space. It also became important for me to scale my operation so I could free up time and decrease overhead. Most of my supplies were still stored in a utility room. That meant each time I made soap I would clean the kitchen and lug all my supplies to the kitchen from the back of the house. It was inefficient. Not to mention it kept my family from accessing the kitchen. They were convinced the soap company would cause them to starve. You can see why my children were eager to help convert our unused garage into a soap studio for me.
My daughter helped lay tile in between working 60 hours a week for a local dairy. My family’s dedication to seeing this dream come true was inspirational.
Everyone worked hard to make it a usable space. The next step was to buy our base oils in bulk. We decided to purchase large 55 gallon drums of pre-mixed oils to cut labor costs and shipping too.
Jon is receiving our drums and closing the garage door. He built a removable insulated wall which allows us to easily receive large shipments while cooling and heating the room more efficiently.
Scaling Up Frugally
We learned to avoid perfectionism paralysis by looking for second hand equipment. Much of the infrastructure used in the studio came from used restaurant auctions. We were able to get stainless steel sinks, shelving, and bread pan racks at super low prices. This made scaling up less costly. Thankfully there was plumbing and a drain in the wall already.
We painted and hung second hand cabinets given to us for storage of fragrance oils and colorants. They are not in great shape. But remember the key is to avoid perfectionism paralysis. We want to take action to get traction.
Making larger volumes of soap became much easier in this space. I no longer had to interrupt the family’s meals. I saved so much time not having to lug my supplies to and from the back side of the house. In the picture below, I made nearly a 1,000 bars of soap in one day. Scaling helped me turn my attention to working on my business rather than in my business.
The curing carts were full of soap waiting to be wrapped.These carts cost just 25.00 a piece picked up at a restaurant auction. They store soap nicely.
Here is a peek at my office. I receive and process orders here. To the right I have a shipping station set up where I can pack orders efficiently.
Having my own workspace was a game changer for sure. I have enjoyed using this space for the past two years. At first, it seemed so roomy. Now, I have a lot packed into a small space. This area positions me for future growth and service. The studio professionalized my business on so many levels. It maximized my efficiency. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are much more attainable.
Get Started and Use the Beta to get Better
As you can see, over the years my business has changed. We have come a long way. I know we are not quite there yet. Still, I recognize the importance of starting and continuing to learn more over time.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of my soap business. As you work to avoid perfectionism paralysis, remember it is important to get started. Using the concept of “beta” is appropriate here. Many business send out a beta version of their work. The implication is that they are still working to improve. Embrace the imperfect as a vital developmental stage. The beta version offers customers opportunity to give feedback on a prototype. It invites them into the business as a valued collaborator.