Meet our July Maker of the Month! Elan with Fern Valley Botanics started her business right around the time COVID-19 stay-at-home orders took effect, so she had to rely almost entirely on social media to market her soap. Since then, she's created a community of customers and fellow makers. They love her unique designs and creative use of color. Get to know Elan below!
How long have you been making DIY bath and body products, and how did you get started? How long have you been selling your products?
I've been making them for 2 years now. It started out as a hobby to provide better solutions for my family, as well as being able to stop putting my money into companies with racist ads and questionable ingredients. I'm a very new small business and started in late March and opened shop right on the spring equinox!
What do you love most about making bath and body products?
I love the agency it gives you in so many ways, from creativity to health. It's a really amazing way to venture out into creating a small business while creating sustainable and healthy options for others. It helps me feel like I'm not adding to the problem but creating solutions.
What inspires you to create?
My son! It's a really interesting experience to give birth if you are someone who doubts yourself or gets stressed. After being pregnant and going into labor and bringing about a new little human, you end up feeling like the projects you were so nervous in starting really pale in comparison. Having a child really boosted my momentum and silenced the doubtful voices.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get started?
It's a very different era we are living in now in the midst of COVID. I think a lot of the avenues that small businesses were using for success have slowed down or stopped altogether. I started right about when lockdown began and I really had to lean on social media to get started, and it has proven to be such a great tool. So if you're new and starting off with social media, I would say don't worry about follower counts, sales, or even taking the most amazing pictures with high-quality photography (I take mine with my very old Samsung phone lol). What matters most is creating a community. Go and reach out to people that you find interest in. Talk to them and support them however you can and get to know them. Talk, give, and reciprocate!
How did you get started wholesaling your products? Do you have any tips for people trying to do the same?
Wholesale is a very funny thing. I think as small business owners, we are usually a one-person operation doing multiple jobs. How to price things gets hard and that is just at regular retail prices, so it gets compounded when you are trying to do wholesale. But being new is good, because it allows you time to make mistakes and learn. With that in mind, I made myself present for the option of wholesale. I shared on my posts that people can buy wholesale. I also let people know in my bio about wholesale inquiries. Definitely reach out to local storefronts. Neighbors are always amazing cheerleaders for your products and love providing opportunities for local artisans. Search Google for local shops and email them for inquiries. (I advise only doing a few at a time because this method is very effective).
Have you experienced a fail? How did you work through it, and what did you learn?
Yes! I live out in the woods, so sometimes electricity or technology can get a little sketch. So not too long ago, I felt I was finally getting momentum. I had a whole line of soaps I was ready to put out and post on Instagram when my wifi went out for 4 days! With COVID, I couldn't even go to the library or a friend's house (there's no cell service where I live either). So I was just fretting the whole time. Eventually, I drove out to a fast food parking lot and was welcomed to a couple of customers who were unhappy with their orders or they weren't delivered. It was very stressful. My following dipped dramatically and my unfollows rose drastically lol. But I got through it. I took a moment to collect myself and regained my presence online and made sure that my customers were happy in the end. I learned that you have to let go sometimes and it won't be the end of the world if you don't create posts 3 times a day. When people are unhappy with your service, showing them understanding and letting them know that their experience matters to you helps so much.
Who’s another maker you admire? What do you love about their work?
I really love The Clean Bar Shop. Her soaps are so beautiful and clean cut. As someone who is always like more, more, more! I admire her style so much - it's so minimal yet intriguing! You can really see the thought and precision behind each step.
What plans do you have for your business moving forward?
I would love to create more learning outlets for people, sharing the process of my soap making as well as other herbal/medicinal strategies. I would also love to partner with more organizations that gift people with care packages in the Black, POC, and LGBTQ comminuty. I would love to donate more of my soaps within my community. Maybe one day doing workshops and skill shares in the woods. We shall see, lol.
Elan's top Bramble Berry picks
- Pomegranate flowers - They are so pretty, the bright red they have creates such a stunning botanical topping for soap.
- Tall 12" Silicone Loaf Mold - I love the shape of the tall silicone mold. It's so unique! When it's time to cut the loaf, you always end up with a bar that feels extra special.
- Turmeric powder - When I can, I try to grow and powder my own botanicals. But certain ones I can't, like turmeric. I love this one, it's so bright and versatile with so many beneficial properties.
- Clays - All of these clays are amazing and versatile, and they really allow you to lean into natural pastel looks that I love so much.
What’s your favorite Bramble Berry project?
I think my favorite and my first is the Turmeric Secret Swirl Soap Project (although I ended up doing it with rose clay and aloe/avocado). The feather design is just so precious!!!! It really is like a secret when you cut into it, you have no idea what to expect but it's always gorgeous!
We're constantly inspired by the DIY bath and body community, so we'll be highlighting a different business owner or hobbyist each month. If you want a chance to be featured, share your photos with #BrambleOn!