Today I had the pleasure of having Shawn Sullentrup, owner at Alex & Co. (former Good.Clean. Soap.) over for tea and we talked all about her still quite new, but already successful small business. I have been following Shawn on Facebook for a while now, and I love the way she’s been marketing her wonderful natural products and growing her company. We briefly met for the first time at the Wake Up to Wellness Health Fair, and I told her I would love to interview her for the Re-Discover Washington blog. However, it was not until the last week when I saw yet another raving customer review about her amazing soap, that I finally sent her a message that we need to set a day and a time soon! She responded right away, so here is her story.
How did you decide to start Good.Clean.Soap?
I actually set a goal to dominate the natural skin care world. Just kidding. Kinda.
I began creating soaps several years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with eczema and psoriasis. I began researching natural soap, properties of oils, and the use of natural herbs in skincare. Honestly, I was just a mother wanting to provide my daughter with relief without using the heavy chemical-filled creams and medicated soaps. After spending lots of time formulating, researching, and re-formulating, I created the Plain Jane soap which, at the time, was just called Court’s Soap. After seeing the results that my daughter Court had, I completely fell in love with the process of learning, creating recipes and sharing my soaps. [The products recently went through a rebranding and name change to Alex & Co. Bath & Home so the Plain Jane Soap is now called Face to Feet Soap.]
I soon began developing more skin-loving products, including skin-nourishing lotions, exfoliating sugar scrubs, and lip balms. Some years later (after much prodding from family and friends that loved the soaps), I decided to develop a small business and Good. Clean. Soap. was born which was changed to Alex & Co. in January of this year. Now I am able to have the best of both worlds: a small, thriving business doing something that I absolutely love and have lots of family time since I work from my home studio.
How long have you been in business?
As Good. Clean. Soap. 1 year. As Alex & Co. Bath & Home, almost 5 months. So almost a year and a half total and it has been amazing.
You work from home – how do you manage with family and kids?
Yes I have an in-home studio which works perfectly for me and our family. Things became so much easier with the business when I really began to set boundaries on my work hours, follow a schedule, and use my planner consistently. I try to fit hands on work time in the studio from 8:30 until 2:30 Monday through Friday. That includes making product, packaging the product, preparing items to be shipped, inventory etc. One hour in the morning desk time and one hour before dinner desk time, then usually another hour after our daughter Court goes to bed. Sometimes my day goes super smooth and I can stick to the schedule, but then I have to be flexible at times and luckily my schedule is my schedule so it can be forgiving. I do take our daughter Court to and from school daily, prepare breakfast, get lunches ready for the next day, make dinner and fit in cleaning, but that’s where the schedule really comes in and definitely helps keep me on track. A few other things that I do which really help, are that I plan a menu every week and I buy groceries accordingly so we aren’t tempted to order take out. I also have a daily cleaning schedule that I keep on my kitchen counter and everyday I take a dry erase marker and cross off the tasks I finished that day. Then I just wipe it off and start again the next day. Sometimes I get everything finished and sometimes not so much but it’s nice to see tasks checked off at the end of the day.
Why did you decide to change the name of the business?
Honestly it was such a difficult decision but in a nutshell the business began with soap and quickly expanded to lip balms, sugar scrubs, lotion and more so I felt it was time to rename the business to better reflect the direction of where it was headed. What better way than to use the names of our daughters Alex and Court. The new packaging and name is fresh and simple. I think it’s a reflection of the brand. Although due to popular demand bows will be back very soon, since so many customers liked the easy gift giving aspect of the packaging with the bows. The labels are going to get a mini face-lift as well. I hope to be expanding products in the coming weeks and months.
What makes your products stand out from others?
I think what sets us apart is knowing exactly what my products are and staying true to that the instance with the infusion of fresh fruit into some of our soaps. For example the pink grapefruit soap has fresh grapefruit that I’ve peeled and juiced then infused into the soap. I love the fact that our soap is kind of like “skin food”. And of course our craft beer soap collection that’s infused with craft beer, barley and other ingredients. At first it may be for the novelty of it but then once the customer uses it they are hooked on the gentle softness the properties in beer lend to the soap.
Also the simplicity as well as the readability of ingredients that are used. So many people are reading labels and are educating themselves on not only what they put into their body, but what they put on it. I want customers to know exactly why I chose specific oils, clays, plants, herbs etc. A ton on research was involved in choosing each and every ingredient and it’s not something I take lightly.
Goodness I think there are so many things about the products that make it stand out. But lastly it’s the customers’ experience with the products that make the lasting impression. I receive emails from parents that their child is just using the face to feet soap and the huge difference it’s made on their eczema just by using a soap because they quit using the heavy creams. Or the teenage girl with blemishes that uses the lime and tea tree soap and is seeing results. So I think that customers are not only seeing our products as a sweet little gift but as a natural gentle alternative to their everyday soap and seeing the difference bath/skin care products can make when you simplify the ingredients to those that work hard and leave out all the extras like synthetics, detergents, parabens etc.
You always have beautiful promotional materials, photos and graphics. Who designs these for you?
Aww thanks so much! I’m a one-woman show so everything from designing packaging, graphics, photography, producing the product, shipping, social media etc is all me. Thankfully I love to read and figure things out. Google is a fabulous thing! I would love to have Photoshop but for right now I am keeping my overhead and spending with the business at a minimum.
What is some advice you can give to other moms who would like to start their own business?
Make sure you want to move past the hobby stage of whatever you choose, because a lot of time is spent not only on creating your products but on the maybe not-so-fun side of accounting, marketing, contacting wholesalers, supplies, product inventory, etc. So before you take it to that next level, be prepared to sit at your desk A LOT! Do lots of research. Surround yourself with positive encouraging people. Invest in lots of comfy yoga pants! They will be your new best friend. [It’s kind of my “uniform”.] My friends tease me because I wear them so much they will ask me “So are you wearing your “dressy” yoga pants today or your”work” yoga pants.” Sad but true there’s a difference.
Where can people find your products locally?
Hillermann Nursery & Florist, St. Clair Health Mart & Fusion in Chesterfield Mall. You can also shop online at: www.alexandcobathandhome.com
Follow Alex&Co. on Facebook to stay updated for what’s new!