Friday, August 6, 2010

The Beginning

I started making products long before I started a company. It started, in its most basic form, with me trying to make bath oils that wouldn’t irritate my skin. Then I had babies. My son had terrible eczema on his legs. None of the lotions that the doctor recommended were working great and I didn’t want to start him on steroid cream. So I started to do some research. Several attempts later and many friends volunteering to be Guiney pigs, I had a cream that really really worked for him.

Fast forward 3 years and another baby later and it is Christmas. A friend gave me some ginger bath salts she had made. I smelled them and they were heavenly. I asked her to give me the recipe. She said, “It is so easy.” So several days later when I was laying in my bath luxuriating I thought, “isn’t it amazing that something this simple and pure is so wonderful.” That was the moment, the birth of Sweet Cheeks and I haven’t looked back.

When starting a business though, my primary drive was not to make money. I was a stay at home mom that felt a little disconnected from the world. I wanted an “in” back into that world that would allow me also to stay focused on my family. So, for me, I wasn’t just about producing a widget, I could sell. It was about producing a product that had value, and even more so, building a company that had social value. So I looked at everything with a critical eye. How would I package my product in a way that had the least amount of impact to the earth? Were my ingredients sustainable? Was it not only a good product but and excellent one? Did the product mirror my core beliefs?

Then there was the question of what to do with the money. I wanted a company that invested in life, in humanity. I wanted my company to add value to the world in ways other than just the products it made. I knew that my company would eventually set up a fund to focus on giving a part of the profits back to the community. This fund is a long term goal however, once Sweet Cheeks is operating in the positive, it is my first order of business. I know I don’t want to be part of a world in which we don’t reach back, each one of us, and offer a hand to the person that needs it. That said, I felt that was not only my responsibility as a person but as a business owner. Plus, it feels to me like an opportunity to make a real difference. And who can’t get excited about that?

So there I was, I had my business, I had my products and I had a mission. Now I just had to figure out how to find my market. When I started my company I was extraordinarily lucky that I had women in almost every area to help me realize my dream of having a business instead of just making products for friends and family out of my kitchen. Each time I felt unsure of how to move forward another woman would jump in and offer their expertise from Jeanne Wilson with Markbeech Marketing who helped with my logo and marketing ideas to Patience Salgado who took my product photos and started getting Sweet Cheeks noticed.

Everyone donated their time because they believed in what I was doing. They kept assuring me that my love for good all natural products had a place in the Richmond market. Despite being surrounded by a bevy of amazing business women to call on, I was having a hard time getting a foothold in the Richmond market, except for a faithful, but small, following. I knew my products were among the best around; I just needed a way to reach people that valued all natural products and cared about how they were packaged. Then out of the blue, Franklin Goose approached me. It was the answer to all my problems. They were a nationally recognized brand. They had huge presence the market place I was trying to establish myself in and their company values mirrored mine. I loved also that Franklin Goose is a woman owned business. The president lives in Richmond and their first store will be opening soon in Carytown. I sent samples in for them to review and now am carried on their site. It has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what will happen once the store goes live, but I know it will be amazing.

I didn’t know it when I started selling with them, but Franklin Goose really makes it their mission to give little start ups like me a chance in the market place. They try to find people, and in particular work at home moms (WAHM) that are making amazing products, but need a national site with traffic like theirs to be able to make a living at our craft. I guess in short, they were a company that reached back. I was glad for the hand.

I believe it is my passion for what I am doing and for being a good steward to the earth which has allowed me to attract a company like Franklin Goose. That passion, and a whole lot of amazing help. It is nice that small little companies, like me, have an opportunity to affect change in the marketplace because of companies like Franklin Goose that share a common goal. Together we are able to start offering Richmond natural & organic alternatives.

It is funny, I sometimes wonder if, when Franklin Goose started if they felt a bit like I do now. They knew that there was another way to be in corporate America. There was another way we can define what it means to be an American company. We can be good corporate citizens. We can add more than we take. I hope they did, I like the thought that we started off the same concepts, and hopefully one day Sweet Cheeks will be opening their first shop… just around the corner.

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