It’s been said by many that I have a 6th sense when it comes to product development. That might have something to do with the fact that (whispering in microphone) I see dead products.
In 1998 I wanted to be at home and raise my kids so I created SweetSoaps.com “A unique handcrafted soap design company”. Then I did something so radical that most people thought I had lost my mind. I built a website to sell soap. Clearly a great place to sell dead products. With complete cluelessness and wreck less abandon I added more and more unusual products. I used the Internet to learn about business, online marketing, and to source ingredients. I struggled; I failed more times than I succeeded in the last 15 years. Blazing the bubble trail was fraught with the highs and lows of a reality TV show.
In 2003 I once again did something so outrageous it would make a grown marketing man cry. I sent a bar of soap in an envelope to Neiman Marcus headquarters. One week later they called. Can you make this gold monogram soap in a gift box? Sure I said. Once again I went to the Internet to source this custom gift box! A soap star was born> I had two products in every Neiman Marcus and Horchow catalog for 2004. There was no sleep. My business grew and my ideas grew too. There were many other catalog companies that came knocking. I felt this was it; I had reached the mountain top. Like all mountain tops, you can fall down. I almost didn’t get back up.
2005 Katrina hit the people of New Orleans. I had one bar of fleur de lis soap, their symbol of hope and rebirth. My phone rang off the hook; I hurried to add more fdl designs. The more I made the more they sold. Then it crossed into the surrounding states, and became a staple in hip hop urban clothing lines. That’s when I yelled BINGO! It’s here to stay and it is going bigger. I went to New Orleans in 2007 that visit had a profound effect on me. The Fleur de lis then became my rebirth and my logo. Today the fleur de lis symbol is growing in popularity as I speak.
I was out of steam and needed to know if I was good at developing other types of products, or am I a one trick pony? I took a full time position as a product manager with Horizon Group USA. In my first few months I had 5 products purchased by Michael’s Craft Stores. I was a product machine and an unstoppable force. I tried to sit in that cubicle but I was a round peg in that square cubicle. I needed to be free, so they fired me and it was the nicest thing anyone ever did for me. I came home with the fire in my belly, I knew I was THE BEST at what I did and I clearly need to be an entrepreneur.
I started blogging and using social media to promote my business. Once again, no idea what I was doing or how to use it but I was unemployed and had free time. Twitter changed my way of thinking. The first thing that blew me away was the open exchange of business related information being shared. I thought don’t these people know it is dog eat dog world? Of course everyone in the audience is SM savvy so you know that you are crazy. CRAZY LIKE A FOX!
I am sure you know that being helpful or funny gets you mileage on Twitter BUT did you know it’s also an excellent tool for product development? 3 years ago I made an off handed remark saying I ought to just make something ugly like Bacon Soap. The response to my tongue in cheek comment was overwhelming. My first thought was this is ridiculous, so off course I made it and it became the #1 product on my site. That idea then gave birth to my sizzling soy bacon candle which was awarded a “most creative candle nod” from trendhunter.com. Free market research in an instant, where else can you get that? I now use this same method to gauge potential successful ideas. To this day people tweet everything bacon to me. Sometimes people tweet me “hey I am eating bacon and I was just thinking about you” See that is just what I want, think about Sweet Soaps!
The bacon soap factor is the use of free tools to put you ahead of the pack. It’s very basic, ask the people what they want and give it to them. Social Media gives you that audience if you treat them right. Being humorous is a good way to sell without selling. For instance, One of my famous tweets “Dear dirty old men and foul mouthed kids, keep talking I need the money” From this tweet you now know I am sheer poetry in motion.
In 2009 my Santa’s coal soap was #2 on amazon.com in the beauty category and was mentioned in their post holiday press release along with the success of the first Kindle. These are normal events in my soap opera, there are many more but I’m saving the “dirty” stuff for my book.
2010 I received an email from Larry Fine the now CMO at Horizon Group USA, the number one importer of kids craft kits in the US. He asked me to partner with Horizon to create innovative soap concepts for one of their largest retailers. This Nov my ideas are on the shelves in over 1,000 stores in 2 countries. It’s killing me that I cannot tell you the name of this retailer because it is under a store brand. It is a dream beyond words to see my ideas marketed on this level. I am thrilled to be partnered with such a force in the craft industry.
In the coming years Sweet Soaps will be known for product development and package design. While I am still manufacturing for small businesses I will be looking to outsource the manufacturing of my novelty soap designs allowing me more time for consulting. Today as I speak to you, my products are heading for Hollywood with another partnership, destined for stardom. My soap officially has a more exciting life than I do.The key to success in this economy is doing more with less and with that said, when people ask you “what’s the ROI” of twitter, tell them it is equal to the ROI of being in the human race.