How We’ve Maintained Our Enthusiasm for Our Handmade Soap Business

Photo courtesy of Danielle Vincent.

Photo courtesy of Danielle Vincent.

This was originally published at Outlaw Soaps—Pyragraph’s favorite place to get handmade soap—and is reposted here with kind permission.


“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” —Hunter S. Thompson

Cathy Farrar asked me: Given that you and Russ “do everything,” how do you sustain enthusiasm?

We don’t.

Lots of days, I wake up and don’t want to do it. I don’t want to open my email and deal with anything. Even emails from our favorite customers. I don’t want to write a blog entry or product description or customer response with forced enthusiasm.

Money is always tight, and given how constantly and persistently we work at this business, that alone is enough to make me feel like giving up and taking a full-time job. Yeah, to the extent that I have had real conversations with people about positions in their company.

It’s not just the financial support that keeps us moving, it’s the emotional support.

I hate the uncertainty. I hate the zero-net feeling. I hate endlessly following up with press and wholesale customers, often feeling like I’m just throwing words into an abyss. I hate encountering my own shortcomings when I mess up an order. I hate replacing hundreds of dollars in product when a package is delivered and stolen. I hate having to pay my own health insurance and manage my own tax withholding.

I hate that literally every single week includes those things. I hate that weeks really don’t exist unless I make them, because that stuff is constant.

To the many of you who say I have inspired you to start a business, that’s the part I never talk about because I assume the ocean of fear and naysayers alone is too huge to launch into, let alone all the day-to-day grind of actual business ownership.

I think if people really knew what was involved, no one would ever start a business.

It takes a certain kind of craziness to start a business. It takes a buoyant optimism to sustain the crushing weight of all those things.

It’s a blessing and a curse, because sane people never get to feel the joy, freedom and elation of owning a business. But they also never have to come to terms with the horror of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling like everything you love is sinking into the ocean, even as you clutch desperately at it in the dark.

And I’m writing this from a “good place.” Today, I woke up full of piss and vinegar, certain that today—TODAY, MORE THAN ANY OTHER DAY—was going to be a fucking awesome day. Today is the day we’re going to get the orders! Today is the day we’re going to write the things! Today is the day we’re going to make this goddamn airplane heave itself off the ground so we can soar with the eagles!

That is craziness and buoyant optimism in action, folks.

(Side note: While I was writing this, I heard Russ exclaim from the bedroom “OKAY! WHO’S READY TO GET UP AND SELL SOME SHIT?!” It’s so nice to have a partner who is also crazy and optimistic.)

But that isn’t enough.

Some days, even blindly positive lunacy isn’t enough to make this worth it. And that’s when I call in the reinforcements.

I have a handful of other entrepreneur friends who I have met through the Indie Business Network, and when the going gets really tough, I lean on them.

Earlier this year, when things were in their absolute darkest, Stacia of Handcrafted Honeybee, Anne of Sparklefly Candles, and I made a deal: We had to stay in business until January. After Christmas, if we wanted to call the match and quit the game, we could do it. But until then, we had to white knuckle ourselves through.

All for one, and one for all.

Yeah, it’s still fucking hard. Today, we’re going to go through the garage and put a bunch of stuff on Craigslist and eBay because we need the money.

My friend and colleague, Jennifer Waller of the very successful Celtic Complexion, said she did that in her lean beginnings, and we decided that was the right spirit of gumption and grit.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

And then, there are the customers.

We are blessed with vocal, compassionate, positive, supportive customers. They tell us what they like and what they want, and they tell us when we get things right.

These things keep the train moving forward. It’s not just the financial support that keeps us moving, it’s the emotional support that comes from hearing when we hit the mark.

Thank you so much for keeping this all going.

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About Danielle Vincent

After more than 10 years as a corporate digital product manager for such sites as Oprah.com, ABC.com, and ABCFamily.com, Danielle Vincent quit her career and pulled up her rubber gloves to make a living manufacturing and selling soaps as Outlaw Soaps. Her experience with social media, product management, web analytics, business, and design have made Outlaw Soaps into a personal experiment as she finds out what happens when she applies her largely digital learnings to the real world.

3 Comments

  1. Joe Cardillo on September 28, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Really nicely said Danielle. Like you, I’ve moved down the chain from corporate to smaller and smaller ventures. You give up stability and consistency, but you gain passion and you get to be directly responsible to your customers.

    Your point about emotional support is a good one. My experience has been that the more people are willing to examine and talk about the deeply scary aspects of being an entrepreneur, the better the decisions they’ll make over time.

  2. Peri Pakroo on September 28, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    So farkin’ true, all of it. The good and the bad. Thanks for these excellent honest words.

  3. Anne Marie Esposito on September 28, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Danielle, you nailed it with this post and I am thank God I have you to turn to in those crazy moments.

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