I've had a lot of time to reflect on life over the past couple of months since falling ill first with a broken arm and then a very serious life threatening complication that landed me in the hospital in March.
I've taken inventory of my life, including my business, and change is coming.
Back in 2010 when I started making soap, it was for the love of the craft; the simplicity of an all-natural gorgeous handmade bar of soap turning the necessary act of bathing into a ritual of self-care and beauty.
I grew Cloud Nine Soap Co. organically. I think it's why I am still in business today. I started out selling at Farmers Markets three times a week for three years, young son in tow in the back of my van. I moved on to applying for and selling at fine Arts and Craft Fairs. In 2012 I opened a retail website because customers were asking for it. I started wholesaling my soap to stores because the industy, not my gut, was suggesting that this is the holy grail, the mark of success. "What stores are you in?" became the most asked question.
Fast forward to 2018 and handmade bath and body products are everywhere. The claims are ridiculous and outrageous and they frustrate me. Small batch authentic artisan bath and body makers like myself have gotten lost in the shuffle. All around me now I see people who google a recipe, make a couple batches of soap or body oil, create a website, and boom! declare themselves a business expecting overnight success with no testing or trialing of their products. And the prices? Crazy. But I get it, they have to artificially inflate their prices in order to still make a buck when they sell wholesale to stores at 50% off of their retail price, and offer "sales" and "free shipping".
Fact fact about owning a small business: I do not have a 401K plan, employer subsidized health insurance, paid sick days or vacation time. This is what being self-employed means and the hustle is real. As I grew my wholesale base I found myself making less money, and MORE soap because I have to sell twice as much product to make half as much profit. And I became a slave to what stores wanted, not necessarily what my customers wanted. It became a grind that I did not enjoy. I now have only a handful of stores I will work with. These are indepedently owned stores, whom I respect and enjoy working with. You will never, ever find Cloud Nine Soap Co. in Whole Foods.
But it's the claims being made in the beauty industry that truly baffle me. They've gone beyond even junk science to flat out impossible claims. For the last three years, I have not loved my craft the way I did in 2010 because I feel forced now to compete on a level I do not enjoy with people whom I do not respect.
In my opinion, I see a disconnect between the woman's movement of today and the ramped up "anti-aging" campaigns of the commercial beauty industry. Woman who say they are, or want to be, comfortable in their own skin are being told they have to buy and use anti-aging product (with $50 - $200 pricetags) to maintain or salvage their beauty. And they are doing it! How is it that these smart, beautiful women are buying into this?? In a new and liberating time of owning who we are and what we want why are we afraid of aging?
I am calling bullshit on all of it.
Aging is a privledge.
As an RN, I saw young people die on a regular basis and it profoundly saddened me. I watched my sister, my only sibling, die when she was only 38. And I sat at deaths door for a week in March and have come out on the other side with a new respect for just how precious my life is.
I plan to wear the lines on my face, the crepey skin of my neck, the freckles, the age spots, the stretch marks and the furrow between my brow proudly. I hope and intend to age gracefully by taking good care of myslef. But my boobs will eventually hang to my waist and my chin will slip into my neck - but I will continue to do yoga, to eat clean and healthy foods (including gluten on occasion) and use products that smell good and make me feel good. And I will lay my head on my pillow each night with profound gratitude for being a given another day .... to age.