Tell us how you got the idea for Simply Pure Products.It didn’t start as an idea for a company. I have four children and when my third was only two weeks old he developed eczema all over his body. For two years we were in a battle to figure out how to clear up his skin. We went to a couple of doctors and nothing that they did brought him any relief.
Finally after two years, when nothing we tried was really working, I decided that we had been through enough and we would try another way to help him out.
So I started researching what causes eczema, and other ways that we could help our son. What I found out after a very short time was that eczema can come from several different types of allergies, but often when children are so young like he was, they are allergic to petroleum products.
That didn’t mean a lot to me at that moment, because even though we used Vaseline, which is straight petroleum jelly, I didn’t know that petroleum fell under many different names. So after doing all of that research, I went armed with my information to a large chain that is a Natural store and I bought three different products for him — a bar of soap, and a bottle of lotion and a bottle of shampoo — and it was crazy expensive.
So I thought, “I need to help my family.” My husband has a great job and we should have been able to afford these eczema treatments, but at that point we had four children and a limited household budget. So I thought it would be helpful if I could figure out how to make these products on my own, and I found online instructions for how to make soap. You know, women have been making soap for hundreds of years!
So when did you get started down this research path?
In 2005, seven years ago. So I started off by learning how to make soap, and it was such an amazing feeling to be able to create my own soap. I started giving my homemade soaps away as gifts, just messing around, but the soaps I created in my own kitchen were so much better and helped my son out so much, that I started giving soap to people who were dealing with the same thing. Then I started charging for it because I couldn’t afford to give it away any more, and that’s how the business took off.
So how long was it between the time you started experimenting on your own, and then giving your homemade soaps away, and then sensing that, “Hey, I could make a little money off of this?”
Well, it wasn’t about the money, really, when I first started. I became an official company in 2007, so there was a two-year period where I just started creating, making, studying, researching, giving away product, attending craft fairs, and seeing how it turned out. And then in 2007 I became a company.
So you were still working out of your home kitchen?
I worked out of my home until October of last year, just trying to stay home and be a mom, but it got too big for that, so we are now located at Vint Hill.
How is the Vint Hill location working out for you?
It’s fantastic. Vint Hill has been more than accommodating. They have helped us to be not only a workshop, but also gave us space for a showroom as well, so it gives customers a place to come and get one-on-one attention, to see, to try, to smell, to feel what an amazing product this is.
Tell us about your product line? What do you offer?
The only thing we don’t make is mascara. But we have face care, deodorants, bath care, babies, anything you can think of health and beauty wise, we make it.
We have a couple of different stores in the area that carry Simply Pure Products, and we just picked up a store in Gladys Virginia, Auburn Farms, just outside of Richmond. So we have a couple of small shops, but we really like to point people towards the showroom and the online website, SimplyPureProducts.com.
Our products are so fresh and need such a high turnover rate, that we want our customers to get used to using the freshest product available on their face, their body, etc. Otherwise you are talking about plastic. We want customers to have as close to natural as possible.
Are you doing this all on your own? Do you have helpers?
I have an amazing team right now. There’s no way I could do this on my own, it’s gotten way too big. I have an amazing team of women who are here day in and day out, they keep me organized and they keep me sane. I have a team of three women and we are pretty much it. As the time comes and it becomes too much, I will add people, but I like to keep it slim.
How have you gone about growing your business to the point of having your own shop in Vint Hill?
I never foresaw that Simply Pure Products would grow to the point it’s at now. I don’t have a marketing degree, I have an English degree, and I like to do research, that was an easy transition, just researching and learning ingredients, the how-to part of creating the products … but marketing did not come easily to me.
Facebook has been a huge help to me. When you create a Facebook group, and you start having followers, Facebook analytics will show you where your audience is and where we should be aiming. Not everyone is interested in all natural beauty products, but if they are searching for All Natural products, then we have exactly what they are looking for.
Facebook was huge for researching our demographic. Then we tied our Facebook data into Google Analytics to see what is working out the best for us. Getting feedback from our customers, and word of mouth is huge for us.
How did you go about growing your fan base through Facebook?
It started out with my family. I wished that it had gone faster. I know there are companies through which you can purchase fans, but I didn’t want to be that kind of company. I wanted people following me who weren’t real fans.
I’ve seen companies that started after us, and they have a Facebook page and then all of a sudden they have 2,000 fans, and so I know where that is coming from.
Yes, it looks good to outsiders to see all those fans, but if you did that, your fans would not be your target market.
Exactly, that’s where you are going to get the most interest. When you know that your customer base is real, you know that the interest you get is genuine. We have in our customer base people with cancer, people who are battling every day for their lives, some who have won and some who are still struggling with cancer.
And we have people who have skin conditions that doctors have not been able to help So when people come to our page and share their experiences with our products, and then when people see genuine happy customers commenting on our Facebook page, and see questions and answers that are relevant to them, they know there is a place to come where they can get true answers. It’s not muddled with people who aren’t true fans.
We also love giveaway contests on Facebook, and we love just playing with our customers, just giving them one on one fun. Our customer base is pretty much 25-45 years old. A lot of them are moms who are looking for ways to make better health care decisions. They like to play on Facebook, it’s some downtime for them, so if we can give them a great time, and help them have fun, then they tell their friends and it works for us. Facebook is where we give away our best coupons.
I’m looking at your Facebook page now for the giveaway trivia contest, and you are asking, “What should you never use on your face, and especially your eyes?” and it looks like you’ve added a link to a page on your blog, where you can educate people.
The link that is there is for the product we are giving away. I never give them a link to the page they should be looking for because the goal is to have them all over our website, going page through page through our website.
So kind of like a scavenger hunt — people really need to read your content to find the answer.
Yes, I give them clues in the question, so they know, I’ve got to aim for the eye .. but I want them to be looking around our website too.
What about paid facebook advertising? Do you use it?
I tried that initially and I wasn’t happy with that. It was impossible because you have bigger companies out there and what I do is such a competitive market, and I need to hit where I know I can be successful.
Are you relying on your own fans to spread the word for you then?
At this moment I am, because you know they bid for spaces on Facebook, and I can’t compete with Revlon and L’Oreal. They have all the keywords loaded and ready to go, and I can’t be paying $38.00 for every time our name pops up (in paid Facebook advertising).
So yes, we rely a lot on word of mouth, and we have companies contacting us from all over now. We are running a deal next month with a company in New York City and they want to send samples out to their test market. They work with a fitness guru who works with Dr. Oz, so it’s getting yourself out there.
If you are willing to do the footwork and if you are willing to sit down for hours and hours in front of a computer, just spreading the word about who you are and what you do, getting into chat rooms and telling people that there is a better way … every little thing helps. Doing your research, finding out where your target market is, hanging out online, and then letting people know, “We are here.” And it is making sure that your website is optimized. Some of this comes painfully slow, but I do believe that slow and steady wins the race.
So is that where you are spending most of your marketing dollars these days … online marketing?
I have found over the past couple of years, trying to balance it all, that you can’t do it all, but when it comes to driving traffic to your website, there are companies out there that can do it for you, but at the end of the day, you are the only one who can write about your business.
Find out what SEO is, how it works for you, and exactly what you need to be doing and write for yourself, because you are the best one to promote your business.
I am passionate about my business! I just think that we can save lives by sharing information and that is my goal and that is my passion.
When we started all natural — and this is where my passion gets stored, and came from — for my son, and I saw very quickly that there was no way that we could afford to maintain our lifestyle, and I saw how unfairly the deck was stacked against us .. you know, just as a normal median-income family, that there was just no possibility for us to make that switch, I knew that something had to change.
And so when we created Simply Pure just to set us apart, that was the goal. If we are going to do this, then it has to be affordable for as many people as it possibly can. Our goal still is to reach a million people rather than make a million dollars.
We remain true to that. We had to increase our prices for a short amount of time because our costs began to skyrocket, but when our costs went down, we dropped our prices back down. We really want people to make that push to all-natural and we are doing the best we can to reach as many people as we can with that.
How does your email newsletter fit into the mix for you as a marketing tool?
We use Constant Contact and we collect as many email addresses as we can. We are very responsible with it and we are very respectful. I love how Constant Contact lays that out for you. When we do a show or a festival and are out there talking about our product, we always offer a great product giveaway if you join our email list.
We also ask people if they would like to host a party in their home so we can introduce you to our products.
So you do home parties too?
We do occasionally. It’s a great way to change lives. If you can sit in a room with 8-10 women and one-on-one explain to them why all natural is so important and show them what they have been using on a daily basis that has been linked to so many horrific health issues, you can change a life just sitting in a room talking with them and giving them your time.How many festivals do you do each year?
This year we are building back up to it because the last few years we spent a lot of time learning about branding and getting our online presence better known, so we only do about three festivals a year. The Warrenton Spring Festival is phenomenal. It’s just a great festival. It is fun, it is done so well, and I think it is well organized.
And I love to do Christmas ones. They are just fun. And it’s a great way to introduce not just the person who is buying your product but also the person who receives the product as well. So those are pretty much my main avenues. I don’t like to do a lot of stuff in the summer because our products are fresh and they are heat sensitive. The Occoquan Festival is a great festival.
Tell us about some of the products you are promoting this summer season.
Well, it has been all over the news recently how sun screen is actually harming us and causing dangerous health issues like lymphoma. The recent news has been helping us tremendously, so we can’t keep our sun screen in stock now.
We offer a fantastic sun screen and we use sesame oil, shea butter and zinc oxide and those are all natural sun protectants. It gives you great all over skin protectant for all ages, especially babies where you don’t want to be using chemicals. It is not waterproof, it is water resistant, but it smells wonderful. We use an all natural scent blend in there and it is a great product.
We also have an all-natural bug spray. If you look on the back of commercial bug sprays there are always a skull and crossbones there. It is a pesticide that you are spraying on your body. It is a very dangerous neurotoxin. You have to be very careful. They tell you just to spray it on your clothes, not your skin. So we have a wonderful bug spray that is a combination of essential oils but is not oily on your skin. It is fantastic. This is a phenomenal product and I am totally excited about it.
If people want to order your all-natural sunscreen and bug spray, where do they go?
Go to SimplyPureProducts.com and just read through the website. It’s more than just shopping, it is learning. We want you to be armed with information that will help you make better choices for your life.
What are your showroom hours?Our showroom hours are Monday – Thursday and Saturday, 10 AM – 3 PM.
Can people just drop in?
Yes, just drop by. There is always someone here. Tuesdays are the best days to find me there. We are at 7134 B Lineweaver Road in Warrenton, Virginia. We are right behind the Vint Hill Craft Winery, Door Number 18. It is a little bit difficult to find. We did not expect the showroom to be as successful as it is, so we chose a spot at Vint Hill where we could keep our overhead low so we can continue to put out a product that is affordable for all.
Click Here for Directions to Simply Pure Products Showroom
Who did you deal with at Vint Hill to find your space?
Ike Broaddus. He is a really great guy. He is understanding and patient. He knew where he wanted us to go because he knew our goal.
I do honestly believe the best thing I can do for this company is to stay debt free, and that is not always business friendly. So I try to keep that a non-negotiable point. And it does lend more to the slow and steady growth.
At the end of the day I want this company to stand because it is an amazing company, not because we are throwing money at it. I want to build a strong steady company that I can hand to the next generation. We want to show our daughters that if you work hard and believe in what you do, it is well worth the effort.
Where do you see yourself being in five years as a business?
I didn’t see this happening five years ago, so I have no idea. I don’t so much have a business plan, as I just hang on and see what’s going to happen. It’s been fun so far, I have a great business plan and am working on that. We are trying to follow it the best that we can.
Did you get professional help developing your business plan?
Yes, Jamie Gorman at Sigma College of Business helped us develop our business plan. It’s understandable, it is flexible, and he is available to answer questions and he has been very good for us. He knows our goals, he knows we want to remain debt-free and he works with that.
At what stage in your business did you decide you needed professional help and decided to get a professional business plan?
It’s just been one year. For the first four years of our business, I just kept wondering, “is this really going to happen?” From the first year to the second year we grew 50% and from the second year to the third year we grew 50% and that was during a period of recession. But I kept thinking, “there is no way that this is real.” For a new company in the third year of being in business, we were in the black, which was beautiful. So last year when we decided to take this to the next level and get our showroom and give the business true viability, I realized I needed a stronger plan. I needed someone who could look at our finances – or lack of finances – and tell me “do you think this is something that can succeed?” And if we were going to succeed, how should we go about it? And we also needed an exit strategy, if I needed to step out, because you don’t know what life is going to throw at you.
So, Jamie was very informative and he said that at any given point you need to be planning an exit strategy, because that helps you grow your business. It keeps you in the mindset that “I might not be here tomorrow.” And if I am the only one who knows my business, and other people are involved, then I have done them no favors. So I need to have everything laid out.
I thought I had it all ready to go, I thought I was organized and had the bull by horns. But Jamie showed me all the holes in my plan. And we are still working on it. So Jamie has opened my eyes to where we can go, because of where we have been.
Are you seeing a measurable difference in your business since you started implementing your business plan?
No, it’s still too soon because all the holes in our business, we still needed to plug. We have spent the better part of the past year and a half getting branded, building a better catalog, building a better website, and setting up a marketing plan that we could proceed with using our social markets which are free. You just have to be willing and ready to put the time in and do the legwork.
One of the best books I’ve read about that is this tiny little book called Crush It.
What the author — Gary Vaynerchuk — did was take a wine business and make it some place where I would go. I don’t want to get dressed up to go wine tasting. I want to go in jeans and a t-shirt. So he showed me that I could run a business according to my personality, because people don’t just buy a product, they buy you.
Have you thought of using video, the way Gary Vaynerchuk does?
I really have and a lot of people — potential investors — are telling us, “We want a video.” It needs to be done. Everyone I’ve spoken to says we really need to be doing that.
I think video would be great for tutorials, because not everyone knows how to put on a mineral foundation, or a mineral eyeliner. The first few times you do it, it’s a big mess, but once you learn how to do it, people love it and never go back. So yes, I do need to do videos, but there are so many things that are more pressing right now.
I also was wondering if you used someone local to do your branding for you?
Yes, I really believe that going local with as many things as you possibly can is the backbone of our country. And the branding is a gift from God. I have an amazing customer, her name is Carrie Foscato. She has her own graphic design business, Carrie Foscato Design.
She called and she said she really wanted to help us, and she has done all of our graphic design, so we have brought her on as part of the team. She does all our graphic design for us and she is really gifted. She developed our logo for us and she is amazing.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Just that I love what I do, and I want to share it with as many people as possible. And I do honestly believe that a small change can change the course of your life. For us, it has changed the life of my son. He doesn’t deal with what we were told he would struggle with for the rest of his life.
If you try hard enough and if you don’t ever give up, you can change the course of your life and you can change the direction of where you are headed. Doctors don’t always know 100% and we need to take charge of our health and take charge of our own future!
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