Welcome back to Steffanie of Old Town Suds, my very first blog sponsor – and instead of doing “just” a sponsor post for the month, we decided to feature her with a small business spotlight Q&A, as well as a giveaway!
Steffanie is an Alexandria, VA-based “sudsologist” who I was fortunate enough to meet through my blogger meetup last winter. She’s also a member of my unofficial handmade business group, and is running her business from her rented apartment.
Q: When did you launch Old Town Suds, and what inspired you to start your own eco-friendly soap company?
It was a slow progression. I was already making my own laundry detergent at the time because everything that was commercially available turned me into a red flaky lobster. Then, I had to have brain surgery. Several months at home, nothing to do and contemplating how your choices effect your health led to Suds starting at our local farmers market in September 2011.
Q: You live in an apartment. How do you fit your production studio into your space, and what are your tips for running a handmade product business out of small and/or rented space?
It is difficult. We’ve moved once since I started Suds. When we moved, we specifically looked for a rental that would help accommodate a growing business. We have a storage unit with our apartment that is priceless. You have to be flexible, but I think the flexibility is more on the part of my husband than me. I tried to kick him out of his closet in December – true story.
We came up with a compromise that I would move my soap closet from the small hall closet to the office walk-in closet to give me more room. Plus, I use unique features of our place for storage. Above the fireplace (that we don’t use) we have a nice cutout for a square TV from the 90’s which won’t fit our nice modern TV. So, it is a giant soap curing area.
I really wish we had a basement or a shed or a garage or something but I know that will come as the business grows. I think there has to be a strategic decision made as to when you are too large to efficiently run your company out of your home; for each person that is a different point.
Q: Like me, I know you work a 9-5 “day job” in addition to running Old Town Suds. How do you balance it all, especially in the summer when you’re doing weekly farmer’s markets?
It’s hard. Most days I come home and take a nap while my husband cooks dinner. After dinner, I start working on Suds. It is easier because I can mostly leave my day job at my day job and focus on Suds when I am at home, but every so often business trips will interrupt my schedule. I love being at markets and talking to people about my products. Nothing makes me happier that hearing that someone loves what I spent so much time working on! Markets rejuvenate me for my day job. I find that what I do market wise for both helps me succeed in both places. This year, I expect that I will be hiring my first employee to help with production and markets. That will help alleviate a little pressure, hopefully!
Q: What are the most awesome parts (and the biggest challenges) of your business?
The most awesome parts are the people, the opportunities and the creativity. There is nothing like owning your own business. I only have my success or failure to blame on myself. (granted the husbands do get picked on a lot for helping out)
A challenge is when I am at my day job and in an extremely creative mood but my job doesn’t call for it at that moment. I hate wasting it and want to be at home making soap or doing something productive.
Some days, I just try to battle through it and hope that the mood lasts until I make it home; other days I will leave early or call in. It is a fine line, a very fine line. I’m lucky in that my new full-time job allows me to use a lot of my creativity at work in different ways. It sparks different ideas and helps me think differently about what I would or could do with Suds. It’s always a giant puzzle.
Q: Where do you envision Old Town Suds going as it grows? Do you want to continue it as a side career or do you hope to someday?
Every day this answer changes depending upon my mood and frustration levels with having a full time job and a side job. I want to keep doing whatever makes me the happiest and fits my lifestyle. If that is opening up a teaching/retail space, I have the plans set to do that. If it means remaining a market booth, I can do that as well. I hope to continue to strengthen Suds no matter what direction I choose to take it in. I want to be flexible and opportunistic
Q: What are some of the newest products you’ve been developing lately?
We have a LOT of new things in the works! This year we are expanding our beer soap line to include local breweries. We have a great micro brewery scene in Virginia and DC and I couldn’t resist using their fantastic beers in some soap. We also have a vibrant wine scene so we have a new wine soap line that will be debuting. Since I am a coffee fan, we have some new coffee soaps too!
Back this Spring will be a spa bath bombs featuring doTERRA essential oils. We also have a few new home cleaners in the works but they are still in the development stages. I am hoping they will make their appearances in 2013. I think my favorite new item though, is our new Fruit & Veggie Wash Soap! I am always trying to make sure my veggies are super clean before I eat them in any way. I don’t want any dirt or pesticides on my veggies!
Q: What’s next on the event calendar for Old Town Suds?
Our next event is the We Can Expo in Arlington, VA. It’s April 13 and is open to the public. There will be a lot of different women-owned business represented at the event. I think the neatest part about We Can, outside of that every business is woman-owned, is there are lectures, workshops and different demonstrations happening throughout the day. It isn’t your typical expo, art show or event. I can’t wait!
Where can we find you?
Shopping now? Use the code “ThanksJane” for $5 off a purchase of $25 or more in the Old Town Suds Etsy Shop!
- 1 80-load bag Laundry Detergent, 1 Bath Bomb, 1 Veggie Soap Bar
- 1 Bar Soap, 1 Laundry Detergent Sample