I am really enjoying reading all these responses from so many successful women in business during Female Entrepreneur Week. Today I am with Vicki who is all about soap. I have seen so many photos of her gorgeous creations and process over the last year and I know she works super hard with her business, her family and her home. You can visit The Soap Mine to read all about making soap or you can head on over to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
- Who are you and What’s Your business?
I’m Vicki, and I own The Soap Mine. I make and sell luxury handmade soap, and give demonstrations and presentations on making soap.
- How would you define a female entrepreneur?
I’m not entirely sure a female entrepreneur is any different to a male entrepreneur in essence. I think anyone who creates a business, a means to support themselves and perhaps employ others, is an entrepreneur. Add into the mix parenthood however, and I do think there’s a huge difference. A male entrepreneur who is a parent will usually (though not always, I realise) have a partner doing the lion’s share of the parenting. A female entrepreneur who is a parent more often does not. Juggling a young family and a growing business can be really difficult, especially if you can’t or don’t want to rely on paid childcare.
- How would you define success?
For me, the ability to contribute significantly to the household income is a measure of my success. But so is recognition. Recognition that I am good at what I do, and that I’m a strong, capable woman who is in charge of my own future – I don’t rely on anyone else (oh, apart from my wonderfully supportive husband!)
- What is the best thing your business has done for you?
Does it have to be one thing? Firstly it’s given me an income. I gave up paid employment eight years ago when I had my first child. I worked in an advertising agency and the hours were long. The job I did would have been difficult to do part-time, and full-time hours were long (think regular 8pm finishes). So I gave it all up and became a stay-at-home mum, and our monthly household income fell quite significantly. We managed, but it’s nice now to be able to be putting something back into the pot.
Secondly it’s given me so much confidence. I do everything myself, from making the product, wrapping, labelling, marketing, photography, blogging, branding, accounts – you name it, I do it, and it’s been a huge learning curve. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way! But you only make each mistake once (hopefully) and you soon come to realise just how capable you actually are, and it’s empowering. Five years ago I never thought I’d have the confidence to give a presentation, demonstration or talk to a big room full of people, but now I do it on a regular basis, and even better, I LOVE doing it!
- What was your lightbulb moment? When did you really decide to commit to your business idea and start making it a reality?
I started making soap as a hobby, which very quickly turned into an obsession. But it’s not the cheapest of hobbies (if, like me, you want to experiment with EVERYTHING!), and when I, my family and my friends had more soap than we could possible ever use, I began to wonder whether I could start selling it. I did some research and went for it, initially only hoping to earn enough to be able to continue making it. In 2014 we moved home to north Wales from Manchester, and that’s when the business really took off.
- What keeps you motivated?
At the moment can be tough. I’m getting busier all the time, but until my daughter starts school full time in September I can only run the business after 4pm on weekdays (when my husband finishes work) and at weekends. This means that all day Saturday and almost all evenings are spent working (although I always take Saturday night off) and there’s not a lot of ‘family’ time (which is ironic, given that that is why I went down this route in the first place) But even so, I don’t really suffer from lack of motivation very often – I absolutely love what I do and I know (hope!) that things will get easier in September when I have more time to devote to the business.
- What has been your proudest moment?
Again, there have been many. I feel proud every time I see my products displayed in a shop (I’m in ten retail outlets now, and hope to expand to many more after September) and when people tell me how much they love using them. I also feel very proud every time I’m complemented on giving a great presentation or demonstration.
- What do you enjoy doing for fun?
Hmmm, you’re assuming I have time for fun lol! I enjoy running, and always find going out for a run makes me feel better if I’m having a bad day. I’m also currently in training for my green belt in kickboxing. On a slightly more sedentary level I love reading (but always wish I had more time to do so) and anything to do with linguistics or languages – I’m learning Russian, just for fun. Saturday nights are usually spent at home, watching a film, eating something delicious cooked by my husband.
- Who inspires you?
I’ve thought long and hard about this one, and while there are many inspirational people out there, one particular person I admire is Sara Blakely, who invented Spanx at the age of 27, and is now a billionaire mother of four who continues to run her company (no doubt with a lot of help these days!. She set up the Sara Blakely Foundation to help women with education and training and she was the first female billionaire to sign up to Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffet’s ‘Giving Pledge’ which encourages the world’s richest people to give at least half of their wealth to charity. I have huge respect for women who achieve positions of power and success without being a bitch or trampling on others to get there.
- How do you pull through a bad day in business?
Head down, keep going, ‘This too shall pass’. If it’s been particularly bad then pulling on the boxing gloves and having a good ‘n sweaty kickboxing session usually clears my head and has me smiling again.
Thank you so so much Vicki for taking part in this little piece! Please do head on over to The Soap Mine Blog and give her a little love!