Punching Pride in the Stomach

4 years ago

You know what's awful? Failure. Admitting the whole idea was dumb, I just don't have the ability, no one would buy it anyways, and I should have stuck with what I knew.

It would be catastrophic to bet my life (because time is life) on a dumb idea.

But every entreprenurial idea is based on a lot of assumptions, and you know what they say about assumptions: they make an ass out of u and Umption (whoever the heck Umption is).

The basic assumption is that if you build something, people will want it.


Credit Image: © Globe Photos/ZUMAPRESS.com

Of course, I was totally certain that people would want whatever I was selling. Otherwise I wouldn't waste the time even entertaining the idea. But when I dug down to the endless fountain of insecurity that I keep locked in my stomach, I had to admit there were a lot of other soap companies who made a lot better soap than I ever could. Ever.

Don't tell me I'm wrong. I know it.

I'm not a soapmaker (and at that point, I hadn't even made a single bar). Some people have been making soap for their whole lives. The Soap Queen (referenced yesterday) will always make higher quality and probably even prettier soap than I will. And she sells it. So I have to figure out where my soap is going to make it all big time, where as you might not have even known about her before this minute.*

But not only is The Soap Queen out there, there are more than 93,000 (NINETY THREE THOUSAND) results for "handmade soap" on Etsy. Plus there are about a million other places online that sell soap from ecommerce sites, not to mention the fricken' grocery stores are filled with the stuff.

At this point, many entrepreneurs would feel the market was saturated. It's soap. People know where to get it. Problem solved.

One thing I've learned from working at Oprah is that just because one person (or 93,000 people) are doing something doesn't mean a new person can't come along and do it totally differently and change the world.

How many books are there in the world? Probably more than 93,000. J.K. Rowling didn't seem to be bothered by that. Because we each have our own unique contribution that we're capable of making in a way that is fully unique to us. I bet each of us even breathes slightly differently. So as long as we're true to ourselves, our contribution wouldn't be just like someone else's. That would be a physical impossibility.

What makes my soap company like no other soap company in the world?

First, I'm not bound by "how soap should be made." Because I don't know how to make soap. Is this an asset? Sure! I'll probably try things that no other sane soapmaker would try (ask me how I got the nickname "The Oppenheimer of Soaps").

Second, I love people. I really do. I want everyone to succeed. I want everyone to live their best life.**

Third, I think it's possible to change a life through small actions. One of my mottos is "no matter what happens, you can always go outside and have a cup of coffee in a tin cup." Think of the implications of that. If your boss just screamed and threw something at you and you trudged back to your shitty cube and felt like crying, you can always stand up, put coffee in a tin cup, step outside, close your eyes, and be somewhere else (trust me.... you may say you don't have time for it, but you totally do). And I think everyone is entitled to this.No, really. People dressed up like me for my birthday. It was funny.

Fourth, people like me and I am blessed with amazingly loyal friends. For my birthday this year, nearly 50 people dressed up like me (see photo, right... that's me in the middle looking terrified). They totally support me.

Fifth, I have a unique style. I know my style and it comes off on everything I do. My soap will have my style.

But how does that make a unique product? I wrote down the general idea: rustic, rule-breaking, humorous, western, gritty, authentic, outdoorsey, fun, affordable, and high quality.

And then I went looking for other people in my market. Soap Queen is awesome, but not rustic, humorous, western, gritty, or outdoorsy. Villainess is practically all of my market, but is prohibitively expensive. Man Hands is rule-breaking and humorous (not to mention very press-friendly), but is gimmickey and not high quality (and expensive). Rocky Top is authentic, outdoorsey, and gritty, but they're not humorous or rule breaking. Aromaholic is rule-breaking and humorous, but they're not outdoorsey or rustic (not to mention they are quite narrowly focused).

Supermarket soap is really easily accessible and affordable, but none of the other things.

I could go on, but you get the idea. There are many "competitors," but none that are just like me. And the fact that there are so many competitors indicates that there's a market for this stuff. There's no question that people can make a living off of soap.

Let's not forget that I don't know how to make soap.

(A friend of mine pointed this out quite early on.)

To me, this is not an issue. Either I enjoy making soap (and I'm good at it) or I subcontract the soapmaking to someone who does enjoy it. As we've established, it's not really the quality of my soap that makes my company unique.

As it turns out (and this is THE BEST SURPRISE EVER), I absolutely ADORE MAKING SOAP. It's my calling. If you read my post from yesterday, you know that soapmaking is badass, artistic, and highly spiritual for me.

People are getting soap from somewhere already. Would they switch to my soap?

I have no idea. I really don't. That's a leap of faith.

I started asking friends what they thought of the idea, and 90% of them immediately responded that they'd buy my soap, so I started a Facebook page to see if people who weren't my immediate friends would be interested.

Turns out, they are. They like my attitude, my journey, and my posts. People are sharing my posts and other people are liking Outlaw Soaps even though I haven't personally begged them to.

So then... it comes to actually making a product. This is called the Minimum Viable Product -or- Making Soap out of Bacon Grease from a Camping Trip...

* and you might feel like I am sending people over to her that would have otherwise been my customers, but let's face it... if someone was going to be her loyal customer, they should be. I'm not here to hide that other soap companies exist. That would be an exercise in futility.

** and you may think this is just some Oprah brainwashing crap, but fuck you. It's my philosophy, too, and it's a good message. Don't be so damn cynical.***

*** It may surprise you how much blowback I get from liking and working for Oprah. Turns out a lot of people hate her just for being successful. WTF is up with that? I want everyone to be as beloved and insightful as Oprah and recognize themselves for it like she does. And so does she.

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