How A Hobby of Making Homemade Shampoos Turned into a Business
I had the pleasure to talk with Ursula Johnson CEO and Founder of LoveThisHair.com.
What is your “Backstory”?
My professional background is a registered nurse. I’ve worked in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, medical offices, and most recently home health. In home health, I spent most of my time talking with patients about their medications, diet, and nutrition and disease process and provided strategies on how to cope or get better.
Because of my knowledge of how different medications, food and physical activity can affect the human body in different ways I began to wonder how the products we use on our bodies and in our homes might also be affect our health and well being. I began formulating cosmetic products such as face creams, hair conditioner and shampoo about 10 years ago as a hobby and to be more in control of what I was using on my body.
I think making my own potions was a natural extension of my passion for healthy cooking. I realized that there is was much garbage out there in the food and beauty industries posing as “healthy choices” that the only way to be sure was to make it yourself. This way you could know for sure what you were putting into and on your body.
What inspired you to start your business?
When I first started making products, I made lots of batches testing out different ingredients and formulas. My friends and family all knew about my homemade conditioners, shampoos and creams. I often made more than I could ever use myself so I was happy to share it with those around me. I’d plop the product into Glad containers and give it to away to whoever was interested.
In no time, I had plenty of takers who were happy to try my stuff out and give me feedback on whatever I had made. Pretty soon after that people were giving me their empty shampoo and conditioner bottles to refill with my product too! Word spread and many people suggested that I should commercially produce my hair care formulas and sell them. It was this encouragement that inspired me to take my hobby more seriously and look at the potentials for a business.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
As a small business, you want to create a target market and focus on them. You can’t be all things to all people so get comfortable with that first and understand that not everyone is going to want what you have including some of your close friends and family.
Provide a great product and/or service every time so they want to do business with you because your product is exceptional and you are nice to deal with. Make the customer look forward to seeing you because it’s a pleasant and positive experience.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
I consider myself to be more of a creative and people person so the grunt work of filing taxes and keeping up with registrations is the hardest part for me. You have to put yourself in a different mindset for a few days when you do that part of the business. I much prefer dealing with customers, following up on new leads, and thinking up of new product ideas.
Another big challenge has been dealing with manufacturers. I wish it was as easy as place an order, write a check and receive perfect product every time. Delivery dates are often not met for one reason or another. Quality control issues can also come up that ultimately wind up costing me more money to fix in order to ensure that the product contents and packaging are correct.
As an emerging brand, I don’t have room for “oopsies” and the “damaged goods” that are quite common in the manufacturing process. My products must be “on point” every time. As a result, I’ve had to work closely with my manufacturers who understand my requirement for consistently high quality and are willing to make the smaller batches I need. When they can’t I’ve had to move on and partner with someone else which can be disruptive.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
My best piece of advice is starting a business is like having a baby so get ready for it to take over your life! Like a kid, your business can be unpredictable, time consuming and, at times, an exhausting endeavor. It can be a source of pride and a source of grief.
Not to mention it usually comes with upfront expenses that you hope will pay off down the line and make it worth the work and effort. So why do it?
If you find you have identified something missing in the market that is a passion for you, something that people are willing to pay for and you are willing to do it even if unpaid. You also have to be level headed and have grit, determination and self-confidence to pull it off. Being focused and being consistent will give you momentum and produce results.
What are your “5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Business”
· Running a business is like having a child.
· Being an entrepreneur can be an exhausting and unpredictable endeavor as well as a great source of pride and grief.
· Launching and running a business can be an expensive proposition.
· Being levelheaded and having the grit and determination are the keys to success.
· Being persistent and staying focused are critical to growing a business.
Who is your role model? Why?
I don’t have one particular person as a business role model but I enjoy reading about and getting inspired by ordinary people who can identify a need in the marketplace, exploit it and go big. People whose businesses are “disruptors” and challenge the current industry model and standards. I do admit though I get jealous sometimes when it seems some people find success rather quickly.