Having a natural products home-based business is a dream for many women. Oftentimes, just having a hard time finding safe products for themselves and/or their children will lead someone to look for alternative answers to finding personal products for their home and family. Amy Alamarmanazi, owner of UrthBeauty.com writes, “Necessity was the driving factor to starting my business. As I am getting older, I am finding that my skin is more sensitive and I started having issues like rosacea and adult acne. I needed products that I could trust to be pure and good for my skin. I know that there are a lot of others that face the same types of issues and I would love to have them benefit from the same products that have helped me. I have been handcrafting beauty products for a long time, but giving them away for gifts. I decided the next logical step was for me to start Urth Beauty.”
Some women were inspired by watching their grandmothers make soaps, grow and collect medicinal herbs, and craft healing balms and lotions, instead of simply buying them off of the shelves of the grocery stores or pharmacies. Whatever the reasons, many women carry that dream in their heart, but they also wonder if they have the knowledge, courage, and skill to run a home-based business either reselling, or crafting their own natural cosmetics and toiletries. In this article, we’ll explore some of the issues surrounding home-based businesses that focus on natural toiletries.
The first question that we will explore is, “Are you a good candidate for a home-based business”? What makes someone a ‘good candidate’?
First of all, you must have a sense of discipline. To work out of home means that you must be able to focus on a particular business task at hand, even if there are dishes in the sink, the insurance is due, and the living room is a mess. Sounds simple, but if you are the type of person that gets quagmired into household duties, and has trouble putting them to the side, then working out of your home may be a problem. Likewise, the discipline must apply to your work schedule as well. When it’s midnight, and you have to get up early for your day job, you need to have the ability to wrap up the day’s work, even if you haven’t completed everything that you set out to do.
Secondly, organization is a must. Can you set up a home office in a minimal amount of space? Can you successfully carve out a niche for your business that won’t overflow into the family area? Will you be able to tidy up from a day’s work so that it doesn’t intrude into times of the day when a partner, friends, or children want your full attention? The ability to run your business in an organized manner is an important one: without organization, your business can become a monster and can be quite invasive.
Thirdly, necessity can become your greatest motivator. If you are a stay-at home mom, a home-based business (run right), can be a wonderful way to create more income for your family, as well as give you another outlet for your talents. If you are in a job that doesn’t bring you much personal satisfaction, a home-based business can prove to be a creative and rewarding diversion, while again, providing that extra income that we all need. Another profile for an ideal candidate is someone that is disabled by illness, or lack of mobility. The internet has allowed people who couldn’t hold jobs in the past the opportunity to run a business from their home computer. E-bay, E-commerce websites, and other venues, are all avenues for someone to create income, who cannot work a full day out of the house.
What venues can you use to sell your products? This is one of the most pertinent and challenging questions that new business owners face? What venue will create the quickest income? How much does it cost to have a table at a fair. Can I sell to my friends or office mates?
Mattie Horsley, owner of Makeup-Junkey.com states, “I market to anyone who is interested in more natural makeup, I sell through the internet or individual appointments or makeup parties.” This is a typical approach for home–based businesses. Many women start off by selling natural products that they themselves like, to friends or office mates. Also common for crafters is that products intended for themselves get snapped up by family members and friends, until the seed of a business is born. Constant praise for handcrafted products is a confidence booster. Local crafts fairs, womens’ events, and health fairs, are wonderful ways to create an income in a short period of time. Always do research first on how many consumer there will be, and be familiar with the clientele before you set up a table. You need to understand their lifestyle, budget range, complexions (in the case of makeup), and the general theme of the fair. If it’s a farmers’ market, you can be sure that olive oil lavender soap will sell, but makeup may not do as well.
The internet is the gold boom or our age. People have become millionaires in as little as a year after launching E-Commerce sites, and it’s so convenient. All you need is a computer, and ‘viola’, you’re set! Of course, it’s not so easy, so how do they do it? If you are a one-person gig, and are not heavily financed, expect your sales to take off after years of hard work and little profit. That’s the unfortunate truth. You have to work very, very hard, and work very, very smart to make an internet site blossom into a real income. It’s a lot of sweat and tears, but it can be done. I run a wholesale division and truthfully, some of my biggest vendors do no internet sales. The focus on fairs, seminars, and trade shows, do some traveling, and make a very good living staying far away from a computer. But by the same token, I have seen some natural products internet stores take off at a pace that is astonishing!
Should you make your products yourself, or purchase them from a manufacturer?
What a loaded question! If you really enjoy making soaps, or working with mineral pigments to create your own cosmetic line, then you absolutely should make products yourself. Mattie Horsely says, “Creating your own makeup line is rewarding but it does take a lot of patience and work, make sure you know this before you get into it. I thought it would be easy, but after a year and I was still working on the products and colors, I learned that it does take a lot of work. It is such a great feeling though when you see one of your final products packaged up with labels from your very own company.”
On the other hand, if you make 100% of the products yourself, answer phone calls from customers, pack all of the orders, package and label the products, file the paperwork, pay the business bills, order the supplies…well, you get the picture. I hear women business owners lament all of the time, “ I’m exhausted!”. It’s no wonder. What is more sensible, in my opinion, is to make what you love to make, and make well, and then source the rest from reputable companies whose philosophies, ingredients, and company mission closely mimic your own. There is nothing wrong with this, and there is everything right with it.
Back when I had my first kiosk, and after a long fruitless search for natural skincare that I could sell to my customers, I began to make my own. I set up a lab in a warehouse next to my house, did tons of research, and burned the midnight candle formulating, testing, and reformulating. I came up with a limited range of high-quality, natural skincare products that I was proud to sell at my kiosk. Then I had a baby! When he was about six months old, I remember going to my lab one Monday (which was the day that I had tagged as, ‘skincare production day’). I made a batch of lotion for a local salon, and it didn’t come out right. I made another batch, and the same thing happened. I realized that as much as I wanted that salon to have my lotion, that my heart was no longer in it. I was managing my kiosk, training and supervising the sales staff, doing payroll, closing the cart down at midnight on the weekends, and crafting all of the mineral makeup as well (that was my favorite part!). There I was locked away by myself on a Monday, working Tuesday through Saturday at my kiosk, and leaving my baby, and my toddler with a nanny. Sure they were right next door, but I made a decision right then and there to find someone to craft my skincare line for me, so that I could have a normal life. It took some time, but I finally found a couple of small companies whose owners had the same outlook as I did in terms of ingredients and manufacturing practices. I have never regretted that decision, and neither have my children.
How can you set up a workspace from your home?
For a home-based business, this is a big issue. Suburban homes often have the luxury of a garage that can be converted into a lab or shipping area. A guest bedroom or the corner of a dining room can serve as simple office space with a computer, space for files, and a phone/fax. A finished basement is another space that can absorb the needs of a small home-based business.
If you are considering starting a home-based business, make a list of the items for which you’ll need space, including: blending equipment, raw materials, such as oils, waxes, pigments etc, work tables if you will be crafting your own products, shelving, a desk for a computer and files, a table for a phone, and fax, a work space for packaging and labeling, storage room for finished products…and the list goes on. Compare the available space in your home with your list, and decide if the two are a good fit. You may want to have your cosmetics storage or manufacturing out of your home, and run the sales and paperwork from a home office as a compromise.
If you are going to craft products from your home, make sure to use completely different utensils for your business than for your personal use. If you are making a lotion, and the spatula can’t be found, don’t use a spatula from your kitchen. It’s unprofessional, and unhygienic. Storage areas should be dry, clean, and relatively dust-free. Always consider if you were the customer. What would you expect from the company that you were buying cosmetics from? Then do the same as the manufacturer.
How can you maintain a balance between work and family?
As women, we know how incredibly difficult this can be, even when we work out of the home. We seem to be hard-wired to multi-task, and to be worried about everyone, everything, and all the time! My dear friend, and supplier Kimberly Platko of Geografx-Cosmetics.com, and mother of two adorable nine-year old twins has this to say after years of running her business from a lab attached to her home: “Try to establish regular working hours, and do not work beyond those hours, unless there’s an absolute emergency. A home based business tends to suck you dry, and follow you everywhere, so setting and keeping to a realistic schedule will help you balance work and home life. If you have kids, and they are home from school for the holidays, I would suggest hiring a mother’s helper, which costs less than a nanny. Since you are home, you can handle any emergencies, so the mother’s helper can be younger, and thus more economical. “
My brother, who is an artist, works from home, and his office is right smack dab in the middle of his home. His wife, also an artist, and his children, spend most of their time either in the kitchen/family room, or the playroom, within feet of his office. How does he do it? He has clear guidelines for his work day, and enforces the guidelines strictly with his children. I remember once arriving for a holiday weekend. I was there for about 45 minutes, and didn’t know that he was there, until he materialized from his office to greet me! He had been on a business call overseas, and couldn’t stop what he was doing. His office door was closed, so he finished his work day, and then “went home”. I found the expression funny, until I realized that that is one of the ways that he maintains that discipline that is needed to work from home. He leaves his ‘house’, and goes to ‘work’ every day at the same time, and his family respects that.
How can you separate your personal and business finances?
Kimberly Platko of Geografx advises, “I would suggest setting up a separate bank account for your company, and setting up a debit card for that account, so that you can purchase products online for your business. A lot of times, banks aren’t willing to extend credit to home-based businesses, so you need a way to be able to make purchases online. Keep careful records of any of your personal funds that you or your spouse use to start or maintain your business, and document repayment of the funds.” This is especially important if your spouse is officially or unofficially helping to finance your business by either paying some of your bills to allow you to use other work income, or business sales to develop your company, or by outright lending you money. If you’re not careful, this can become a black hole, and a source of resentment and frustration to your partner.
In conclusion, running a home-based business is a wonderful opportunity for the right person in the right place. Space limitations, personal characteristics and the strictures of family life can be a challenge, but need not be prohibitive. Many of the world’s most successful businesses started out as home-based businesses. A good example is Carol’s Daughter, one of the premier handcrafted spa care lines. Lisa Price, whom I had the joy of meeting, ran her business out of her Brooklyn town home for many, many years. It was only recently after Will and Jada Pinkett Smith invested in her company that she was able to move into a warehouse space.
Wise planning, tremendous dedication, and the inspiration of combining the convenience of home, with the satisfaction of an extra income can lay the foundations for a rewarding and lucrative business.