A sustainable take on economies of scale, and the new normal with wholesale.-Eryn Hughes, Owner of Trail Botanica LLC
We don’t often see small businesses leaping the hurdle from side hustle to millionaire. We also don’t see a lot of folks flipping their business in front of investors on Shark Tank. So, what exactly are the goals of an entrepreneur launching a product or startup?
TLDR / Spoiler alert: you’re probably going to finish this blog post with more questions than you started with. Asking oneself the question of responsibility is at the crux of growth. While I remain committed to maintaining a safer space for others, I can only speak from my own lived experience.
Treat yourself the way you treat others.
At first glance, it might sound familiar (i.e. Golden Rule), but its actually the other way around. In addition to a t seems to be a challenge for those who work alone, in the field of healing and/or self care. Part of my personal development includes always taking classes to increase my knowledge and then share with others. As a trained wilderness first responder, I learned some valuable boundaries and indicators for preserving life for others until medical help would arrive. If I’m the one in need, it can be difficult to apply that gauge to myself when I am wearing the business owner hat. I learned that empathy can be the moral compass that bridges identities between self and business persona; I am learning to create a place that I think should exist.
Don’t sacrifice quality.
This was a mantra I’ve always kept as a primary purpose, but became even more apparent when I became injured. I was caught offguard and asked myself, “What would I do if this happened to _______?” If this had happened to them, I would immediately adapt the work environment and support my own healing so that I could get back to filling societal duties. That is when the realization that I wasn’t treating myself the way I thought people should be cared for. I don’t really consider it a mistake, but it was certainly a learning experience that I will continually revisit as my business grows and changes.
Reevaluating boundaries seems to have been a worldwide theme through the pandemic, as well. Early on, I had decided to stop doing public events and I just haven’t been able to come to terms with making concessions for others’ safety in favor of my business. Even before this stage, I had worn a mask for personal protective equipment (PPE) because of exposure to chemicals, caustic and intrusive. So, it isn’t uncommon for me to be wearing a mask inside my production studio, because it’s not just airborne viruses that I am need to protect myself from. I have considered that it’s really a laboratory here, and if one frames their perspective with that lens, it could inform best practices.
Best practices are how we hold ourselves accountable to a metric, and in my business, a triple bottom line. About half of revenue comes from wholesale (selling to brick and mortar retailers around the country), I am faced with new, strategic challenges including with how and whether to navigate international trade, but also how to honor existing retailers so that they can also continue to grow, without alienating direct customers that I continue to serve on my website.
Through the pandemic most retail operations have come to develop an online presence, if they didn’t already have one. Back in 2014, a retailer specifically asked me if I would honor a territory restriction, including online. They didn’t have an online shop, but I do [hint: its this one], so we agreed to acknowledge the superior rights that my own, direct website would have. I established minimum advertised prices (MAP) in the context of manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRP), to prevent uncooperative competition and they became a steady source for in-person referrals when I didn’t have a local event. It worked then, and for now, it still works but I have to wonder if that will be changing.
The latest challenge is that I need to maintain that territory restriction policy that every retailer since then has agreed to, while still growing my business. I continue with this practice, because of the long game of sustainability. It protects my business from third-party misbranding, unauthorized medical claims, and unfair competition for everyone. It also protects the consumer from unknown storage conditions, misleading advertising and inauthenticity. By wholesaling only to retail brick and mortar storefronts with commercial addresses, my policy ensures that the product represents itself accurately and is priced fairly for the overhead costs associated with experiential customer service. Lastly, this online territory restriction is also better for my competitors in cosmetics manufacturing, as they won’t have to be as concerned about my tiny brand overwhelming search algorithms and displacing their content.
Lastly, my business has applied to ONE holiday event this year. If my business’ application is accepted, I will embark on the journey to create a new, safer space for shopping my business’ products in person. If the application process proves that we need room for other makers in our community, I will redirect my energy to new point of sale merchandising materials for retailers in 2023. and brainstorm ways for local pickups to be a thing again. And in either case, I will continue my education of plants and our coexistence with them to bring into the products I create in my business.