Transparency from the Owner

eryn panther hollow trail

Want to learn how I navigated 5 giant hurdles for a small business, at once?

Me too…

Thanks for hanging in there friends!

This has been a wild couple of years and I’m going to say it out loud: I am not planning to resume commercial production of soap and cosmetics at any point in the near future.  With my recent rebrand, I wanted to focus on using art for environmental sustainability, but now I realize its more important than that and I can’t do it halfway. I want to be laser-focused here and be hands on with my activism. There’s more about that here.

While I have been continuing to ship inventory I made before the move – it’s ALL ON SALE using code SPRINGCLEARANCE for 25% off everything in store, including items already marked down. No local pickup options available

Inventory is low, but here are general numbers as of 4/10/2024 for your convenience:

30 Meditation Mixer soap bars
30 Woodsy Warrior soap bars
12 Forest Creature sunsticks

12 Warming Hut deodorant sticks
8 Bath Teas
5 lip balms

I am also interested in selling my equipment, and remaining ingredients to another maker.  Local pickup is available for those in the Pittsburgh area, otherwise I can ship anything that isn’t a large piece of equipment, at buyer’s expense.

How did we get to this?????? This is a question I have been asking myself often.

// 1) Social distancing for essential workers during the pandemic //1

In June of 2021, my business and industry – was positioned to be at peak production with 100 wholesalers and direct sales just shy of hitting 6 figures in revenue. I was hoping to get back to teaching soapmaking classes, vending at events, and traveling to trade shows, but in the meantime, I was happy to get soap to people in need and I was finally paying myself a living wage!

This was the first production studio that I cleaned up, painted and repaired after being an unused storage space for close to 50 years behind a Dry Cleaners. It always felt like a basement, difficult to heat or cool. This photo was taken by Jeffrey Krsul, during a demonstration in one of the soap making classes I taught there.

// 2) Relocation of commercial production facilities and 2//

That summer the commercial studio flooded and my first business’ landlord said he would not be renewing my lease in September so that he could dig up the floor to get to the potentially collapsed pipes. I was worried about finding a suitable place but responded with compassion to his situation. After searching for a couple of months, I saw a new commercial space with a green wall* that cost twice what I had previously paid. I knew the budget would be a little tight, but the business was growing and should recover quickly. After looking at a few more, I signed the lease at the space with the green wall because it fit my manufacturing needs the best.

// 3) Rebranding3 //

The NEXT DAY I learned that I would have to change my business name by the end of the year due to an antiquated policy that was not previously disclosed by the State’s business license registration department. After 8 years using my state-registered brand name and compliant with all regulations, I needed to rebrand and relaunch. I could see the public perspective on healthcare becoming complicated, and as cosmetics manufacturer; I didn’t want to contribute to any confusion. The timing was pretty bad, and the State kind of acknowledged their accountability giving until the end of the year to rebrand.

production new studio 7
This was the “new studio” I relocated to in September 2021, in East Liberty. I took great pride in optimizing physical workflow to maintain production and fulfillment turnaround and make the work enjoyable.

// 4) Injury, Surgery, Complications 4 //
Although I still wasn’t participating in public events due to the pandemic, I was completely reliant on social media, direct, and wholesale orders to maintain my brand visibility through the process. After I moved my studio in September 2021, I struck by a reckless driver while walking across the street in October. In just a few, short months, everything that felt normal had changed dramatically. I was still able to manufacture products as I started physical therapy, but my knee didn’t progress and finally needed meniscus reattachment surgery (more than a complex tear) in April 2022. I continued distribution while on crutches but during pool walking therapy began having an autoimmune reaction, seemingly exacerbated by my new office building chemical fumes. That year I had close to 200 medical appointments and I needed to reduce my hours further, consolidating shipping times to twice a week, so I could detox between days.

// 5) Inflation5 //

Increased costs hit many retailers I worked with, in addition to suppliers, and even my new landlord. These costs compounded and I delayed passing the increase on to my customers as long as possible. The new, second landlord sold the building unexpectedly and my business’ third landlord was increasing the rent yet again (totaling 30% from the time I’d moved in). Paying myself a living wage became a challenge, I opted not to renew my lease, hoping to find another space and avoid further toxin exposure along the way. I stopped purchasing new ingredients and packaging, instead using up most of it in an intense production schedule before my business had to move – my business had unexpectedly become a factory. I went to the Soap Guild conference and then an Artist Residency to rekindle my passions.

That brings me to today: I have not found the ideal workshop/studio, and I am not sure I want the limitations that come with a dedicated production facility. I haven’t manufactured anything since September and my inventory is finally in the very low numbers. I stopped selling wholesale, and turned off my Etsy shop (both of which were only intended to drive new traffic despite additional costs). I also have some odds and ends with equipment and ingredients that I am selling. My auto immune condition thankfully went into remission after I moved, and I was able to spend more time outdoors being involved in advocacy and stewardship again.

What’s next? I’ve been investing training in environmental advocacy and documentation for the last few years, completing a Sustainable Landcare Accreditation to take my stewardship to the next level and my artwork portfolio is in review for the Phipps Botanical Illustration Certificate. I’m excited about the possibilities! After the last of my cosmetics inventory is sold (hopefully by May?), I’ll be taking a short backpacking trip to document some rare plants in the Laurel Highlands and embark on my next career path.

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