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Student Spotlight: Alyssa Wise Taylor of Blue Hoot Soap Company

Blue Hoot Soap Company's beautifully packaged soaps.
The following is an interview with Alyssa Wise Taylor, owner of Blue Hoot Soap Company.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born and whatever else you'd like to share as to how you got to this point in your life?

I was born in New London, Connecticut but I grew up in Acton, Massachusetts.  When I was a kid, I was into art...I spent a lot of time drawing.  I considered being an art major in college but chickened out...the whole starving artist thing.  So I ended up majoring in marketing at UMass Lowell.

As a young adult, I really got away from my art, I had a career in marketing communications at a couple high-tech companies...Not exactly my dream job, but it was steady.  It wasn't until we had our second baby that I got back in touch with my creative side.  I started taking watercolor classes one night a week, and the light went on.  I didn't realize how much my creativity defined me as a person.  But once I opened that door again, the creativity came fast and furious.

After we had our third child, I quit...and I thought, when I'm ready to go back to work, I don't want to go back to corporate scene again.  That's when I started thinking about starting my own business.  I'm one of those people who enjoys working alone, I'm creative and I have practical business experience.  My marketing background is so useful to me, especially with my branding. So my path has been a crooked one, but now it's serving me well.
Alyssa Wise Taylor of Blue Hoot Soap Company

2. How did you get interested in making bath and body products?

I've always been a bit of a soap freak, there's something about the weight of it in your hands, it smells incredible and of course, it is beautiful.  Soap was always the thing I would buy on vacation or in gift shops.  So I told myself one day I'd learn how to make it...and I did. 

3. When did you launch your company?

Blue Hoot Soap Company launched in February 2010. I named my company for my late grandmother. She was a feisty, independent woman and she loved owls. When she passed, I inherited one of her owl necklaces with blue lapis eyes. I thought the name was a terrific way to honor her spirit.

4. What do you sell? What sets you apart from other bath and body companies?

Blue Hoot's Body Scrub
Well to start, plain and simple, I make fantastic cold process soap.  I don't cut corners with my ingredients, each variety is made with 85-95 percent organic oils.  I use a lot of olive oil and shea butter.  I use pure essential oils and I play with blending scents and natural colors.  But as far as what sets me apart, I have to say my branding and packaging really make my soaps stand out.  Customers repeatedly tell me how much they love the name of my company, my logo and how I package each soap.  Of course these things only take you so far, it's the soap itself that brings them back for more.  Some of my other products include scrubs, lotions, creams, body butters, and my all natural baby skincare products.

5. What course(s) did you take with Marla? Which were your favorite and how did they benefit you?

I took Marla's Bath and Body University.  Soaping aside, the classes opened my eyes to a new world of bath and body products...many of these products are made with the same ingredients I use to make my soaps.  It really made sense to offer more than just soap to my customers and now all of my products sell very well...particularly my whipped organic shea butters and sugar scrubs.

6. What is your favorite part of running a bath and body business?

So many things...I love using my business as a creative outlet...I love the pure and meditative process of soap making.  And finally I love making all my own decisions...it's so liberating!  I've seen so many cases of too many cooks spoiling the brew.  Now if I feel like something will work, I just go for it.  

7. What is your least favorite part?

Oh, the accounting, definitely.  It's a necessary evil, but once you get a system down, it's not so bad.

8. What are your biggest challenges as a small business owner?

Probably the juggling..we have three kids, 5, 8 and 10...and although I can make my soap at home, I also need to get out there and market my soap.  So that part is tricky.  But my family is so supportive...and my husband is my biggest cheerleader.  My plan is to ramp up the business slowly as our kids get older...eventually get a studio space with a storefront...but right now I'm savoring the time with our kids and grateful I've got this little business going on the side.

9. When you have free time how do you like to spend it? Hobbies, sports, travel, etc.?
Watercolor by Alyssa Wise Taylor
I spend most of my free time with my family. But I'm also a painter.  Since July of 2011, I've been a member artist at a cooperative gallery, Art on Main Gallery in Westford, Massachusetts.  I paint mostly with watercolor, occasionally pastels. Another challenge, finding time to paint!  I really want to do it all, and I don't want to give anything up.

10. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with other small business owners?

I wish I had something more original to say, but the truth is you need patience.  Don't get discouraged if things don't happen overnight. Just take the first step if you are passionate about something, then take the next one after that.  Second, connect with other small business owners...we all have so much in common, and we can learn so much from each other. 

Note from Marla: Thank you, Alyssa. I love your story, your products, and your branding. Three kids and time to do all of this - I'm impressed! And I know your grandmother is proud of you too.

If you've taken classes with us, email Marla to be featured on Student Spotlight.

1 comment:

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