Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

September 01, 2014

Re-evaluating Your Soap and Cosmetic Business

If you are a handmade soap and cosmetic product maker who is in the process of re-evaluating your business you're not alone. There are a lot of business owners re-evaluating their businesses this year. It's a common situation for small business owners - and if you are finding yourself in this predicament know that you are not alone. 

Some small business owners are dealing with life challenges and unsure how or whether to keep their business afloat. Others are unaware of their business’ profitability and coming to terms with getting honest and real about financials or closing their doors. You might know someone going through something similar right now. Or that person might be you.

Just to be clear, I’m not referring to everyday challenges that are part of being an entrepreneur. I’m talking about life challenges that rattle you to the core and stop you dead in your tracks. These struggles might be with family members, health matters, personal finances, blinders on business finances and/or a business that no longer serving you and your needs.

I went through my own personal struggles back in 2001 when I was a divorced, single mom trying to keep my business afloat. There were days when I didn’t know if I should give up or continue the fight. But re-evaluating my business and pinpointing my strategies helped me made decisions to reshape my life and business.

For some entrepreneurs, the choice to close a business is the right move. Every situation is different. My challenges brought out the fighter in me. Either way, there is no wrong answer – only the right answer for you.

I was recently talking with another entrepreneur and she made an interesting point of how many people launch a business for one reason – because it fits into their current lifestyle and vision for the future. But when vision and/or lifestyle change, there becomes a need for personal assessment to evaluate whether the business still fits into the plan. Her point may sound obvious, but I think we all need to hear it over and over again. Ask yourself “Is my business serving my needs and my dreams?” It make take some time for the truth to reveal itself. Be honest.

Let’s look at some reasons you may have started your business. We’ll call this the “then” moment:
  • Drawn to Entrepreneurship
  • Flexible Hours
  • Convenience of Working from Home
  • New Business Replaced a Lost Job
  • Extra Income
  • Sole Income
  • Enjoying Creativity and Making Product
 Now let’s look at common curveballs that could change the way your business is no longer working for you. I’m not implying that these are the sole reason(s) to quit your business. More on this in a moment. We’ll call this the “now” moment. 

Are any of these going on in your life:
  • Hobby Turned to Business – Now What?
  • Financial Problems
  • Divorce
  • Death of Loved One
  • Aging Parents Who Need More of Your Time
  • Children Who Need More of Your Time
  • Forced to Move/Loss of Workspace
  • Layoff from Primary Job/Income
  • Not Sure If Your Business is Profitable
  • Other Opportunities Are Beckoning You
Determining the distance between “then” and “now”:
  • Does the reason you started your business still resonate?
  •  What has changed between the “then” and “now”? How big is the gap?
  • Are there other opportunities that excite you more than your soap business?
  • Can those opportunities be combined with your soap business?
  • Does your business no longer serve you?
  •  Is your business no longer profitable? 
Next, ask yourself what solution(s) can you put in place to help you keep your business? 
Does it make sense to put these solutions in place vs. closing your business? 

This may not be a quick answer, but hopefully it will start a thought process within you to gain insight into whether you should move forward in your business or think about new opportunities instead.

Look to Strategy for Simpler Problems

Sometimes problems that seem insurmountable can be easily fixed. For example, if you need more time in your life, perhaps you are trying to do too much yourself. Can you afford to hire employees? If you’re not sure about your business’ finances and bottom line then that’s an easy fix. You need to hire an accountant or learn Quickbooks to determine the profitability of your business – sooner than later. Or perhaps you’re burned out? Get clear on your reason for burnout by taking a few days off and getting away for a fresh approach. Determine what is causing burnout. Boredom? Overworking? Reach out to a mentor to give you insight in how you can change up your outlook and business operations.

Often it is too easy to think about the “right-now” aspect of our business, because we only see the results immediately in front of us. But what about the big picture? Do you have that big picture for your business as well as long-term goals?
Spend time for a few days envisioning what you want for your business. Where would you like to take it? What is your plan from taking it from here to there? Set goals and then develop an action plan to turn them into reality.
Advice on Moving Forward

If your wounds are new (such as divorce or death) it may be time to put your business on hold to care for yourself or a family member. Maybe you’ve already come to terms with closing your business, but open to starting a new venture either at a later time.

For some soapmakers, talking about your business challenges to a mentor is all you need to get you and your business back on track. Be sure to consult with those who are in the industry or have solid business background and are themselves successful, not someone just giving lip service. When you ask for advice, listen. Be open to constructive criticism that can ultimately lead your business to success.

Lastly, put your ego aside to make decisions about your business. Forget what others might think. Forget how it all “might look.” This is about being honest about how your business is affecting the quality of your life. Closing a business is not about failure. It’s about making a decision that is right for you. Most importantly, it’s not a an end, it’s the beginning of new dreams, opportunities and ventures.

What are ways you have re-evaluated your business? What decisions and actions did you find helpful?
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