On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful personally and professionally. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
Tonight's chat was sponsored by SoapEquipment.com, soapmaking cutters, mixers and equipment to help your business grow!
Our guest this week was Lori Nova Endres, CEO of The Nova Studio, nestled in the San Francisco Bay area. At The Nova Studio, Lori offers classes on how to make so many wonderful things, including soap, mineral makeup, perfume, hydrosols, and eco-friendly cleaning products — and how to market those products to make money in your small business. On #HandmadeChat, Lori shared her tips on growing a destination learning location, and also, about how she hired her first employee — and how she's so glad she did.
Q1 WHAT IS THE NOVA STUDIO AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?
People worldwide come to The Nova Studio to learn to make soap and natural bath and body products. I started The Nova Studio when I made natural, handmade, practical, eco-friendly gifts for friends and family in 2000.
Our slogan is, “Teaching people to make natural bath & body products since 2003.”
Q2 IS DIY BATH, BODY, HERBAL CLASSES BECOMING MORE POPULAR THESE DAYS?
Yes. People are more interested as they learn more about the benefits of using natural products. As word spreads about how easy it is to make superior products, more people want to learn.
Q3 WHAT TYPES OF PEOPLE ARE ATTRACTED TO THE NOVA STUDIO?
People who want to learn to make their own bath and body products are attracted to us. This includes people who want to do it for fun, and people who want to do it for business.
Q4 THE NOVA STUDIO HAS BECOME A KIND OF “DESTINATION LOCATION,” WHY IS THAT?
Because we've been around (and in the same location) for 10 years, have proven track record. Most of our business is repeat customers who know we offer quality, they travel quite a distance to get it. When new people search for bath and body classes online, they naturally find us.
If we weren't a “destination location,” we wouldn't be in business today. Most of our customers live an hour or more away from us.
Q5 WHAT MISTAKES SHOULD PEOPLE AVOID IF THEY WANT TO OPEN A LEARNING LOCATION?
Don't avoid doing a business plan. Create a business plan.
Don't start with too many types of classes. Clarify your goals. Think things through. Try out classes in a location that doesn't have much overhead. It takes time to build a clientele. Don't get discouraged if only a few people come for your first classes. If you offer quality, the word will spread.
Q6 WHY DID YOU OPEN A TEACHING STUDIO RATHER THAN LAUNCH A LINE OF PRODUCTS?
When my inventory of supplies and products outgrew my house, it was easy for me to choose teaching. I had been drawn to teaching as a career years earlier, so it was an easy match for me.
Q7 WHAT ADVICE TO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TEACH CLASSES?
I advise adding classes as part of an existing business, rather than as a standalone business model. The reason you don't see many standalone brick and mortar teaching locations is because it's very hard to make a profit just teaching classes. You have to do other things like have a product line or host parties or special events.
Q8 YOU CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF BUSINESS THIS YEAR, WHAT'S YOUR SECRET TO SUCCESS?
A smart biz person would have probably quit long ago. Passion for what I do keeps me going.
Q9 WHAT HAS BEEN A BIG BUSINESS CHALLENGE, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?
It was a challenge for me to delegate and let go of control. But in order to grow, I had to do it. When the business finally grew beyond what I could handle alone, and I hired a full-time employee. Turning over a lot of the day-to-day operations has freed me to be with my new son. Delegating has helped me keep my business going strong while tending to my family. I like that.
Q10 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS AND WHY?
Twitter has always been a favorite; 140 characters is about all I have time for. I enjoy condensing things, and Twitter is so easy to use.
Q11 CONGRATS ON BECOMING A MOM RECENTLY, HOW HAS BEING A MOTHER CHANGED YOUR BUSINESS?
My baby is nearly 8 months old, so I work mostly from home. It's hard hard to work when he's at studio with me. I am so glad I hired a full-time manager. We work well as team. In fact, I support her, not other way around!
Q12 OTHER THAN DELEGATING, WHAT DO YOU WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD YOU BEFORE YOU STARTED?
I wish someone had told me to create a business plan first. I didn't do this until I was five year into The Nova Studio, based on advice from a business savvy friend.
I realized I should not have had classes in areas of other than bath and body. Now, I have a plan and a mission.
Making daily decisions is easier now that everything is filtered through my mission statement. A business plan helps me stay focused and avoid distractions. I highly recommend it.
Q13 IBN STRIVES TO BE SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCE. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO JOIN ORGANIZATION LIKE IBN?
No one is an island. We all need support and help to reach our goals. Our industry is blessed to have IBN and HSMG.
IBN offers affordable products liability insurance, industry updates, continuing education, and collaborative opportunities.
More About Lori Nova Endres
Lori has been an IBN member since 2006.
Lori is the founder of The Nova Studio, where you can learn how to make everything from mineral makeup to cold process soap. Her mission is to provide a creative space that encourages students and teachers to find and share their passion with others in the community. Lori is a sought after teacher and speaker and an award-winning soapmaker. In addition to The Nova Studio, Lori has taught classes at The University of Hawaii at Manoa, Foothill De Anza (FHDA) Community College, The Learning Annex of San Francisco, Juniper Tree Soap & Candle Supply Store (Berkeley, CA), The Native American Cultural Center, The Berkeley Ecology Center and others.
Connect with Lori:
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, February 7, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Roberta Perry of Scrubz Body, Bethpage, New York. After a few years selling sugar scrub to a growing customer base, Roberta expanded her line to include lip scrub, face and body oil, body butter and more, and all of the product names end in a “Z.” More recently, Roberta opened a lovely shop in Bethpage, New York, and has also partnered with local breast cancer awareness organizations to raise research money. If that was not enough, Roberta climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago! Meet this inspiring woman and get some of her best tips for retail, brand expansion, and fitness on this episode of #HandmadeChat.
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