#HandmadeChat #37: Opening a Retail Store, Non-Profit Collaborations, Social Media Promotions

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.

This week's chat was sponsored by Essential Wholesale, the world's largest selection of natural and organic unscented cosmetics bases.

Roberta Perry and HandmadeChat Logo

Our guest this week was Roberta Perry, Scrubz Body in Bethpage, New York. On #HandmadeChat, Roberta shared her tips on opening a retail store, managing charitable and non-profit collaborations, and using social media and other customer-focused promotions to spread the word without breaking the bank.

Q1 WHAT IS SCRUBZ BODY AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT?

Scrubzbody is short for Scrubz Body Scrub, which was our first and at one time, only product. Since then, we have expanded to lots more, all based on the same 8 botanical oils we started with. Our slogan is “Softening the World, One Jar at a Time”. It really refers to our particular business, but more importantly, our philosophy of small business.

Q2 TWO YEARS AGO, YOU OPENED A RETAIL STORE IN THE TOUGHEST ECONOMY IN MODERN HISTORY. WHY?

We were selling wholesale, and retail online, and had grown out of my garage and home office. We needed more space to manufacture. As luck would have it, the site we found was a former chiropractor's office, and had spaces carved out, as well as a reception area. The store idea found us more than the other way around.

Q3 WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR OTHERS THINKING OF OPENING A RETAIL STORE THESE DAYS?

Do your homework! Be ready for all the hidden costs and issues, like alarm systems, and insurance and snow removal (if you live in an area that gets snow). Be ready for long hours and high start up costs. But also be ready for great customers that become like family.

Q4 TELL US ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS. WHAT DO YOU MAKE? WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR ITEMS?

Our most popular product is our first product, Scrubz Natural Sugar Scrub, a 4 in 1 product: Body Cleanser/Scrub, Facial Scrub, Preshave/Shaving Oil and a Moisturizer! All of our products contain the same 8 botanicals in different ratios, some whipped with other ingredients. We have Butterz, Balmz, Shavez Lipz and more.

Q5 TELL US ABOUT YOUR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS COLLABORATIONS

It started in the very beginning when we wanted to do something for charity. Breast cancer has affected many people I know, including a very dear friend, so it was the first choice in charities. We created a scent called Pink NYC which donates 50% of retail sales. We also co-host a yearly fundraiser with my friend Shari, herself a survivor. We raise for both Komen Greater NYC and women together fighting cancer (http://www.thewtfc.org). We have since added 3 other charities to our donation scents line, most recently “Awareness” which donates to Autism Speaks through “The “E” Team”.

Q6 WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR OTHER INDIEs CONSIDERING COLLABORATING WITH CHARITABLE CAUSES?

I recommend that you pick from your heart, and collaborate with organizations that make a difference locally. We chose Komen Greater NYC as opposed to Susan G. Komen for the Cure corporate because all of the money raised stays in New York.

Q7 YOU CELEBRATED SIX YEAR OF BUSINESS THIS PAST SUMMER, WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?

I love what I do on a daily basis. I love working with my sister, who has unbelievable ideas for marketing and retail. We balance each other. Trust me when I tell you, we have had many challenges and setbacks due to mistakes, both silly and unexpected, family and health issues, etc. There have been times when the business was merely treading water and not moving forward, but we never gave up.

Q8 WHAT HAS BEEN A BIG BUSINESS CHALLENGE, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?

Our biggest challenge was and still is this: “How do you market and promote your brand without breaking the bank?” It is a constant question and challenge, and here's how we meet it.

We use social media a lot. We have a buyer reward program for our loyal customers. We send weekly emails announcing specials. We have a refill program which is both good for the environment and our customers's wallets, as they refill their jars at 40% off.

We use bloggers reviews to get the word out to different demographics. We advertised in Girl Scouts magazine, which cost 1/4 of what the regional kids magazine cost in advertising. It has been a huge success for our “Make your own Scrubz” parties, bringing in Girl scouts to learn about skin care, as well as birthday parties.

We submit queries to reporters through HARO, trying to get articles written, as well as maintain contact with a reporter who did a story on us. Most of those don't cost much more than time and all have proven successful in their own way. Whew!

Q9 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS AND WHY?

I sign on to Pinterest and Instagram on occasion, and my daughter sends me Snap Chats, but I concentrate on Facebook and Twitter because they have the largest audiences and they reach our demographic.

Q10 IN THE NOT TOO DISTANT PAST, YOU LOST A LOT OF WEIGHT. HOW DID YOU DO IT? HOW HAS IT CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

I have been up and down my whole life. I will always be “working on it”, but the key for me was getting off a diet and onto a lifestyle. I like Weight Watchers in general, but mainly I eat cleaner and more balanced foods, and drink a lot of water. I exercise pretty daily. Yes, in a “perfect world” I could weigh 15 pounds less, but in general, I like me more.

Q11 TELL US ABOUT THE TIME YOU CLIMBED MT. KILIMANJARO. SHOULD WE ALL GO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN? WHY?

Yes! Always strive for the top!

It was truly life changing in so many ways. The mental challenge was greater than the physical one. It was a bonding experience for my siblings and myself. It was a chance to do something “once in a lifetime good”.

Also, seeing how the people in different countries live also is very grounding. I do know how lucky I am and how many opportunities I have had. Seeing how some of the rest of world lives reminds me to be grateful over and over again.

Q12 IBN STRIVES TO BE SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCE. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO JOIN ORGANIZATION LIKE IBN?

I like IBN mostly for the knowledge and the small digestible chunks of crucial information we couldn't possibly get all on our own. I also like it for the group support and sense of belonging. We are now selling Alegna Soaps products, and we met the owner, Angela, through one of IBN's #IndieMeetups. How great that we are able to support each other as local businesses. That is what the organization means to me.

More About Roberta Perry

Roberta has been an IBN member since 2008.

Roberta is the founder and CEO of Scrubz All Natural Sugar Body Scrub: four body care products in one! Roberta had tried many of the body scrub products on the market, and found that they were either filled with artificial preservatives and/or colors, didn't do what they promised, or the scents were not quite right. She tried making some herself, testing jar after jar on herself and her sister, Michelle Tucker. After conducting extensive research into natural based plant oils and how wonderful they are for your skin, Roberta and her sister launches Scrubz.

Visit their retail store at 541 Stewart Avenue in Bethpage, New York.

Connect with Roberta:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?

The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, February 14, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Marge Clark of Nature's Gift, Madison, Tennessee. Through Nature's Gift, Marge offers a wide selection of organic and wildcrafted essential oils and hydrosol, purity and quality tested and guaranteed, along with synergistic blends for skincare, physical and emotional balance. Marge is an aromatherapy expert and the author of Essential Oils and Aromatics: A Step-by-Step Guide for Use in Massage and Aromatherapy. She is also an online pioneer and she'll share some of her best online marketing tips as well as tips on using essential oils to beat stress in your small business. 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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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.