Indie Offers Tips and Insights For Going Strong Despite The Economy
Last week, I received in the mail a lovely surprise box of goodies from IBN member Susan Mann of Manor Hall Soap Company in Springfield, Massachusetts. Susan recently introduced a whole new slew of products. I tried some of them and they are great. More about that later.
What intrigued me most was that, while so many people are whining about the economy, Susan is introducing new products. It prompted me to invite her to share her secrets for expanding in tough economic times. Here's what she said.
dM: They say it's a tough economy right now, yet you are launching new products? How so?
Susan: My company has continued to grow steadily over the last four years, and launching new products as the seasons turn has consistently been a part of that growth. I see no reason to change it now.
Some products may be seasonal, where I like to bring new scents into popular lines, while other products may have been twelve months or more in the making. I have a yearly budget for new product development, and this has worked really well for me, whether the economy is good or bad.
As for sales, whenever economic times are tough, people seem to turn to affordable luxuries, and that's what I offer.
My sales have not been affected by the present economic climate. If anything, they've increased! I have a loyal customer base, and I set time aside each week for marketing and PR, so I attribute my growth to those factors also.
There's a very interesting thing called the "Lipstick Index," which summarizes findings by the chairman of Estee Lauder that, during less than favorable economic times, sales of lipstick rose while sales of more expensive products declined. I think this is very encouraging for Indies everywhere who, like myself, are in the affordable luxury product market.
dM: I know you launched a blog earlier this year. Is that figuring in too?
Susan: The blog is going well. I really enjoy the connection to my customers. I'd had a What's Happening (behind the scenes) page on my web site for nearly a year when I realized last May that it could be done even better with a blog.
I took inspiration as I watched the Indie Business Blog develop, and in July 2007, I made my very first blog post. Blogging is a convenient way to inform my customers of special sales, free shipping and new product information.
I also use my blog to tell my readers a little bit more about different natural ingredients and why I use them. I try to keep it varied, giving home recipes and beauty tips, too. Of course, the blog is also a great way to show a little of what goes on behind the scenes. It feels good to make a batch of soap, and then upload photos to the blog.
dM: Where do you get the ideas for your products? What's your inspiration?
Susan: My ideas come from the ingredients themselves. I love natural ingredients. I love that they are so simple. I love that you can put plain yogurt on your face and feel so incredibly lifted afterwards. That simplicity, that feeling, is what I want in my products.
That's what I set out to do with each and every product I make. That's my inspiration. That's Manor Hall.
dM: What do you think of the draft legislation that could be enacted at the FDA Globalization Act of 2008?
Susan: I did sign the Petition. I started Manor Hall four years ago with a liter bottle of olive oil and a few ten dollar bills. If this law had been in effect, my company would never have been a possibility.
The same story of humble beginnings can be heard from many Indie business owners. If passed, this law would stop any aspiring Indie from starting a business, while bringing many existing others to their knees.
In its current form, the law would force me to jump through bureaucratic hoops and cost a great deal, leaving me to o face up to a rearrangement of the business I've spent four years building. The proposed act has to be looked at again and the unfairness throughout needs to be addressed.
After years of working hard, it reads more like a penalty for being in this business than regulation. I've signed the petition in the hopes of having our voices heard.
dM: What do you love about being Indie?
Susan: I love the freedom to be myself. But being Indie isn't necessarily about being alone. Indie business owners form part of a larger movement. I believe we are trend-setters.
Ingredients I was using two years ago are now flashed across commercial products as the bigger companies get on board. Indie products aren't conceived in board rooms, or large meetings. They are born out of creativity and response to customer demand.
As an Indie Beauty Network member, I can still be myself while gaining the benefit of sound business advice and opportunities. The Indie Experience weekly newsletter continues to be instrumental to my own growth as a business, and as a business woman. The Indie Media Leads Program has presented me with opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have had, and Indie Business Radio is a definite must for Indie ears.
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