This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Christy, the business and beauty maven behind the brand KBShimmer.
LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
Christy: When I met my husband, I was amazed to see that both his parents had owned their own business for years. For me, my parents had worked at the same company for years, and they expected me to do the same. But I saw my in-laws heading to craft shows, and selling online and I was in love with the idea of working for myself. I started with making candles to sell at their shows, but set that aside when my daughter was born. Years later, after walking into a Basin store and realizing what type of products I did want to make and sell, KBShimmer was born. It has now been 7 years this August and just like my in-laws did, my husband and I both work full time at KBShimmer, and we employ three others.
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Christy: We create fun, colorful products that help brighten your bath and beauty routine. From colorful soaps, to sparkling polish, our shop is a rainbow of goodies.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Christy: When I got started, I wanted to be the next Basin, a better Lush. I loved making bath bombs, and though that they would be my best selling products. I thought I would offer soaps and scrubs just to round out my shop. Little did I know how much hard work bath bombs were, and more importantly, they were not my best seller! Little did I know that my business would take a whole different direction in a few years. Today, I still offer soaps and lotions, but nail polish really is the focus of our business!
LBC: Walk us through a typical work day.
Christy: I don’t really have a typical day, as one day I could be working on product development, the next working on restocking bath products and making soap, or on our website and product photographs. My husband works with our wholesale accounts and makes a lot of our polish, so he spends most of his day on those things. Generally, for our employees, they spend the morning packing orders. Then, when orders are finished, they help bottle and label anything that we have made, be it polish, scrubs or soaps.
LBC: What are the some things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Christy: 1.How are you going to afford your business? Are you going to finance yourself, borrow, keep working? A lot of handmade makers I talk to are surprised that sales don’t come rushing in when they first open their shop. And how much money it takes to keep a business running when sales are slow. It could take thousands of dollars to purchase supplies for testing and stock, and months to start making any of that back. Having a plan in place for what to spend upfront, and how much it is going to cost to keep your business running is important.
2. What is going to make your business different? When there are thousands of shops providing similar products, what will set you apart and how is that difference going to attract customers? When starting our business, I knew right away that I wanted to focus on bringing color to handmade. When I started, many of the bath and body companies in my area focused on more natural looking products. By bringing color into my product, my company stood out. Then when I moved into nail polish, I made it a goal to run my business like I would expect the larger companies to do; keeping products in stock at all times so that customers could shop when they wanted, not on my schedule. At that time, it was common for other Indie nail companies to release products in small batches, at scheduled times. This was frustrating to customers, and not what I wanted to do. So, I knew that as soon as I could, I needed to build inventory and keep supplies on hand to restock product when it sold out. That meant putting out more money upfront to ensure I had stock at all times. Now, my customers can shop when they want, sales have increased, and I find it much easier to plan out months ahead.
3. Can you separate your business from your personal feelings? Especially in the handmade industry, it can be hard to think of your product as just that, a product. Not a reflection of yourself. When in business, you have to be able to make decisions bases on money and growth, not on personal feelings or xyz product being your favorite. For me, that is the hardest part. At the beginning I took every critique to heart. Now, I realize that it is OK if someone does not like a scent or color. Everyone is different, and so are tastes. Separating my feelings also allowed me to step back and discontinue products that even though I love, took more money and time then was good for my business.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Christy: My Husband. Jason is not only my husband, but also my business partner and the one that keeps me grounded. I tend to obsess about details and focus on the negative; he is always there to remind me of the bigger picture and how blessed we are.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Christy: Taking LBU with Lela. Really. Lela has a way of making you look at your business and see what needs to be done. I have taken both the Wholesale class and the GMP class. Even though I have been in business for almost 7 years, I learned so many new things from Lela and her classes.
I also think hiring people to do the things where I am weakest was a great decision. As a small business owner, it is easy to think we have to do it all ourselves. But hiring an accountant and an assistant to handle bookkeeping and emails has been a godsend. I know that paperwork in not something I enjoy. And since my husband was handling that with me, hiring that out has freed both of us up to focus on product development and sales.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience.
Christy: One of the biggest obstacles in our business has been finding supplies for nail polish. We have dealt with shortages, bad product, and being on the forefront of Indie nail polish, and we have had to work hard sourcing supplies, testing glitters and colorants, and figuring out how to work efficiently. I never knew how easy I had it with bath and body products. Suppliers told us how fragrances reacted in soap. Heck, we have suppliers that sold soap supplies. In the beginning I had to make many calls to get bottle companies to sell to me in bulk. We had just one supplier selling polish base. And forget about any cosmetic companies knowing if their colorants, mica and glitters worked in polish. I don’t even want to think of all that we spent in failures; we had a huge R&D budget the first year. Now we have several sources for polish base, there are shops that focus on polish supplies, and we have many companies to choose from. It took a lot of work, lots of emails and phone calls from many more then myself, but now nail polish is being recognized by suppliers along with soap and body care supplies.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you’re particularly passionate about?
Christy: We have been working with Toys For Tots for three years now. We have created a special polish for the past three years, and a portion of the sales has gone to purchase toys for our local chapter. With a young daughter, choosing a charity that she can relate to and participate in shopping for the charity has been a joy. It was important for us to choose a charity that our donation would directly impact, and we have had so much fun shopping for toys with our daughter.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox you can’t do without?
Christy: The first two are both books by Marie Gale. Good Manufacturing Practices and Soap and Cosmetic Labeling. These two books are essential for any bath and body business in my opinion. I refer to both frequently. The third is Facebook. I know: how can a social media site be a essential recourse? But I have been able to connect with so many other small business owners through groups like the Indie Business Network, The Handmade Soap and Cosmetics Guild and other related groups. Bouncing ideas off of people in your industry, having mentors online that can guide and make you think is priceless.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Christy: In a few years, I hope that KBShimmer will be a familiar name in households. I hope that our retail business will still be going strong, and that KBShimmer nail polish will be found in major stores and salons around the country.
LBC: Which Lucky Break products or services have you utilized and have they proved helpful?
Christy: Price-O-Matic has been in valuable tool for us. Using POM to really learn the costs of our products to the penny is priceless when it comes to making business decisions. I also think the GMP class was a huge benefit to us. We were doing a lot right, but the class really has helped us build our record keeping. Though it is a work in process, we are still pulling out materials to review.
LBC: Your musical play list is full of …
Christy: Music from decades past. The 60’s, 70’s and 80’s; hair bands, Michael Jackson, and Steve Miller Band are some favorites.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Christy: Salted Caramel anything. Right now it is Salted Caramel French Macarons that I get from an Etsy seller. Oh so yummy!
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loathe doing, what would it be?
LBC: Tell me a few of the places on your travel bucket list.
Christy: Hawaii, Jamaica, anyplace tropical really. Give me my Kindle loaded with good books, a cold Corona, and a beach, and I would be happy.
LBC: What is your best recipe?
Christy: I make a killer English Toffee. But if I told you the recipe, I would have to kill you, it is my back up business plan 😉
Thank you, Christy, for sharing your talent with us (and your love of delicious food)! We absolutely love your line and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for KBShimmer! We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!