This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Scott and Margi Higdon of Ms. Betty’s Original, a line of bad-ass soy candles that the couple manufactures our of their Woodbridge, Virginia workshop. Welcome, Scott!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Scott and Margi: This entire business started off as a creative gift to our friend, Betty. She was the recipient of the first Bad-Ass Bitch candle, but it took us several months of her encouraging us before we decided to actually sell that candle. However, once we did, it was an instant hit. We knew after the first holiday season that we were definitely on to something big.
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Scott: I can honestly tell you that in the beginning, we were not sure, and it was more of a ‘let’s see how this goes’ and not really a detailed plan. One thing that we have focused on from the beginning was staying true to the sarcastic nature of our initial product. We want people to see our products and laugh, then say, “This is pretty cool, and I want to get this,” or, “I want to get this for my friend.”
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Scott and Margi: We create funny, sarcastic, and overall great products, but we also create an experience for the consumer. The experience is their interaction with the product and the person for whom they are buying. We receive great stories and feedback from our customers of how they gave the product as a gift and the recipient’s great reaction. Some are very funny.
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Scott and Margi: Since our initial launch in August 2013, we have grown quicker that we ever expected. Right now, our main selling venue is through Etsy. We have expanded our availability through several retailers across the United States, as well as into several international locations. Our largest retailer was Urban Outfitters in 2014, and now in 2015, we have partnered with Brit+Co. That exposure has increased the interest in retail accounts and has led to fielding retail inquiries almost daily.
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Scott: A typical day starts with going downstairs, turning on the wax melter, loading it up for the day, reading over any emails, checking inventory, and printing off orders. In between, we have to wash the hundreds of jars, order supplies, and answer inquiries throughout the day. The next thing is to actually fill the orders. This takes the most amount of time, but we want to ensure the products are packed properly and we also hand write notes for every order. Then in the afternoon, I load up all the orders and off to the local Post Office to drop them off. After that, it’s back to the basement for several more hours of filling orders to go out for the next day. The day usually ends around 9 or 10 p.m. – or later, during the holiday season.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Scott: 1. Know your audience and competition. I researched the candle business, what was important to consumers and how our competition handled these issues. We purchased candles from some of the leading candle companies on Etsy. We analyzed how long it took, the quality of the product, their communication and packaging. We adjusted our expectations and processes based on this research.
2. Know the total cost of your products before you post publicly. This was one area I should have focused a bit more on. I was not properly accounting for shipping or production time; those have to be included or you are shortchanging yourself. When you start to price your products for wholesale, pricing becomes even more important. You should calculate both wholesale and retail prices before you launch.
3. Know how much time it takes to complete an order. Setting expectations for the customer is very important. I believe it is better to say it will take 5 days to process an order and then do it in 3 days, than to say it will take 3 days and do it in 3. Why? Because you are exceeding expectations when you ship the product out 2 days earlier than they expected. It conveys a positive experience for the customer. If you are doing this part time, it is even more important, as you have to balance the business with your daily life and other priorities.
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Scott and Margi: Sometimes when we are overwhelmed, we stop and take a break. It allows time to refocus and reflect. The reflection is reminding ourselves that we wanted to do this and now just because it is successful, do not get frustrated, but rather be happy that it is successful.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Scott and Margi: The best business decision has to be going with the Etsy platform to sell. We had many options, including our own site, but using Etsy exposed us to many groups that would have taken a long time to find otherwise. In addition, Etsy is where Urban Outfitters and Brit+Co. picked us up.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Scott and Margi: Not having confidence in our initial launch. We were running the business week-to-week and not planning for long term. We kept thinking the orders would eventually stop, but they didn’t. After the initial holiday season in 2013, the orders dropped off, so we thought, “Well, that was fun.” Then in mid January 2014, things went haywire, and we didn’t know what was happening. The orders were flooding in. We finally realized that Buzzfeed featured one of our candles as a “Top 25 Gift Under $25.” We played catch up and had to waste money to express some of our supplies. We were pulling all-nighters to keep up with the demand.
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Scott and Margi: We use GoDaddy bookkeeping for our invoicing; Google has been a lifesaver in scouring the web for the best sources of ingredients; and of course, Etsy.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Scott: I would like to see our company grow out of the basement and into a large commercial location that will allow for an increased capacity from automated production equipment. We do almost every step by hand; mixing, washing, melting, labeling, etc. We also have several other brands we are looking to launch.
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Scott and Margi: There is really no specific playlist, but Pandora is tuned to the Chill Out or Lounge Mode station throughout the day. It’s relaxing, but occasionally a funky song will come on that gets things moving.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Scott: Double Stuf Oreos. Keep them away, or – I promise you – the package will be emptied by the end of the day.
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loathe doing, what would it be?
Scott: Unloading the pallets of 50-pound boxes of wax and moving them to the basement. Yes, that certainly is the most unpleasant part of the job. My back reminds me the rest of the evening.
LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?
Scott: I tell my college-aged son, “Be a leader and not a follower.” I have been telling him that since he could understand me. Whenever he is faced with a tough decision, I remind him that he is a leader, and to do what a leader would do.
I also absolutely love The Holstee Manifesto. It is certainly a keeper: “This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often.”
LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?
Scott and Margi: Without a doubt, St. Jude for their cancer research and care of patients and their families.
Thank you, Scott and Margi, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Ms. Betty’s Original. 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!