Michelle Smith of MamaSuds, a creator of natural home care products and a member of the Think Tank.

Member Spotlight: Michelle Smith of MamaSuds

Lela Barker

I recently launched a new blog series, introducing you to some of the brands I have the honor of working alongside in the Think Tank, my mastermind for product-based brands. This community of savvy action takers inspires me every day, and I’m hoping that by sharing a peek inside their entrepreneurial journeys, they’ll add a bit more fuel to your fire, as well.

Meet Michelle Smith: a Michigan mom with a thriving business, creating natural home cleaning products for label-reading mamas and healthy living aficionados.

Michelle Smith of MamaSuds

How would you describe what you create?
We create truly safe household cleaners and liquid soaps without the use of synthetic ingredients.

In what year did you launch?
2012

Where can we find your products?
On our website, in small mom + pop shops (think general stores, eco-friendly boutiques, and zero waste shops) in all 50 states and Canada. We can also be found on UrbanOutfitters.com

What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?
My husband and my kids inspired me. I started looking into product ingredients after I had my first daughter, which led me to make household cleaners for my family. My husband kept telling me to sell it to people (I thought that idea was ludicrous!), and he made me a website. But it wasn’t until my husband had surgery to remove a brain tumor that I really decided to take the leap. I knew my products were important for people to use to create a safe and healthy home.

Walk us through a typical workday. 
The first thing I do in the morning is plan out my day. I check the orders that came in overnight and decide what needs to be made for the orders coming in and going out. The majority of the day is spent making or bottling products. Around 2pm orders are packaged to go out. Depending on what is going on with my kids I typically end my physical workday around 4pm. Then I usually check and respond to emails, check or make Facebook ads, and do any other computer work in the evening or late into the night.

MamaSuds natural laundry soap recently landed on the virtual shelves of Urban Outfitters.

Suppose you’re having lunch with a new entrepreneur friend who’s on the cusp of launching her business. She asks you to share an example of something you didn’t really think through when you first launched, but wish you had. What would you say?
I wish I would have purchased Price-O-Matic on the first day. Back then I had no idea how to price my products, and I thought I needed to price my products by comparing what people would be paying for in the grocery stores. I was working really hard and not making a profit the first few years. I remember hearing Lela on a podcast say something like “you need to think of yourself as an artist and price your goods accordingly”. It made total sense to me! Ever since I priced my goods using Price-o-matic, I am making a profit and bringing home a paycheck.

What was the best business decision you ever made?
I would say that my best business decision I ever made was investing in rebranding my business, but that rebrand would never have been a thought had I not had a one-on-one consultation with Lela. I was fumbling through my business, not knowing why I couldn’t get my foot into the wholesale market when I decided to get a consultation. It was a deep-dive hour where Lela gave an honest opinion of what I needed to do next. Based off that consultation, I signed up for her next semester of Brick House Branding. I learned how to hone into my MVP customer and- through the work in that class- I was able to easily convey to my designer what I wanted in a rebrand of my business.

What was the biggest stumble you’ve experienced in business, and how did you overcome it?
Social media was my biggest stumbling block in my business. I LOATHED sitting down and figuring out what to post, taking pictures, coming up with clever copy. I overcame it by hiring the very best social media manager on the planet: Verb House Creative. It has been such a game changer! Allie Nute is a word wizard and a photographer extraordinaire. She has studied my brand and my customer and all I have to tell her is what I am trying to say, then she words it EXACTLY how I was trying to come across. It gives me goosebumps when I look at my accounts and I can FEEL how I always wanted my brand to look. That is all Allie and her team at Verb House Creative.

"Toilet Bombs" are a signature MamaSuds product.

Name three essential tools or resources that your business couldn’t live without.
1. Price-O-Matic: I don’t make an ingredient purchase or pricing decision without plugging numbers into it.
2. Mailchimp: Having an email list is the most cost-effective way to get information to my customers.
3. Facebook Groups: Having a group of entrepreneurs who are going through or have gone through what you are going through is such an important resource. I’ve been able to ask questions, bounce ideas around, and get advice from women who have been there and done that. It also affords me the opportunity to give back with my experiences and knowledge I have gained along the way to others. My two favorite groups are the Think Tank, and The Indie Business Network.

Please share a recent win you’ve enjoyed so we can celebrate with you!
During the peak of the Pandemic, we successfully fulfilled a very large order for Urban Outfitters! It was quite a feat with the large influx of orders that we were experiencing at the time, and we learned a lot about how to read through contracts and policies.

How has being a member of the Lucky Break Think Tank changed your business?
The camaraderie and knowledge I have gained cannot be put into words. It’s such a diverse group of makers, each with such a different perspective and experience. I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill the Urban Outfitters orders without getting my hundreds of questions answered by fellow Think Tankers who had already been there and done that. I also would not have been able to scale the production of our Toilet Bomb cleaning tabs without the group! Who would have thought an organic chicken treat maker from across the country would come up with an idea that saved us HOURS of time making a product? (Thanks Dawn!).

Suppose we had a time machine. If we blasted ourselves forward a few years, what does your company look like?
I’ll be in a larger facility, and I will have a dozen employees helping make products for people all over the world.

Thanks so much for your time, Michelle! Craving more MamaSuds? Follow along on Instagram.

About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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