Real World Stories from the GMP Trenches

Lela Barker

I recently threw open the doors on enrollment for my GMP (good manufacturing practices) class, designed especially for beauty brand owners. Yesterday, I offered a quick tutorial on the nature of GMP and highlighted some of the often overlooked benefits that entrepreneurs enjoy when implementing a cosmetic GMP program. Whether you create nail polish, body scrubs, handmade soap, hair care products, or bath goodies… GMP will be your new BFF if you’ll roll up your sleeves and dig in. I’ve had the privilege of teaching my GMP system to hundreds of artisan makers over the last five years, and I asked a few of them to share a few tales from the GMP trenches, highlighting how changing their manufacturing regiments has impacted their business.


gmp blog post_aubrey

What was the biggest surprise when you started digging into GMP regulations?


I didn’t realize how much headache could be saved in the event of a recall by having systems in place. Small businesses sometimes don’t think about that, but we have recalls and batch issues, too. I didn’t “appreciate” just what GMP could do for me even though I’m a smaller business.I always thought that was for the big guys!

– Kriste McNamara of Tilvee


Just HOW MUCH goes into that simple little “batch number” stamped on the side of a box. It is waaaay more than a fun fact of how many batches you’ve made since the beginning of time!

– Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS


My biggest surprise was how detailed and specific GMP regulations are. In fact, looking at the regulations as a whole feels completely overwhelming and untouchable until you break them down into tiny bites.

-Cindy Hanson of Cindy’s Suds


It was a lot more work than I imagined, but Lela did a really great job of explaining it and providing forms to follow. As a creative this was one of the more difficult steps in my maker business, for me.

-Kara Book Brown of Waxing Kara



How has locking down your manufacturing protocols affected your
confidence in the business?


It’s something that we are proud of, everyone in my shop takes this process and their role in this process very seriously. It is a professional way to run a maker business. For us, it’s the only way.

-Kara Brook Brown of Waxing Kara


It has given me confidence that I’m doing the best for my customers and if there is ever a problem, I’ve got the necessary info at hand to make necessary decisions.

-Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS


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I feel confident in not only the quality of my end product but in my ability to pull any batch and retained sample and know all about the inner workings of it.

-Kriste McNamara of Tilvee


How has standardizing your manufacturing standards poised the
business for growth?



By having our SOP’s firmly in place, we can add and grow our company, even if we just need seasonal help. In addition, it is very important to potential new stockists to see that we have put the foundational work into our business by establishing GMP. It gives them a lot of confidence in a small business like ours when we can trace back every single ingredient and lot number to its origin.

-Cindy Hanson of Cindy’s Suds


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Which singular piece of GMP thinking or practice has proven to be
most helpful for you?

The Standard Operating Procedures. No doubt about that!

-Kristie McNamara of Tilvee


The most helpful priority has been to remember that our first responsibility is the safety of our customers. If we ever needed to, we have the ability to trace back every single ingredient, source or manufacturer to ensure that we could quickly and easily locate the problem.

-Cindy Hanson of Cindy’s Suds


Having two sets of eyes on each step. Accountability is a big part of this process.

-Kara Brook Brown of Waxing Kara


Were there any unexpected benefits of tightening up your GMP ship?


My employees felt more confident and it reduced errors in production. Batches are more consistent. I guess that wasn’t completely unexpected but I had not thought about it like that going into the class.

-Kristie McNamara of Tilvee



gmp blog post_cindy

I lost someone on our team very early in this process. She handed me the work that she did on our GMP and told me “I can’t look at this one more minute” that’s when I knew— she was not well suited for the job that she was hired for. I see that as a benefit!

-Kara Brook Brown of Waxing Kara


What advice would you give someone who is just beginning their GMP journey?


I would tell any maker who is a hobbyist to take this class as early as possible because it will get them in the right direction early. There are too many folks out there making products in their kitchen, not following GMP. It’s probably the most important aspect of making products today for the future of all makers.

-Kara Brook Brown of Waxing Kara


No matter how small you are, implement the systems. Just do it. You’ll feel more confident, have fewer errors, and you’ll know the in’s and out’s of your business better.

-Kristie McNamara of Tilvee




Don’t try to “do it all”, at least not at first. Take in the information with an open mind, and then prioritize. Dive into the most critical parts first. Over time, you can fill in the details.

-Aubrey Miller of REDUDSUDS


I have two pieces of advice. First, realize that GMP will feel very overwhelming at first – because it is! Lela said it will take most businesses a year to get it all down. Go with that. Second, have someone from your team do GMP with you. I had my head assistant go through the GMP class with me and it was very helpful to have both of us recall and review the information together and really helped us stay on task.

-Cindy Hanson of Cindy’s Suds


How did Lucky Break’s GMP class help guide you through the process?


As in all that Lela does, she first of all made it feel possible. Step-by-step, she breaks things down into digestible pieces and gives you specifics for implementing. Her worksheets and templates are my favorite part. There’s no way I would have been able to organize, understand, implement and execute GMP without this class. Therese that saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”. That was me. Now I know and there’s no excuse!

-Kristie McNmara of Tilvee


Lela did a marvelous job breaking down very complex (and dry) rules created for huge corporations into digestible pieces that are do-able for a small company. Without her guidance, this process would have been tedious, overwhelming, unapproachable, and frustrating.

-Aubrey Miller of REDBUDSUDS


I wouldn’t have been able to break down the details of GMP without Lela’s class. GMP is so intense and overwhelming! Thankfully, she breaks it down into bite-size, doable steps. Seriously worth every single penny.

-Cindy Hanson of Cindy’s Suds


I did not have any formal education in GMP. We created our GMP process during this class and the year that followed. Without this class, I would have gotten pieces and parts in the various classes that I have taken, but not the full understanding. I believe that taking this class in advance of going through certification will have any serious maker prepared and certified without incident.

– Kara Brook Brown of Waxing Kara





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 a maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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