We were trying to get everything done in this really small space. We had all our storage of soap, all of our making of soap, and we had one little desk — this little, tiny desk — where all the shipping happened. We would have to move things out of the way to get a box out or sit down at the shipping station.
Then this space became available, and we were like, ‘Oh, well, we can do everything in this one space!’ My team was really excited about that because they like each other! They didn’t want to be isolated from one another.
It’s a little bit of a leap because it’s a lot more rent, but it’s been okay so far.
When COVID started and we had to shut our doors, there was a period of time when I thought we would be closed forever. Like, we were running numbers to see when we could cash out the business and be done because we didn’t see how, with cash flow, things could keep going.
But then we became the only place a lot of people shopped. It was the only place they felt safe to go out and about because we were super strict about masks.
And the people who spend the most money with us are the people who care about masks.
The other piece was that we really figured out ways to help people shop safely. We offered private appointments during Christmas. We did a lot of online stuff — two online Christmas open houses because Christmas is by far the biggest sales part of the year. We put a ton of stuff online, more stuff than we have now. I just threw it all up there. And people could just come to our back door and pick up, too. We became super flexible about how we could serve our customers.
We also pivoted with some of the offerings we had. We sold over $30,000 in masks last year which helped us stay afloat.
And then, when we opened back up in June, people came out, and they were spending.
The other piece is that we had a Black Lives Matter sign in the window, which was broken because of it. We actually started getting a lot of customers because of that, because we were showing our values. There were folks who came in after that who I had never seen before. They were like, ‘Oh, so she cares. I can be there. I can shop safely, and nobody is going to keep staring at me, or following me around or whatever.’
I really want to be a place in the community that’s uplifting for everyone. One of the things I’m most honored about is when people come here to shop — either for themselves when they feel sad or down, or when they come here to find gifts for people.
We’ve had people come in, and their best friend was just diagnosed with breast cancer or something, and they’ll spend a whole hour here thinking about that person and what might make them feel better.
We just started a new line, the ‘Affirmations’ line in the front of the store. It’s something I’m super excited about. It has a window cling you put on your mirror in your shower that goes with soap with the same affirmation, so every time you take a shower, you can say, ‘I’m wise,’ or ‘I’m beautiful,’ and have that thought.
I want to put more good into the world. That’s where I’m headed.
Jenny Frech, owner, Soapy Gnome
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Written and edited by Wendy Wilson
Original publish date April 2022