Debra Sturdevant is the owner of The Country Artist Soaps and Botanicals. I met her at the annual Old Sage Apothecarian conference for makers and herbalists alike. In this podcast Deb shares her getting started story, advice for getting your name out there using traditional marketing methods and words of wisdom for newbies to grow in their soap making craft.
- Traditional marketing and face to face are just as powerful as the new digital methods of marketing
- Her biggest challenge when getting started was being seen
- To overcome this challenge Deb worked to get articles in newspapers, kept a notebook at craft fairs to capture customer contact information, radio spots, sending brochures, and home shows
- My favorite quote from Deb…“You have to be seen before someone can buy your product”
- Her sense of satisfaction comes from teaching people why her products work the way they do and knowing that her customers are satisfied
- Newbies and experienced soap makers should always embrace research before selling a product
Listen to the podcast to hear first hand from Deb and get her insights in this week’s episode of A Makers Tale.
Where to Find Debra Sturdevant
Website – https://thecountryartist.com/
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/thecountryartist
Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/194097820622073
[00:00:14.950] - Zakia Ringgold
Welcome to another episode of a soap makers Tale. I'm your host Zakia Ringgold of LiveSoapschool.com, and this podcast is for makers and would be makers alike. Listen in and get inspired with lessons learned building a handmade business. This week we get to sit down with Deb Sturdevant, who I got a chance to meet in person at the old Sage Apothecarians conference in New York. This is an annual conference hosted by Deb. She also has a really active herbal group on Facebook, so I was very excited to get her maker's tale. Welcome, Deb. Can you introduce yourself to the listener?
[00:01:00.360] - Debra Sturdevant
Hi, I'm Deborah Sturdevant of the country artist botanicals started in and I am located in the foothills of the Adirondacks in upstate New York. My favorite product to make would probably be the first one I actually sold, and that is my herbal soaps.
[00:01:25.770] - Zakia Ringgold
So, as the title of the podcast implies, this is all about a maker's tale, and every maker has a getting started story. So could you tell us how did you get started with your hand made business?
[00:01:40.770] - Debra Sturdevant
Well, I grew up here on the country hill with a family that did everything as naturally as they could. We grew our own food, and mine was always puttering in the kitchen and making things so we didn't have to buy it from the store. And I guess I remember finding a recipe in a farm magazine and it was made using olive oil in a tin. And I asked my mom about my grandma's recipe, and I thought, why not? I'm going to try this. So I made my first batch of soap and use it myself, of course. And over the next couple of years, I started researching and trying to find suppliers, which at that time were not very abundant like they are now. But I had made three or four batches of soap for myself and they were beautiful. So I thought, why not? And when I was doing some art shows around the county, I included baskets of my soaps and they seemed to go really well. Next product I think I made was Lotion, because I had been making that for myself and slowly included all of the things that I did for myself that I could sell at the craft shows.
[00:02:50.690] - Debra Sturdevant
And that's the way I started at the little fireman school church shows and found that people were really loving the things I was making. So that's how I really started.
[00:03:06.370] - Zakia Ringgold
When you think back to that moment of it went from hobby to business, or you already knew that it was going to be a business, how did you know that you were ready to start a business?
[00:03:18.280] - Debra Sturdevant
I always loved my art business, but I found that I was getting a greater joy, actually in doing my herbal products and soap making. And when it started to move me out of my own house and I had so much inventory that just giving away to friends and doing little art shows and adding baskets. It just was not enough to sort of support my hobby at the time because it was a hobby more or less at that point, just enough to cover my supplies. I thought that I would give it a shot and try doing that as a business, so that's when it really became the country artist soaps and botanicals and not just the country artist artwork.
[00:04:06.410] - Zakia Ringgold
I definitely know what you mean about giving it away and then scratching your head like, wait a minute, how am I going to keep paying for this hobby that I love? So that's how you decided to go into business. What kind of challenges would you say were some of the biggest things you had to overcome when you were first getting started?
[00:04:26.520] - Debra Sturdevant
The biggest challenge for me when I started the business was being seen. I did have a few articles that were running newspapers, which can be done now and usually free because they're public interest and everyone likes a good story on someone just starting out so that they can see how to start their own businesses. So that was a resource with the newspaper articles. But just getting my name out there, it took quite a few years to get known in the vicinity and collect my customers. So that was the big challenge. I would put out a notebook at each craft fair I did, so people could write down their information. And I did do a few home shows here at the house and let people know where I was going to be for upcoming shows. So getting your name out there after you've perfected your product is pretty much the first challenge I think anyone even faces now.
[00:05:27.470] - Zakia Ringgold
Wow, you mentioned being seen and getting your name out there. So what would you say you did to overcome those challenges? Because I'm sure today many people are still facing that same challenge as they're getting started or even seasoned. So how did you overcome those challenges being seen?
[00:05:47.710] - Debra Sturdevant
So I think I overcame that by getting into as many local shows as I could, doing radio spots, articles in the paper, sending out, also brochures or some notes on where I was going to be next. Having a home show or two just getting out there, you have to be seen before you can have someone buy your products.
[00:06:14.930] - Zakia Ringgold
So business can have some challenges, but they also have those great things that you look forward to when you wake up in the morning, or when you go to a vending event, or you're building your online business or your brick and mortar. So what is one of your best experiences as a business owner, whether that be just you personally or in interacting with your customers?
[00:06:39.790] - Debra Sturdevant
I think the thing that motivates me the most is when I get new customers in that have heard about me, I know that my product is loved enough that people want to see what I'm doing and then they want to learn. I think that is also the thing that I love the most, is teaching people when they come in, why my products do what they do, and then seeing people satisfied with what they're buying and my sign over to close at night. It's the feeling of satisfaction that I have brought a product to someone that has a little bit of me in each thing, years of experience through my family and myself, but more so that it's a job well done. It's not just the profit, although that is a perk of the situation, that I can make a living off of what I do, but that I'm doing it the best I can and that I'm very satisfied and confident in the product that I'm putting out for the public.
[00:07:49.490] - Zakia Ringgold
While Deb, so it sounds like you have a really intrinsic motivation and really knowing that you've done a really good job and you really know. And with all of those years of experience, your family history of just making everything, the herbs and all of that, I can really see how that makes an impact on how successful you've been. So this podcast is targeted to Newbies. Do you have any advice to share with them?
[00:08:20.600] - Debra Sturdevant
Newbie is to make sure your product is well researched and tested long before you try to sell it. The time for change is not after you have sold your product, but before you sell your products. Research, research, research. And test on family and friends before you attempt to market.
[00:08:41.990] - Zakia Ringgold
Oh, that's such a great point. Research. I'm going to echo it with you. Research, research. And the family, they actually like being good guinea pigs because it feels good on their skin. And Deb, I really appreciate your time. It just feels like you may have any additional golden nuggets. Would you like to share them with our audience?
[00:09:08.450] - Debra Sturdevant
Well, you can manifest your dreams into reality. I am a firm believer in that everything starts with a dream. You take one step at a time and each little success brings you confidence. Try to network with others doing similar things. Make sure you keep that edge that keeps you individual. Be educated, be prepared and be successful.
[00:09:39.630] - Zakia Ringgold
Now that is a golden nugget we can all appreciate. And speaking of appreciation, Deb, I really want to thank you for taking the time to share your wisdom and your insights in A Maker's Tale. Now, how can people find you? What's your website, your Facebook group? Social media? Let us know.
[00:10:03.510] - Debra Sturdevant
I can be found at www.thecountryartist.com on facebook. I am countryartistbotanicals and I run a fun formulators group called old sage Apothecarians. Also on Facebook.
[00:10:23.530] - Zakia Ringgold
Well, that's it for this week's episode of A Makers Tale. What I appreciate about Deb is just how knowledgeable and giving she is. You can find the show notes for this podcast and links to Debs Country Artist website and her Old Sage Apothecary and Facebook group on the blog at .LiveSoapSchool.com I'm your host, Zakia Ringgold, inviting you to go out and create something amazing. Thanks for listening.