Client Interview: Carrie Seibert of Soap Commander
Date Posted: 07/24/2014 | By:
Take a love of soap and fragrance, a family of 7 kids (!) who get home schooled by an entrepreneurial mom, a retired but still young navy man/husband/dad – and what do you get? Soap Commander. A perfect stay at home, sell on- line business. The name and the logo are reminiscent of the navy, and the soap products are geared mainly for men – particularly those who enjoy wet shaving!
Here’s a recap of our interview with the mom of the clan, and the co-head of the company – Carrie Seibert.
Us: You sell a men’s line that includes bar soap, shaving soap, and aftershave – all in coordinating scents. How did that come about?
Carrie: The short version? I had a previous skin care line that I started when one of my daughters developed eczema. A product evolved from that which became commercial. Then we ran into a trademark conflict with that brand – Simply 7 Skincare – and in consulting with our attorney, he said – if you were ever thinking of rebranding, now would be the time! My husband is a bit of a wet shave fanatic, and he urged me to become more men-centric in the products we produced and sold. He saw an opening for a line of ‘Take Charge’ products that would appeal to men just at that time!
Us: Sounds a bit risky – you have been running Simply 7 for a couple of years – targeting women – and then you considered changing course dramatically. Were you nervous?
Carrie: Yes, but I got where Darren was going with this. His enthusiasm and recent retirement from the Navy meant that Soap Commander – as it would become named – could be a ‘we thing’ instead of a ‘Carrie thing.’ Darren could be the (well shaven!) face to the public, and I could be behind the scenes, making these unique products.
Us: Was there truly that opportunity to target men – or was it just a hunch you both had?
Carrie: The most surprising thing? Everyone told us that women would buy products for their spouses – that women would still be the decision makers, even in personal care items. But actually, we find that in this singular instance – men are buying the soaps and after shaves for themselves.
Us How fascinating! Why do you think that is?:
Carrie: The informal research we did leading up to the launch showed that this ‘grooming’ category is one area where men are self motivated. It’s not something they leave to their wives – they want to have a routine, that often includes wet shaving, that’s all their own. Our shaving soap is indeed our best seller and our “Respect” fragrance (a lime and patchouli essential oil mix) is requested most often. Women can’t really make such personal decisions for men – maybe their underwear, but not their top notes!
Us: What kind of informal research did you do?
Carrie: Darren participates in ‘shaving forums’ and believe it or not, there are impassioned participants in those rooms! Hand made products are particularly valued, as are traditional methods and things that have an artisan flair. You could say it’s a subculture out there.
Us: What about women – do you have anything that appeals to their ‘softer’ side?
Carrie: We do! The men’s line in Soap Commander is called “Take Charge” – and the women’s line is called “Recharge”. Women just are so busy (editor’s note: remember, Carrie has 7 kids!) and they need some downtime – some me time! Our body soaps and lotions for women provide a respite in a very long day.
Us: So what happened to your mailing lists in terms of male/female breakdowns?
Carrie: Amazingly, we kept the women on our mailing lists and the influx has been men for Soap Commander/Take Charge products. It’s all good!
Us:Where do you get your sales and marketing advice?
Carrie: We are members of the Indie Business Network – and Darren and I rely a lot on the information we get from fellow members on the website there. We participate in their discussions and ask our own questions. What a resource!
Us: OK, we’ve got to ask! How do you take care of, and home school, 7 children? Let’s hear about work/life balance from a pro!
Carrie: Honestly, I don’t think I’ve mastered the balance at all. I’m still pretty new at this. But I will say that I rely on my ability to schedule and prioritize. Schooling for the kids and mommy time with them are super important. And so is my marriage – getting time with my husband that is NOT business related is vital. We both are at home now with the kids – and running this amazing business. It’s important that our interactions are not all about the business and whether he took care of the pending order or when I need to make the next batch of soap. We schedule in date nights – often coinciding with our treasured time at the First Fridays in Florence (Alabama) where we have a table – and enjoy dinner out – just the two of us.
Us: How did you find out about Leapin Lizard Labels?
Carrie: We got to thinking that instead of continuing to print our own product labels, as I had for Simply 7, that with Soap Commander we would make some intentional improvements. We wanted to spiff up the brand and bring integrity to home made products. We dreamed of outsourcing our labels and looking really professional, but honestly didn’t think we could afford it.
After digging around on the Internet I realized we could afford to improve our look and feel. We could swing this!
Lizard’ s pricing, promptness and top-notch quality are so gratifying. We’ve found a keeper! It’s been almost too good to be true. Working with Todd is a dream. We get so many compliments about the way our products are labeled. And even Darren and I ooh and aah when we go into the inventory room – asking ourselves: could these gorgeous soaps really be ours!
Us: Did you look at other label companies on line?
Carrie: Yes, quite a few. We did a good bit of research. What drew us to you was the low minimums you would accept and the flexibility we needed. Not having to commit to 500 labels of something when we were in the beginning stages of a new product line – that’s huge. We can experiment without the expense!
Us: We love your branding. It’s so distinctive and memorable. Who did that?
Carrie: We hired a designer to do our logo and make it evocative of the navy, opening up to new worlds, taking the helm of your life. From that one logo, it all cascaded. We’re well branded now!
Us: How are your products distributed?
Carrie: It’s mostly via the Internet. And we do farmer’s markets and fairs and first nights locally. Additionally, we have a growing number of retailers carrying our products.
Us: Any last words of wisdom for our entrepreneurial readers?
Carrie: Well keep looking forward – I know our next steps are to focus on Marketing to get the word out more. We already blog a couple of times a week, I’m never without my camera to capture the behind the scenes life of the Soap Commander family out here in rural Alabama. And we of course post on Facebook. But there’s lots more to do – the challenges never stop – and that’s what makes it so fun. You can do huger things than you will ever realize!