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Tuesday
Apr122011

Olive Oil Soaps: Interview with Susan Mann

*JAPAN RELIEF UPDATE* We have reached about a little less than $100 to be donated to the Salvation Army's Japan Relief Efforts. I'm really pumped for those that have contributed and will probably be ending the drive this weekend. So there's still time (use that DONATE button) and I know we fell a little short of the $5000 but I know that every bit helps :)

I had the amazing privilege last week to sit down and chat with a Western Mass/Internet soap maven - Susan Mann. Susan Mann is the dynamic and creative force behind Manor Hall Soap Company. Manor Hall Soap Company creates amazing soaps and skin care products from vegetarian ingredients using the cold kettle method; they contain no sulfates, parabens, or phthalates. They are most notably identified as all natural olive oil soaps that makes your skin look and feel re-hydrated, soft, and the smells are really great - I am not ashamed to be able to tell you all about how the soap feels first hand.

My coffee with Susan was quite the experience as I had been hearing, and seeing through social media (Susan’s Twitter), all the success she was having and the biggest part of it being online sales. Manor Hall Soap’s headquarters may be located in Springfield, MA but their reach is really world wide. I’m very proud to announce for Susan that her soaps can also be found at Whole Foods (currently just the Symphony Location) and here is a link to the Whole Foods site. I was really impressed to find that Susan has been an active vendor at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival for better part of the last decade - then I had to chime in and encourage her to reach out and try to get a booth at the Big E this year.

I learned a ton about soap making that afternoon but was more interesting was that as business cycles find their natural ebbs and flows Susan has only found growth. In business officially since 2004 she has never really seen a slow down and if you follow her blog you can see that she has recently graduated to a larger space to accommodate for increases in order demands. Susan explained to me that even in tough economic times people will still spend for what she called the “little luxuries” and I couldn’t agree more. I was really impressed to see that her greatest obstacle was knowing that to make a soap or skin care products, made out of all natural products, it only takes a few hours. But, because of the olive oil’s room temperature state (which is liquid) it can take between 4 and 6 weeks to cure properly. Planning is a very big part of Manor Hall Soaps business process. Susan also explained to me that she was constantly learning as well.

Susan is part of her industry community as well as a few online small business information share communities. One that we talked a bit about was Indiebeauty.com - how much of a real resource it was for her. That particular community is run by Donna Maria Coles Johnson and she helps small business owners wear the different hats needed to run your business. When Susan started she knew that she loved to make soap and wanted to share it with people, but running a business was foreign to her. Within the realm of Indiebeauty Susan started a resource of her own - Far Sighted CEO helps entrepreneur figure out how to manage themselves and sharing all the ups and downs that she has experienced along the way. The learning doesn’t stop there as Manor Hall Soap has dabbled in whole sale, learned about customer service through true trial and error, and the importance of being honest and upfront with people right out of the gate. Something Susan was very proud to tell me was that since Manor Hall Soap’s inception they have operated with the utmost regard for doing business right and legally - all filings, all permits, and all paperwork was all done before the first bars ever hit the post office.

Impressed is a word I couldn’t use more to describe Susan’s efforts. As an entrepeneur she isn’t just set in her ways but is always open to growing and changing business landscapes. Eager to adapt and explore but, only at her pace - which is so important to understand about yourself.  She was truly just passionate about spreading her love of olive oil soaps the benefits of them. I’ve had the chance to use them for a bit and I don’t think that I will ever go back to regular bar soap. From packaging to the smooth feeling it leaves you will really get to share in Susan’s pride for her flavorful creations.

 

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