Wow! Has it been a year already? I remember it as if it was yesterday. Sitting in the garden with my husband on a glorious sunny day, typing up my Facebook post to announce to the local community that Washla was ready to sell our Shampoo Bars!
Throughout the year, it has been a huge learning curve. Learning new skills, understanding how to setup a business and adapting to new challenges.
The day-to day running of Washla was initially simple. We needed to be known. This was my biggest fear, putting myself out there. I hate to be the centre of attention and I just don’t do social media. I spent many hours of the day on Facebook letting specific groups know we exist.
Our marketing budget was none and using social media was the only free source of advertising we had. Instagram was something I didn’t use or know much about, but was quickly installed to work alongside Facebook to create a further reach. The book “Instagram for Dummies” helped and YouTube tutorials, I particularly enjoyed following @stephanielynnkase.
Our customer base was small, it started with a few locals and mainly people from my Facebook groups. In Autumn I joined a local “live” virtual market and that really got us known in Sevenoaks. We had a slow trickle of customers all local to us. It was getting exciting as finally we were now known in the area and people were talking about us.
We needed another route to get customers in. I started looking into zero-waste shops. To be honest I didn’t even know these existed! It wasn’t until I started researching that I came across a handful. I emailed them all! And with luck my first shop I contacted - Bare & Fair in Woking, had said they were interested. They became our first stockist! I was super nervous and excited. Our Shampoo bars were now in a shopping centre!
Around October/November time I was contacted by another couple of independent eco-shops requesting to stock our shampoo bars! OMG - my hours spent on Facebook were paying off. My daughter would tease me, questioning how I could possibly be working if I was scrolling through Facebook all day long and I’d be told off for my screen time.
Not being tech-savvy, my husband helped create our website. That was a constant work in progress. It started off quite basic but gradually we made it more user friendly and prettier.
The most difficult thing for me was social content. Having only one type of product, I found it hard to come up with different photos for the same thing. My husband would criticise my photos and complain the lighting wasn’t good. Hello?! We live in the UK. There hasn’t been any sun since last summer. Even selfie lights didn’t help. Just a couple of weeks ago we invested in a camera to take better quality photos instead of using my phone. I also don’t have that salesy quality in me, I know our Shampoo and Conditioning bars are fabulous but I hate being pushy.
I learnt networking was important as each small business can be there to support each other. I had no idea how algorithms worked or what a simple “like” or commenting on a post could do for somebody’s business without needing to spend actual money.
Online sales were definitely better during lockdown as everyone didn’t have a choice but to buy online. We became slightly quieter when the shops opened up but that was fine as that keeps our other route open.
When I first discovered Reels I wanted to try and create something fancy and fun. Again not being very technical minded I needed help. I enrolled my son to help me make a video and edit - he too didn’t know how. But he’s someone who isn’t afraid to click on everything and see what happens. (Horrified face!)
We also had plenty of times when it was completely dead. Not a single sale for days/weeks - I’d be checking constantly if anyone had visited our site that day. I had some bad moments where I thought, is this really worth it? I am literally spending all day everyday including weekends working.
I felt quite sad one morning when my daughter jumped into our bed and was asking me something and I was replying to an email. My standard response is “Hold on a sec, I’m doing something on Washla” she sighed “I hate Washla, you never have time for me anymore.” It broke my heart! My children’s whole entire existence I have been there at their beck and call and on top of everything. Now they have taken a back seat. The Mum guilt I suffered was awful.
On quieter days when I’m not making shampoo bars; I will focus on random bits. I can’t really structure things like admin or photography. These types of work come up when they come up.
Since there’s so many areas involved in the running of Washla, I have no choice but to put myself out there more - I am:
Social Media Management
Customer Service Assistant
I’m pleased with where we are now within our first year. The hard work has paid off. Excited to see what year two brings us.
If you're thinking of starting a business - the only advice I have is DO NOT GIVE UP!