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So it's official, we're growing. Since late last year, we opened our production lab, took on two employees (Shamari and Kelsey), and began moving towards a business model that is not only sustainable, but also remarkable. But sustainable and remarkable doesn't happen so cleanly overnight. And even more notable, not too many people realize that growth doesn't feel like it's namesake. Instead it feels a lot like stress. But I'll save that for another blog post.
So let's talk about how we are growing. The best way to illustrate this is to tell a story. During this past March we attended Expo West in Anaheim, which is the largest Natural Products expo in the world. Although we were just observing at the expo, we had the opportunity to enter their business pitch contest. Although we got very good feedback on our video submission, a consistent and recurring notion we got was an eye opener. Three of the five panelists said that although our brand and story was nothing less than outstanding, with us being in the personal care space, they we're eager to see what kind of strategy we would have. "Strategy!?!", I thought to myself. "Why would they feel this way", I questioned myself. After all a part of my existing strategy was to challenge the industry and to meet the consumer where they were at, by creating a production space that was completely transparent and by hand crafting this completely natural moisturizer. But there were some problems. Our existing strategy should have been just a piece of a bigger and more intentional overall strategy necessary to be sustainable. Up until that point I assumed that, mostly because how radical our production space design was, we would be positioned for huge success. But after the feedback from the panelists, all of whom have been in the personal care industry for a long time, I realized that quite a few things had to change. We needed to be more intentional and pointed as to who we were trying to primarily serve with a product like Keeper's Salve. It can't be a vague targeting effort like "I want to serve millennials." And I definitely needed to look beyond casual buyers who really didn't have big motivation to buy.
I always have listened to my business. But now, I was forced to act on the things that I heard. I began to recall all the times I engaged with folks who visited our production lab, as they sampled our Keeper's Salve. I can recall that their reaction was very positive, but their words were revealing. This certain type of consumer often worked in healthcare (nurses, doctors, physical therapists), and were very impressed by how our Keeper's Salve worked on their hands. Eureka! Those in healthcare needed moisture for their hands more than anyone because in order to earn a living, they had to keep their hands right. This was just the start. This led to us embarking on a large marketing research project with the University of Akron, and partnering with a group of nurses at Akron Children's Hospital in order to gather some real feedback from a larger group of nurses on our specific product. Personally I was very interested in what was WRONG with our current Keeper's Salve product. Although we received consistent feedback that our product was the only thing that really worked for their hands, we also found out that we needed to design a softer version of Keeper's Salve that was easier to spread and dispense. Wow, we are being shaped by nurse's hands! And since nurses wash their hands somewhere around 60 times a day or more, if we can get it to work for them, it's legit (plus we would be able to help people who help other people). Interestingly enough , nurses weren't the only ones who felt this way. You see, Professor Deborah Owens of the University of Akron had her entire marketing class break up into six groups and conduct a case project on our company. What many of the groups found was similar to what the nurses feedback was. They wanted something easy to spread, and easy to dispense. So we decided to make a better version of what we already have. So Shamari and I got to work on ways we could take our existing production process for Keeper's Salve, and modify it to meet our consumer where they're at. Once we figure out how to redesign the current product design and soften it, we can begin to deliver it in more functional ways (from a squeeze tube, in a tear open packet etc). With regards to "strategy pointed at healthcare", we aren't necessarily trying to create ways for us to be THE one when it comes to that industry. We are more concentrated on being THEIR one. There is a difference. We want them to know our face, our soul, our intention and dedication in our community. And we want to know theirs just as much. We want them to know the WHY behind what we do, and to be able to feel that it transcends simply 'making some product's'. But yes, we want them to be craaazzyyyy for our stuff.
So what else is in the strategy?!? We are working hard on taking our language of transparency to a new height. Currently we are working on using technology to create ways to bring our consumers side by side with both our ingredients, and our processes.
And finally, FOOD. I'll be honest. One of the primary drivers for deciding on creating what was a "personal care production lab" was so that we could center our revenue driving efforts around cosmetics (personal care) which we can hand craft as much as we needed, using elements from the hive as ingredients. This would allow us to avoid centering efforts on something more finite like honey itself. So I wanted to lead us away from depending on honey. I mean after all, the last thing I want to do is to be out in apiaries all day, every day during the summer, only to have to earn money by migrating my bees to the South for pollination services during our Ohio winters. But my eyes have been opened to the demand for honey based foods (natural foods), in particular with the idea of "foods that are better made and enjoyed with honey". So as of right now no promises, but we will be trialing some products by the end of this year. That would give us more bandwith inside of our strategy, and stay true to the honey thang! Plus who doesn't love food??
Two of our greatest blessings is Shamari and Kelsey. Shamari came on board last year, and has been our Labkeeper (he or she who operates our production lab), and assisting with product direction. Kelsey came on board late last year and has been handling product direction, production lab operations mechanics, and general organization. Don't worry, you'll be able to hear their stories directly from them some time soon.
Wesley The Keeper