Did you know that smell and memory are closely linked? Take wedding soap favors as an example. As your guests wash their skin in the days and weeks after your wedding, the soap’s scent will trigger all the happy memories of your special day. So what would you do if we told you we know someone who could turn this dream into a reality? Her name is Shannon Brown, and she’s known around here as a luxury soap maker, the founder of Pipit & Finch, and a force to be reckoned with!
Pipit & Finch soaps are proudly formulated, designed, and made in Reno, Nevada. Infused with botanical oils, these one-of-a-kind soaps are also free from artificial fragrances and dyes. And the best part? The entire Pipit & Finch soap collection is gentle on the skin. Shannon used to break out in hives every time she would shower with commercial soaps and body washes, and these bars transformed her skin from red and splotchy to soft, nourished, and healthy. She knew she had to share this magical blend with all the sensitive-skinned people out there! So who is the woman behind the best smelling business in town, and how did she end up in the soap industry? There is only one way to find out!
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I was born to be an entrepreneur. My earliest entrepreneurial memory is picking veggies out of my dad's garden. Arranging them neatly on a cardboard tray I made, then selling them to all the old ladies in my neighborhood. My mistake was trying to sell them back to my dad, who quickly shut down the operation.
I've sold greeting cards I made, scarves I crocheted, and flowers I've grown and arranged. Before making soap, I had a jewelry business under the same name as Pipit & Finch.
Entrepreneurship is my life's journey - it's in my bones. I'm super introverted, but I somehow transform into an extrovert when talking to people about my soap and how good it is for the skin. I love sharing my creations with others and take a lot of satisfaction in making the everyday rituals of life, like showering, a little more special.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?
In addition to being a business owner, I also work full-time. Limitations of time and energy are my biggest challenges with running the business. However, I love everything about it - from making soap, finishing and packaging, and coming up with new blends. I even love sweeping the studio floor. And I have the nicest customers, which is my biggest motivation. Even so, there are times when I get down and wonder if I can continue. When this happens, I take a break and remind myself of my excitement when I started the business.
Being organized with my time and time blocking my schedule is critical. I divide my day into blocks of time and work on specific things in each time block. I also have themed days for everything I need to work on, like production, content creation, wholesale, social engagement, marketing, etc. Protecting my time to work on and in my business is critical.
How do you differentiate yourself in this challenging industry?
While there are a lot of natural soapmakers in the world, I think I offer something different in my simple, elegant approach. I'm known as a "plain bar" maker in the soap industry, which perfectly suits me. However, I find a lot of beauty in minimalism, and I try to bring that to my soap.
My bars are made from a base of just four ingredients: saponified olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and shea butter. They're impeccable in how they're finished, and my packaging is clean and elevated. You won't find any rosebuds or glitter in my soap.
My unembellished soap is made for people with sensitive skin, like me. I used to break out in hives every time I'd shower with commercial soaps and body washes. The bars I make transformed my skin from red and splotchy to soft, nourished, and healthy. I knew I had to share this magical blend with my fellow sensitive-skinned of the world.
What or who has been the most significant influence in your business and why?
I bought a beautiful bar of handmade soap from Riverside Studios in Truckee, CA, over ten years ago. I was obsessed with this unique soap and how it made me feel and knew then and there that I wanted to make soap. So I reached out to the soap maker, Susan Ryahanen from Saipua, and asked her to teach me. Three years ago, Susan invited me into her home in New York for a soap-making intensive. She taught me everything there is to know about making soap and the soap business. This was by far one of the most magical experiences of my life.
Susan took me under her wing and has been an incredible mentor. So generous with her time and knowledge, she's always just a phone call away whenever I need her.
Do you listen to podcasts or read motivational books, and if so, which ones do you recommend?
Reese Spykerman's Commerce Collab is invaluable for product-based businesses. I'm also a member of her Streamlined Product Sales Academy, and it's the best investment I've made in myself and my business. This is an incredibly supportive group of women entrepreneurs. We learn actionable strategies to move our product-based companies forward.
I also follow Marie Forleo, James Clear, Ezra Firestone, Jen Sincero, Seth Godin, Donald Miller, Jacqueline Snyder, and Minna Khounlo-Sithep from the Product Boss.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in starting their own business?
If you have entrepreneurship inside of you and you can't ignore it - if you have to do it, don't waste any time. Go for it.
Here are a few of the things I wish I'd trusted at the beginning of my business:
- Decide what your most important expenses are and stick to a budget. Boring, I know, but spending can get out of control when you're excited about something and think you need everything. Also, don't over-extend yourself financially when your business is new and before it's been proven.
- The most important things I spent my money on, in the beginning, were branding (thank you, Saturday Studio!) and good photography (shoutout to Cindy Rahe!).
- Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. You don't need to take one more class or read one more book before beginning. That's just procrastination and fear. Instead, start before you're ready.
- Most of all, you have to be committed to seeing it through. Building a solid business takes time and patience.
- Find your tribe. Connecting with a group of like-minded women business owners has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Having a group you can turn to with questions, frustrations, and wins is invaluable.
- Have fun. What's the point of any of it if you're not having fun?
Shop your luxurious artisanal soap here! Also, stay tuned for more entrepreneurial journeys coming your way over the next few weeks.