Bubble and Bee Organic-
Farmers Market Success Story
August 29th, 2008
Bubble & Bee used the Farmers Market to launch their organic body products, which have recently become a national success with sales growth skyrocketing 60% each month.
Steve told me before you started you were in broadcasting news stories, can you elaborate a little bit on this? Where you were why you were willing to give it up etc.
I was working at a local tv station in the promotions department. I had been debating quitting for a number of months as Bubble and Bee was growing and taking more and more of my time. I knew I would have to take the leap at some point. But, then in September of 07 the decision was made for me when the company downsized me right outta there. I did freelance work for the station for a number of months after that, but soon enough the business started taking all of my time that I had to cut off everything other than Bubble and Bee. It seemed that the effort that I'd put in to the business with programming the website and promoting the products were coming back at me ten fold. Being released from my job and having the time to invest in the project was the best thing that could have happened. By January of 08 Steve was right along side me, having quit his job as a marketing director for a local business and becoming the marketing director for Bubble and Bee.
How did you get started, what gave you the idea? What was your initial investment?
When I found out that the chemicals in the personal care products around me could be affecting my health adversly, I went on a dilligent search to find products that were truly natural. But even the brands at health food stores had question_boldable chemicals, so I started making my own products. After two years of making my own products, researching, and sharing with friends and family, I realized that there could be something more to this. In the summer of 2007 my partner Steve Thomas and I launched Bubble and Bee Organic at the Salt Lake Farmer's Market.
Describe your role and Steve's roll and why you work well together. How did you two meet?
Steve and I have been long time friends and business partners. We met at the music venue Steve was running back in 2001 in Mesa, Arizona. I started working with him at the music venue and with his video production company. Soon, I became a partner in his business and we ran it together for over five years. Many people are amazed at how well we work together. He's the creative genius that gets everything picture perfect, and I'm the gal that's the "just get it done" force. He's the visual designer for our products and packaging, while I'm the mad scientist behind the formulas. He takes care of the investors and business relationships while I support him with the needed paperwork. It just seems that whenever one of us has a weakness the other has a strength.
Why Organic Soap and lip balm?
Soaps always sell well at markets because they're so tactile and visceral. But I've always had a love affair with soap--literally spending hours at a time in a bath just languishing in its soapy goodness. And I'm always a sucker for a good lip balm--who isn't! But by far our biggest seller is our line of deodorants. In my search for pure products, I just couldn't find a deodorant that was truly chemical-free. And as people become more aware of the chemicals out there, there is a huge market for people looking for natural deodorant that works too. Our satisfaction guarantee sets us apart as well. If a deodorant doesn't work for you, we'll switch it out until we find something that does. We believe it's so important to stay away from chemicals that we'll go the extra mile to help you find the right product. We're one of the very few on the market that's actually 100% organic, not just a few organic herbs blended with a bunch of chemicals like the other brands.
How much soap and lip balm can you make in a day?
Our production schedule varies and we plan it out as far in advance as we can. With 51 SKUs under our belt, we're a bunch of busy bees (pun intended!) We have to stagger production and plan ahead--it's a big job keeping containers and ingredients in stock. On any one day we've probably got three projects going on. We'll get a batch of lotion sticks melting, then, measure out the lip balm and get it melting. In the meantime, we'll load the lip balm trays with the tubes and set out the lotion stick tubes. And if we still have to wait for the beeswax and cocoa butter to melt, we'll get a batch of bath salt stirred. Then, once the lotion sticks are ready, we'll pour and cap them, followed by the pouring and capping of lip balm. It takes careful planning to plan out our production schedule so we don't have down time and have enough ingredients to get everything done.
Why Bubble and Bee?
We had gone back and forth between a bunch of different names, but we landed on Bubble and Bee Organic because it was fun and descriptive. When you look at our product line all of our products fall in to two categories: either bubbles or bees. Either it bubbles (like soap) or contains beeswax (lotion sticks, lip balms, deodorants).
How profitable has Bubble and Bee become? How long did it take you to become profitable?
We are amazed every day at how this small endeavor has grown. We see about a 60% growth in sales every month. And the fact that our line has been picked up by Whole Foods is a great source of pride for us. We are currently in all Utah stores and are working on regional expansion to over 30 more stores.
How did you land a contract with Whole Foods? Will you be expanding to meet their needs?
Steve initially made contact with the Wild Oats store before they had been bought out by Whole Foods. When the merger happened, luckily the staff didn't change much so we retained our contacts. They let us know about the Local Growers and Producers Seminar held in Denver in February. Steve and I packed up the truck with as much product as we could and headed out to Denver. There, we met with the regional buyers and they were immediately excited about our products. We are constantly expanding to meet the growing demand of stores all over the country, including Whole Foods.
What would you recommend to other entrepreneurs who are using the Farmers Market to launch their new business?
Make sure you have a marketable product that has a unique spin. If your product isn't perishable, launch a website with an online store. Take the time to get your marketing (labels, materials, banners) done right. Have patience with your business partners, and faith in theirs and your own abilities.
Any interesting details I might add?
In the beginning right before we launched our products at the Farmer's Market, we were going to call ourselves Wild Life Organics. I had done my due dilligence and researched the name through the trademark office, Steve had created a bunch of designs for our labels, we started getting banners printed...then, two weeks before the Farmer's Market, we came to a screeching halt. I did a double-check with the trademark office and lo and behold there was somebody already using that name. I had missed it in my initial search! All of Steve's designs were gone out the window. All of our marketing materials were now garbage. I felt horrible because I had made such a stupid mistake. We had to hurry and come up with a completely new name, design--everything before the market began.
We had a bunch of names we had come up with--trying to stay in the vein of Wild Life Organics, but they just weren't working. We were calling and e-mailing friends and family. I'm sure they were tired of hearing all the crazy names we were coming up with. Finally Steve came up with Bubble and Bee and it stuck. However, I wasn't quite sure of it all. The new Bubble and Bee packaging he came up with was very fun and playful, but I wasn't sure that it was the right decision. I thought we had to be like the other organic body care products with photos of herbs and such. So, that first day at the Farmer's Market I was really biting my nails. We got there at 7 am (after staying up all through the night) and set up the booth. By 8 we were ready to go. For the first hour things were really slow (as they usually are at the market--but I didn't know that then) and I was ready to chew Steve out about how he had gone "too playful" with the packaging. But then the people came and the first thing out of everyone's mouth was "I Looove your packaging!" and it's been that way every day since. Suffice it to say that I've been living on a steady diet of crow for about a year. I've grown quite accustomed to its taste.
This piece is the sixth in Utah Stories ongoing Farmers Market series. Click here to visit our Farmers Market Stories main page.