Not only does skinnyskinny’s Clara Williams use the most eco-friendly methods to run her successful business, she equips herself with the best tools possible. We sit down with Clara and talk art, business, and the pursuit of passion!
Jason Lalk (Bindo): You’ve grown skinnyskinny from scratch into the successful business it is today. So tell me Clara, how did you get into the business of organic soaps?
Clara: Well, I was actually a professional artist before, mostly sculptures. I did a lot of site-specific sculptures and installations. I got into the business by making some soap for my mom and I really liked the chemistry and artistry of the whole process. So I eventually stopped making art and just made a business but actually, I don’t feel like I’ve experienced a loss for my creative outlet here. Our company is still very artistic.
Jason (Bindo): There are other stores around the nation that sell your products. For others trying to do the same, can you shed some light on how that process evolved into the successful business it is today?
Clara: Yes, we sell to independent boutiques, gift shops- we tend not to sell to chain stores. It was a lot of word-of-mouth. Years ago we had done a couple of trade shows so we found a lot of other retailers that way. We don’t really advertise that much so a lot of our customers came through word-of-mouth.
Jason (Bindo): All right, let’s talk about Bindo. What were you using before us?
Clara: It’s called Imonggo. It’s an online POS system. It really just didn’t have enough features or capability for us and it was just very cumbersome.
Jason (Bindo): So you’ve been with us for 2 months now, what has been the biggest change for you?
Clara: There are several things. Before, we were using Imonggo on the computer so there was always sort of a wall between the customers and us and because the iPad has a much smaller footprint, that wall is no longer there. We have a lot more flexibility, meaning we can scan barcodes out on the floor- we can carry the whole system! We’ve been able to check people out on the floor rather being stuck at the register area. In addition, the recording of customers and all that stuff are so much more in-depth. That’s been very helpful for the business and administrative side.
Jason (Bindo): That is exactly how we intended it to be used too, to give a smaller footprint so you can be more interactive with the customers- and also to give you the flexibility to move around the store.
Clara: Yes, that part is really great. If there is a customer over there (points further away), then another employee can go help them. You don’t have to bring them up here. You can just go up to them and scan. There are a lot of benefits.
Jason (Bindo): Absolutely, most of our retailers don’t realize that they are missing that flexibility until they have it.
Clara: Yeah, it’s pretty cool to be like, “Oh my god, I just checked someone out right over there!” Yes, so that part was really great. I do want to say more about the reporting because all that stuff, all the breakdowns- it’s just fantastic. From which credit card was used to the cost of goods sold and everything in between – it’s all really good. Oh yeah, and I really do like the purchase orders.
Jason (Bindo): That’s something to tell people who just started out in their business. They’re going to make mistakes in the product mix that they’re carrying at first, but if they really want to own a successful business, they really have to look at the numbers and see what’s actually moving. So we are trying to tell them how important those reports can be. The numbers don’t lie.
Clara: Right, if you expect to grow year to year, you need to be able to see how all those records move through: like what was June like last year? How did this thing sell last year in the summer?
Jason (Bindo): At the end of the day, it’s still business right?
Clara: Of course.
Jason (Bindo): What kind of changes have you seen in the retail industry in the last few years?
Clara: There has definitely been more of an emphasis or more of a move towards being locally made. Maybe that’s just more in this particular neighborhood because it is such an entrepreneurial neighborhood.
Jason (Bindo): In the past, lots of times people have gone- well they call it “showrooming” basically: someone will come into your store, they’ll look at a couple of things, they might be on their phone at the same time and see if they can find it elsewhere for cheaper and then go somewhere else. But I think it is kind of the opposite that’s happening now. A lot of times people are going online to see the type of stuff that you have but then they come in and they’ll maybe say I saw this online and was wondering if you have it in here or check out the product- the actual stuff- at the store.
Clara: Well, we do really focus on customer service and trying to fill the needs of the customers. Often times, a lot of our customers don’t really know where to start with their search so we really emphasize customer service and being helpful.
Jason (Bindo): So you’ve built your successful business for 8 years now. What advice would you give to someone else that was just starting out?
Clara: They have to love what they are doing because there a lot of times you have to have single-minded focus. So if they are not really interested in the product they want to sell, then just skip it because you have to spend so much time on it. That’s really the key to a successful business.
Jason (Bindo): Pursue your passion.
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