Ten years have passed, and we are well beyond the trial and error phase of this business. Over the years, we learned about ingredients, sourcing, the industry, retail, regulations, wholesale, and packaging. We’ve gone from experimenting at home to selling, online, at farm markets, then to stores, coming right up to the point of outsourcing production and supplying major chains complete with plans to dilute our brand to fit on the major retailer shelves before pulling back and deciding to remain who we wanted to be in the beginning. Even in business, you need to learn how to say no. When we said no, it wasn’t with a noble shout. It took time, but we got there.
There’s no way to communicate what matters about products you ingest or absorb into your body with buzz words or a simple label no matter how clever the logo is. At some point, genetically modified is rebranded as bioengineered, and eventually, it will be called something else. Natural? What does that really mean? Different people will tell you different things. Maybe they are living their truth, and maybe they don’t have a full understanding because they have passed on another individual’s or organizations’ stated position without researching for themselves, and maybe they’re right? For us, there’s only one truth and so we are constantly seeking it out.
When it comes to how we sell online, farm markets and small chains (because large chains require too much to allow us to maintain our standards and offer what we feel is a reasonable price), or what ingredients we use (natural vs conventional vs organic, because some conventional products are good, and some natural ingredients in the wrong combination are toxic), or how we explain ourselves (in run-on sentences that represent the fact that like in real life we tend to talk a lot). It is what it is, and we are who we are. We are a few people who have some skills and a ton of passion to make something from nothing better than anyone else and offer it at a fair price while trying to have some fun while we work. How we got here from an overtaxed township in New Jersey in 2009 when this all started would be better explained in person. Hopefully, you’ll drop by a market and we can meet and talk about it.
There are three basic starts in the handcrafted soap biz. One: people that saw others doing it, and thought it would be an easy business they could jump into it only to tap out after they realize how much work it is and how little money is made until you are able to scale. Two: those that feel like they can communicate a brand so they outsource products, take pictures, hire a graphic artist and put up a website that looks and feels like everything else. Third: there are those that find their way to skin care due to personal health problems, and that’s how we got involved.
Our oldest had a spinal surgery, which was a total success, but it triggered an autoimmune response that accelerates skin problems she was already predisposed to have, including a rare form of rosacea. As we met with doctors and dermatologists, I was taken back by how many harmful chemicals were in the products they were recommending. I’m for sure a hypochondriac, but I’m also often right, and that only fuels the cycle of wonder, worry, research and validation for my paranoia that keeps me up online for hours looking up causation, chemicals, and connecting dots.
I tried to accept the products as advised, but the more chemicals I found on the label and the more information I found on them, the harder it was for me to shut out the noise and allow my daughter to ingest the low-grade toxins just because a health care professional said so. Maybe I would have gone along if it was me, but it was my daughter, and I just couldn’t. So, the experiments began, and the frantic search for healthy skin care. The great chef in me, (the one who hates to cook), loved making soap. I would work in my kitchen, modify recipes and then craft my own, and make soap that we used and that our friends enjoyed so much I decided to sell it.
From there I failed, as a business, year after year even as I made better and better products. I had to learn design, the web, packaging, retail, wholesale, labeling, regulations, margins, manufacturing, and I had to learn myself. Out of sheer stubbornness, I didn’t stop well beyond the point any sane person would have given up, so here we are. Ten years later, I can say without any hesitation that while the process hurt, that kid in me that had all the charisma, optimism and blissful ignorance that allowed her to think that she could conquer the world before the world showed up to challenge the sentiment, gets to live on in every bar of soap, every bath bomb, every whip, and every scrub and tell the world that, yeah, you slowed me down but Wildly American is still the best skin care company on the planet, so there!
I can’t tell you where this company will be in the future, not in detail. I don’t know how our product line will change. People want me to start making my lotion again, yes, it is the best lotion you have ever used. My husband wants to me start making shampoo again in the hopes it slows down balding, it won’t. Maybe we will have a storefront or stay online and only supply independent stores. Maybe 3D printers will make our products via my recipe at your home in a few years. Nobody knows where the future will take them. But, the one thing I can say is that this company is a way to give my daughters something of their own that I built.
I took some time off when my last daughter was born, she was, let’s say a surprise (if you’ve seen This is 40, you’ve seen my life) and I hadn’t planned on going back into the business full force, but my two older daughters kept asking me about it, over and over. They knew it made me happy and gave me a sense of purpose that I needed. I realized that they were proud of their mom and her business, humble as it may be. My daughters inspired me to start, and then to restart. The future to me is simply about leaving them something of value they can share with others. Something mom built on her own that would bring them together as a family and more importantly keep them together.
Now that my oldest daughter is about to start her third year in college on her way to becoming a dermatologist, I look back realizing how fast time goes by, how hard it is to predict what will happen, and how important it is to do what you love with who you love. I just don’t invest much thought in the future beyond that. We will keep doing things the Wildly American way, working to be and do the best we can, and to give you something that is more than a set of products, to give you a small expression of the best of our authentic selves.