Faced with losing her job and the possibility of losing her home, Tracy Gunn took $32 and started a business that helped her turn life around for herself and her two sons. Today her soap and bath products are being sold in over 1000 stores. Read how she did it below…
Tracy Gunn // USA // Dirty Annie’s Soap // Bath and Beauty Products // 40s
WHAT MOTIVATED & INSPIRED YOU TO START YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
After years as an animal pharmaceutical sales rep, I found myself victim to lay-off along with 422 other people. Being a single Mom of 2 wonderful, yet expensive teenage boys, I found myself in a very, very scary situation. I had very little money in savings and was facing losing our home. I walked into my sons bedroom one night to kiss them good night and realized I was about to fail them. The next day, I ordered $32.00 worth of soap making supplies and the story began.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS…
Dirty Annie’s Soap is a soap and bath product company that was founded with an “I can do it” attitude that empowers women to be all they can be. It is carried in over 1000 stores across the country, including country singer Miranda Lambert’s stores, Hallmark stores, boutiques, drug stores, and even a few feed stores
WHAT WERE THE FIRST FEW STEPS YOU TOOK TO GET YOUR BUSINESS UP AND RUNNING?
I will never forget the day I started this company. I honestly had $36.00 in the bank and I ordered $32.00 worth of soap making supplies. I had never made a bar of soap in my life!!!! I had a store in Las Vegas that I bought handmade soaps from. It was my addiction when I had the money prior to my layoff. I no longer had the money to buy it, so I thought, “Why not learn to make it.” I started giving it to my friends and they were true friends because it was awful and they still bought it.
Once I had a fairly good following, I created a Facebook page. I began a fairly extensive marketing campaign on Facebook. I studied online marketing and social media for hours on end until I felt like I had an edge and the ability to make a little money online to fund my next step. All of this happened in less than 2 weeks. Remember, I was about to loose my house and we only had enough money to make it for about a month.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY OF RAISING AWARENESS OF YOUR BUSINESS AND GETTING NEW CUSTOMERS?
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are wonderful tools but you have to learn how to use them effectively. I found myself sitting at the computer for hours with little or no productivity until I learned how to effectively touch my customers. I then started contacting boutiques and any kind of store that might give me a chance at being in their store. I found that calling them and visiting with them personally as the owner of this wacky little company was by far the best approach. After all, soap is soap is soap, so why should they buy mine other than they might just like me.
I actually refused to do things the normal way. I wanted to know my customers and know how to help them sell my products. I made myself make no less than 50 calls per day so as to make myself known and to have a steady stream of sales going every week because when you start something, you have to have steady revenue coming or it will fail.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES SO FAR WITH RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS?
The biggest challenge has been not having the luxury of a huge working capital to make life easier while my business grew. Remember, I started with only $32.00.
HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?
As I grew, I had to work many long hours because I couldn’t afford employees to help keep up with growth. My 2 teenagers worked very hard to help me. My youngest was my packaging expert and my oldest packaged and helped with shipping and social media. I had to carefully budget and make sure I was investing back into my business, as well as run my household from what I was making.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
I love everything about running my own business. I believe that being a Mom is the most important job that I have. Running my own business allows me to run my life and be the Mom that I want to be. Being single, I have so much compassion for single parents that have to decide between family or job. As I have grown my business, it has given me the power to enable my employees to be free to choose their families first. If there is a sick child at home or something important at school, I insist that they be there rather than work.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER ENTREPRENEURS?
The best advice that I can give anyone starting their own business is make a plan, set goals and go get it!!!!! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, because if I can do it anyone can!!!!!
HOW DO YOU KEEP MOTIVATED THROUGH DIFFICULT TIMES?
There have been many times when it just seems too hard, but I always go back to only having $32.00 and the thought of working for someone else that can at any moment take everything away as it happened before. I refuse to be a victim, so if I succeed or if I fail, it will be on my terms and my responsibility. My children are what truly gets me through the toughest of times. I want to be able to leave them something.
Society tells us to get a job and work 40-60 hours a week for someone else and dictates how much money we should make. I challenge that rule and encourage others to as well. I love being a rebel and bucking the rules. I started with $32.00, so the worst thing that can ever happen to me is that I will only have $32.00 again and it really wasn’t so bad. It didn’t kill me, it made me strong as hell.
DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY?
My business philosophy is simply, “You make your own luck.” Don’t wait around on someone else to give you anything, just go get it for yourself. Again I say, I started with nothing and am now in hundreds of stores across the county and growing like crazy. If I can do it, SO CAN YOU!!!!!! It’s just a silly bar of soap, but it’s my soap and I plan on everyone knowing who Dirty Annie’s is.
When I face a big challenge I…
breathe, make a plan, and get to work.
My greatest fear is…
The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is…
started a soap company when everyone told me it would be a great hobby, but not a great business.
If I could go back in time to when I was 20 I would tell myself…
invest well and start your own business now, not when your 42.
life is what you make it.
The biggest lesson I have ever learned is…
money doesn’t control my life. I control my money.
My favourite business tool or resource is…
the phone!! I hate email!!! I love to talk to my customers.
My favourite quote is…
“The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.”