Natural Soap Maven Loves “Organic” Growth

Dominique McArthur has built a successful small business by offering all-natural bath products to eco-conscious customers and people with sensitive skin. Since 2009, her Spur, Texas-based company, Swan Creek Soap, has provided lotions and potions online, in its first retail store, and at local craft shows.

swan creek soapGoPayment recently asked McArthur to share her thoughts on growing her company, attracting new customers, and overcoming challenges.

GoPayment: How did you start Swan Creek Soap?

McArthur: I’m heavily involved with Relay for Life, and a few years ago, I needed a fundraiser I could do by myself on the side. So, I made soap, and I got a great response. I sold a ton of soap bars really fast. People kept telling me, “It’s great. It’s natural.” I thought, “Why can’t I make products that people want to use and feel good about using?” I’ve also branched out into lotion and bubble baths and lip balms.

I started my website in 2009. I had my business in my spare bedroom, and it got to the point where it started taking over my house. Earlier this year, I opened a retail space. It’s taken off from there. I don’t know if I can keep up myself! I may end up hiring someone. It’s gotten really big, really fast.

Could you tell us more about your products and what makes them unique?

I started with melt-and-pour soaps. I wanted to keep it really simple and natural. They’re all plant-based, all natural. I use essential oils, no synthetics and no sulfates. It’s kind of hard at times, but my customers love it, and they encourage me. I have a lot of customers who have skin problems, and sometimes my products are the only products that they can use without irritating their skin.

What’s your biggest business challenge?

I live in a rural community in West Texas. I love the people, but when you mention things like recycling and reusing, they look at you like you’ve grown a second head. Getting people to think about what they put on their body and in their body is hard.

How did you work through that?

I give out samples, and I have testers for all my products in my store. If you’re new to my shop, I don’t necessarily care if you buy something. I just want to sit down and talk with you about why this is important and why you should think about what products you’re using. My two best-selling products are my shea butter lotion and my shea butter lip balm. If people try something and they see that it works and they like it, they’ll come back.

How do you find time to make products and run the business?

It’s hard making everything myself, but my husband helps out with creating ads and web design and things like that. It’s really great to have a partner who supports you.

Any advice for other small-business owners?

I have all these ideas, and I want to get so many things done so fast. My advice is to pace yourself: Sit down and draw out a plan. Write down everything and figure out costs. Don’t try to take on too much at once.

The biggest thing for me is research. Research whatever business you’re going into and find the tools to make it successful. They’re out there. For example, I had never heard of GoPayment. It’s something no one around here has heard of, but a lot of banks are so expensive and you have to maintain a huge minimum balance. GoPayment is a great tool. I use it every day, and I share it with lots of other small-business owners in my town.

About Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about business and personal finance. Her articles have appeared in or on The Boston Globe, Dance Retailer News, GetCurrency.com, Mint.com, PARADE Magazine, WomenEntrepreneur.com, and other places.
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