Name: Danielle Vincent
Business: Outlaw Soaps
Danielle Vincent was more than two years into a steady, well-paying job as a product manager for the Oprah Winfrey Network when she realized (okay, admitted) she was miserable. Professionally speaking, she was bored, unchallenged and, in her words, “grossly underutilized.” Pining for a dusty, rugged life in the great outdoors, Danielle and her husband, Russ, set out to develop a line of scented soaps that provided a whiff – literally – of campfires, whiskey and free-range living. Their “side hustle” culminated in a sell-out launch party. When they received their first official PO a short time later, Danielle gave three weeks’ notice before quitting corporate life for good. She and Russ ditched L.A. and headed for them thar’ hills in Northern California. Outlaw Soaps – including Unicorn Poop, Bacon and Blazing Saddles – was ready to roam.
What was the tipping point that inspired you to turn your “side passion” into a full-time business?
I was in a safe, stable job earning six figures. But I felt like I was dying inside. I suck at office politics. I love adventure, and being defined by my job description drove me crazy. I think something all entrepreneurs have in common is our need to grow and change, which so often doesn’t happen in a corporate job.
That being said, our decision to commit full-time to Outlaw Soaps could have been a terrible idea! All we had at that point was our first purchase order and my 401K. We moved to Oakland because we could live rent-free in a building Russ managed. Talk about having our entrepreneurial heads in the stars!
What has been the biggest surprise about starting your own business?
Wow, there have been so many surprises. But truly, I have been floored by the graciousness and support of our friends and customers. I mean, through sheer force of awesomeness, our customers rallied together and voted for us in an online label contest. We won an iPad! And Whole Foods selected Outlaw Soaps for its local producer grant (5% of a day’s sales). It means so much that people genuinely want to help us.
Many of our customers have become friends, too. We’ll connect on social media, or they’ll write to us personally. Some of our reviews on Amazon are these incredibly poetic, in-depth posts. And if someone has a problem, often they’ll contact us directly rather than post something negative on Amazon. It’s very heartwarming to see people supporting each other because they want to, not because they have to.
Tell us your best marketing strategy or tip.
My advice: Try everything, one step at a time, and watch the ROI like a hawk. You need to conduct a methodical exploration to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Otherwise, you’re just throwing money away – and money is the one thing you’ll always run out of. Our weekly MailChimp newsletters have the highest ROI. It only takes me an hour to put together an email, and we can track exactly how much money each campaign generates.
How do you approach pricing?
We follow a strict pricing formula and run everything through the Price-O-Matic app. It takes all of five minutes to put in our costs and calculate our profit margin. It’s magic!
We know exactly how much it costs to make our products, and we set our prices accordingly. We rarely run sales, since discounts cut into our margins and, to be honest, devalue our product.
What do you hope to get from being part of a small business community?
Hearing different perspectives helps me remember there’s always a bigger context out there. If I’m in the middle of my worst day ever and someone else is having a great day, I remind myself tomorrow will be easier. It’s kind of like riding a bull in a rodeo. When you see other people hanging on and not getting kicked off, you feel more hopeful about staying in the saddle, too.
Do you have any sage advice for budding entrepreneurs?
I’ve got three tips. First, always hire someone who will do their job a whole lot better than you can. For instance, I wanted to find an accountant who loves numbers enough to go to a conference about it! I went to QuickBooks Connect and met Coral, who is now our accountant. She gives us tons of extra feedback and context for understanding our books. Coral is amazing. [QB Connect 2017 is SOLD OUT! But you can still take part in the conference right here in the QB Community. We will be streaming QB Connect live from the Main Stage Thursday, 11/17, from 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM Pacific Time. Join us!]
Second, make sure you build a business that reflects who you really are. Authenticity helps you make real connections with customers. It changes the way you think about marketing, too. You feel like you’re just writing for your friends.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, the quicker you can identify, correct and move on from a problem, the better. Starting your own business leaves you very vulnerable. A negative comment or feedback can break you if you don’t have a thick skin. I used to get really worked up over a one-star review or a nasty letter from a customer. Now I just hit delete and move on.
Now it’s your turn!
QB Community, tell us how being an entrepreneur has “thickened” your skin – in a really good way, of course!
Thank you so much! We have had a real adventure here, and I hope to continue to have one far into the future. 💖
I just registered for QB Connect this November, so if anyone wants to find me there, just look out for the goofball in the cowboy boots with the blue hair.
Hi @OutlawSoaps! Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I really can't wait to try one of your soaps...there are so many but "Blazing Saddles" really speaks to me. :smileyvery-happy: I look forward to meeting you at QB Connect this year!