An artist and a seasoned crafts person with 24 years of wholesale and retail selling experience, Mariann Smith was an entrepreneur at an early age, opening her own dance studio at the age of 13. She always had a natural and artistic ability at every type crafting. Already established in the wholesale marketplace, soaping got under her skin when she added rubber duck-themed soaps as a consumable complement to her line of high-end baby gifts, goods, and furnishings. It wasn’t long until she jumped in with both feet, in 1994, when sales of the soaps overtook her other line. She had already developed her B to B network, and knew the ins and outs of the trade show circuit, so was already positioned for success as Just Bubbly was born.
Under her guidance as “Chief Bubble Maker”, her family-owned company produces handcrafted, novelty bath soaps, lotions, and many other unique bath & body feel good creations for children, women and men of all ages. With more than 500 retail accounts--including several international customers and even some national retailers like Bath & Body Works—she can’t say enough about building and maintaining relationships in the marketplace. “You have to be a people person”, she says. “You have to develop personal connections with your customers, and really know their business. Customers don’t remember what they sold, but they remember what is still on their shelves.”
To develop a loyal client base and keep them coming back, you need to work with them to fill their unique needs. Seeking out and servicing those unique needs—niche marketing—has served Just Bubbly well. Recently they added JB Greek a full line of officially-licensed Greek Life products, representing dozens of Sororities world-wide. Coming this fall: a full line of cheerleader soaps!
Her challenges? Like most it’s about finding the balance: between raising a family and running a successful business, and striking the right balance in the business itself. “You need to figure out where you want to be and aim there. I don’t want the company to get so large that I can no longer see every piece of the business.”
ROBIN M LENHARD is a freelance business writer and craft artisan, based in Buffalo, New York, and is a board member of Artists in Buffalo, Inc.. Robin wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (http://www.debbiemay.com/), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.