Artisan Spotlight: Marcy Moorhead - Willow Bay Naturals

When Marcy Moorhead was operating her successful cloth diaper company she had the idea that handmade soaps might make a nice offshoot to her business. She herself suffered from Eczema and had been using them for years. So, she read all that she could to teach herself the process, and tested and perfected her recipes. Before long, her business had branched out and she found herself selling her diaper business to someone else and Willow Bay Naturals (http://www.WillowBayNaturals.com) was born.


She knew there were a lot of other soap makers out there, so set out to offer unique fragrances and brighter colors, to try and attract new folks who might explore the wonders of handmade soaps. Counter materials like cards answering the question “why should I buy homemade soap?” helped her to convert her new customers.

While she’d rather spend her weekends with family than by doing craft shows, she appreciates their value as a great “test drive” vehicle to bring out new products and to get customer feedback. An important thing to test, she stresses, is price point. Having once run a fundraiser sale for a local school where she actually lost money, she cautions against underpricing your goods. “Instead of making the cheapest items on the block, make something worth the asking price.”

She’s focusing on furthering her growing wholesale trade, and plans to make this her priority in 2012. Currently, she works with a sales consultant who reps other gift wares and who is helping her to secure new accounts in her native Illinois, and hopes to expand her reach into Michigan. Of course, Willow Bay Naturals is about more than just soap. Her best-selling products have been her soy wax tarts, goat milk soap, and her hand & body lotion which has been formulated for her own sensitive skin.

To help her retailers to achieve higher sales, she worked with a local craftsman to create eye-catching wood displays to help showcase her products to their best advantage. She also makes sure her merchants understand the benefits of her products—for example, that soy candles are better for people with asthma—and loves the fact that all of Wholesale Supplies Plus’ fragrance oils are phthalate-free, adding to the reasons she can feel good about the products she is offering for sale.

For others, she recommends membership in the Handcrafted Soapmakers’ Guild as she’s been helped by its valuable informational resources, in addition to helping her to secure insurance benefits. Another bit of advice for those hoping to grow their business? If you have a website, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is very important. “You really have to work at it”, she says, crediting this effort with helping her secure more wholesale accounts and business inquiries.

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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.