By: Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Little Flower Soap Co. is a Chelsea, MI. based small batch, body care company established in 2010 by Holly and Justin Rutt.
Holly received her first ever bar of essential oil soap from a good friend and roommate.
“I never used soap that smelled that good or left your skin moist like that, I was obsessed with it,” said Holly. “She was moving, and I was like ‘Please I need to know how to make this, I never want to use any other soap. It’s so great. ‘She sent me to learn how to make soaps from her sister, four hours north of Toronto on this itty-bitty farm. They live in a log cabin, it’s all one room with a wood burning stove. She used the stove to cook all her food, heat the house, and make the soap.”
The recipe that she taught gave her 125 bars, which was more than she ever needed, so when Holly and Justin decided to get married in 2010, they gave them as wedding favors.
“Everybody enjoyed them, so we decided to make some more and sell them at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti,” said Holly. “They were having a craft fair fundraiser for Roller Derby. So, we sold them at the Roller Derby Craft Fair and we sold out! We were like ‘Okay this is a thing we should keep doing this.’ Then not long after we put them on Etsy and that’s a totally different game, you’re reaching so many different customers that way.”
The soaps come prepackaged with a gift tag, ready to gift, and Holly told The Sun Times they are very popular around the holidays.
In Oct. 2016, the Rutts’ expanded their business to begin selling on Amazon. Before that, they were selling on Etsy and their own website but were beginning to experience slower sales.
“It was right before Christmas and I was getting worried,” said Holly. “We got an invite to join Amazon Handmade, I had applied a year earlier, and we were told they weren’t accepting bath and beauty yet when I applied. Out of the blue we received an email that said they’d opened our category and we had been approved. I set up shop that same day and within that week we were already selling.”
Holly told The Sun Times that they began receiving orders immediately and were up to 100 orders a day towards the end of that season.
“It was a game changer for us,” said Holly. “It really helped us save the money to renovate our barn into a studio and get us out of the house which has been our vision for 7-8 years.”
Before finding success with Amazon the plan had always been to renovate, but the influx of business made that happen much faster. The Rutts’ were able to pay cash for the renovation rather than having to take out a loan.
“We would have done it (renovated the barn) one way or another but we got to make it quite nice,” said Holly. “All our cabinetry is made from a reclaimed barn from another Chelsea barn and a couple other really neat features that wouldn’t have need possible if we hadn’t found the success on Amazon.”
The public relations team from Amazon had already reached out to the Rutts’ about a couple of opportunities for exposure for their business. One was to go to a fulfillment center in Livonia when it opened, taking a tour with the governor, and the other was an interview with the Ann Arbor News.
“Both of those went really well so I think we were on their radar already for having worked with their PR team in the past,” said Holly. “I know they were looking for small businesses to feature as part of their roll out of Amazon Storefronts.”
Earlier this summer, Holly was contacted again by Amazon, in regard to working with them on a commercial and video for Amazon Storefronts. Amazon Storefronts, which unveiled on Sept. 17, is on the Amazon homepage. The purpose is to give a bigger opportunity for shoppers to buy specifically from U.S. small and medium sized businesses.
Amazon Storefront includes over 20,000 American shops across all 50 states, this week, the Little Flower Soap Co. can be found on the front page as the first storefront of the week.
While the Rutts’ knew they were in the running for the commercial spot, they didn’t know where the project would be filmed, they just knew that they had to be able to travel and have their passports. It came down to a couple of potential locations, but Holly was more than happy with where they ended up going.
“We were hoping it was going to be Athens or Greece in general because we were excited to go there,” said Holly. “I’m so glad it was too. Greece was just amazing. We went to the Acropolis and all these museums that have all that ancient architecture, it was really inspiring.”
Chosen over four other small businesses, the Rutts’ in addition to being featured as the storefront of the week, we’re flown to Athens to film a commercial and later welcomed a crew to their studio for a more detailed video on their business.
Holly was notified in June about being chosen as the business to make a commercial, and the Rutts’ went to Athens in July to film the commercial before Amazon came out to their studio on Werkner Road to film the second video in August.
Since partnering with Amazon, Holly told The Sun Times that she saw an immediate difference in the customer base from Etsy and their own website compared to Amazon.
“Amazon, the most obvious thing to me is the men who buy our product on Amazon,” said Holly. “I know that there are guys that shop on Etsy but there are just so many more guys that shop on Amazon. 50 percent of our orders out of the gate were from guys which really caught me off guard. Guys buying for their wives, moms, or sisters for Christmas, that kind of thing. That’s definitely a customer we hadn’t been reaching so definitely felt like we had diversified successfully which is a good thing.”
Holly told The Sun Times that the Rutts’ are continuing to farm their own lavender to use in their soaps, having about 25 plants thus far while planning to add one hundred plants a year for the next couple of years.
In addition to the soap making, Holly owns another small business, Sweet Pea Floral Design a wedding and event floral design company. As a result of the renovated studio, Holly hopes to host classes.
“Maybe 10 people from the community a couple times a month,” said Holly. “How to make soap or salt or design a floral arrangement for Thanksgiving, things like that. We’re going to offer some DIY classes and continue planting the lavender.”
Although it’s been a long journey from where the business started to where it is today, Holly loves many different aspects of the entrepreneurial process.
“I love working with my hands and getting to be my own boss,” said holly. “I really love dreaming up a vision and then making it come to life. That’s a joy of being an entrepreneur to me, that whatever beautiful idea you can come up with, you can make it real. Recently as our team has been growing I’ve fallen in love with hiring and training and team leading. Getting to help others be successful and lead a team to complete a big project or challenge feels like a big win for us when we come up with a strategy and pull it off.”
The Little Flower Soap Co.’s products can be found around Chelsea; Bumble’s Dry Goods, the Chelsea Farmer Supply, and Serendipity Books all carry their products. The studio, located at 7228 Werkner Road has limited hours, Monday and Wednesday from 12-5 and Saturday from 11-5 now through Christmas. In addition to a small retail area, customers may build their own gift set.
Photos provided by Holly Rutt