When you live in a city of 89,000 people and a small number of them make their own soap, it’s tough to make a living as a supplier to soap makers — unless you do it online. That is exactly how Anne-Marie Faiola turned her pastime into a profession.
Faiola started making soap and selling it at craft shows as a side gig while off the clock as a corrections officer. She preferred the cleanliness of crafting to the seediness of prison and scored enough sales to build her confidence in becoming an entrepreneur. At age 20, she borrowed $15,000 and gave up a secure paycheck to pursue a dream. That gave her enough to buy a pallet of soap, five fragrances and some soap molds for a new company, Bramble Berry.
Although the business generated revenue and grew enough to justify warehouse expansions for the first few years, its financial position wasn’t strong. Then Faiola tried her hand at blogging as the Soap Queen. Next came a YouTube channel, Soap Queen TV. A few years into her experiment at building a personal brand as a do-it-yourselfer, Faiola had hundreds of tutorials and videos — and hundreds of thousands of fans.
She eventually expanded the brand to other social media channels and wrote books to bolster her image as an influencer. Bramble Berry now has a customer base in the tens of thousands, 100 employees in the state of Washington, and an expanded product line on a new website.
Faiola credits the company’s success in large part to digital technology — from the Salesforce Commerce Cloud as the website platform to the social networks that foster crafting connections and create educational opportunities. The list of tools that support the business includes G Suite (office functions), PayPal (payment processing), ShipStation (order fulfillment) and voice-over-Internet protocol (telecommunications).
Faiola imagines a future with even more robust and secure innovations that will help Bramble Berry expand into new markets. Unless the other Washington gets in the way by enacting counterproductive policies, that is
“How can Congress help?” she said. “Get out of our way! More regulations make it more difficult to do business, and arbitrary requirements create more friction for customers.”