Inspired by the natural beauty of a stream running through the woods, Amanda of Seven Runs Soaps designs soaps, body scrubs, and lip balms with quality ingredients including silk fibers, pure cane sugar, extracts, and local honey. Dabbling in new herbal formulas for future products, Amanda clearly enjoys developing her line, which currently includes soaps and scrubs in classic florals, such as English Rose, Jasmine, and Lavender and delicious scents like Bergamot Poppy Seed, Butter Cream Cookie, Chocolate Layer Cake. I think my diet has just been sabotaged... Got...to...resist!
Amanda has really opened up in this interview, and I feel an instant connection. Please read her story, her candid discussion of her business, and her loving motherly advice to fellow business owners. Enjoy the first Friday's Featured Artisan - yes, Amanda, artisan! It takes creativity and persistence to run a successful business. After I scrounge through my cupboards in search of butter cream cookies, I plan on trying out some Bergamot Poppy Seed scrub using an awesome DISCOUNT just for my blog readers.
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Tell us about yourself: My name is Amanda Miller. I live in the beautiful Florida Panhandle in Walton County near Seven Runs Creek. I have been married to my soul mate, Steve, for 15 years and we have 2 daughters. Evelyn is 15 and Abigail is 12. I am originally from Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. I moved to my current home in 1994 on a whim, and to follow work. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I can think of nothing that would make my life more complete than it is, I am richer spiritually than I have ever been. I would like to thank Erica of Bonnie Bath Co. for highlighting me and my products as a Featured Artisan! I am just a person who enjoys and appreciates the simple things in life. I do not consider myself an artisan because there are so many out there who are far more deserving of the title. It is an honor to me to be considered in the same category!
What types of products do you sell? I make and sell handmade soaps, sugar scrubs and lip balms. My soaps are made with Olive, Coconut and Palm Kernel oils, Shea Butter, Silk Fibers, Oatmeal, Mica or Oxide colorants and either Essential or Fragrance oils. I am currently experimenting with plants and herbs as colorants. The scrubs are made with Pure Cane Sugar, Pure Locally Harvested Honey, Ground Oats, Jojoba and Sweet Almond oils and a touch of fragrance. My lip balms are made with Cocoa Butter, Avocado Oil, Beeswax, Stevia and Flavor Oils or Extracts. I spent more than a few years playing with the formulas for my soaps and finally settled on the one that I use now, many unsuccessful batches are notched on my kitchen cabinets!
How did you get into this business? I started looking into handmade soaps in about 1999 when my then 2 year old Abbie had skin rashes and allergies to all sorts of things… soaps, and certain laundry detergents most notably. A friend introduced me to making my own soaps, she was tinkering with the idea too. I made my first batch with a simple “Crisco Recipe” and Lavender Essential Oil and was hooked!
I also proud to report that Abbie is fine and dandy, having outgrown her allergies, but still in love with “Mommy’s Soap”.After learning about the wonderful oils that are out there and the properties that they hold, I started to branch out. At one time, I had another bath and body company, in about 2000, that failed. I tried to do too much too soon… lotions, lotion bars, shampoos, incense… you name it, I made it. I was a lot younger and did not have the time or the business knowledge to invest in it and had to stop. Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I have started again to sell the products that I have loved to make for so long. I was not going to do this on a large scale initially, but persistent friends that love what you make have a way of putting ideas and plans in your head, and here we are! I am taking it slow and growing a business that I can be proud of.
Where do you get your inspiration for your work? My daughters and the natural world around me are my inspirations. My girls are always there supporting me, giving their unique teenage input and helping me to run my little “Kitchen Business”. Scents and colors may vary, but the love that goes into all that I do will never sway. Nature is something that I can not escape, it is around me all the time. I feel more at peace sitting on the banks of a lazy creek listening to the birds that anywhere I have ever been. The sounds, the colors, the smell on the breeze; there is nothing to compare it to.
What is your favorite product from your line and why? My favorite product would have to be my scrubs. I am especially proud of the formulation; it was an arduous task to try and get the oils and additives in the right amounts and formulations so that my shower did not turn into a slip and slide! There is nothing worse than getting out of a relaxing shower sore and bruised. I love the way the scrubs compliment the soaps and the added moisture that they give me. After I shower, I rub the scrub on myself in a circular pattern. To me, it feels like a little mini massage and a nice escape from a long day. Afterwards, I can always tell that there is a difference in the way that my skin feels… smooth and hydrated!
What do you do outside of work? Aside from my soaps, I am a school bus driver for the local elementary school. I have been driving since 2003, and I love it more every year. My schedule allows me time in the middle of the day to work on my soaps and all the other things that I make. I also conduct the business end during this time.
My hobbies seem to circulate around my family. I love to take my girls to the river just to walk, or to fish, and doing things with them. They are really big in our church’s youth group, and that dominates a lot of our time. We love watching Discovery, PBS and NASCAR. As a family, we love to spend time together and regularly sit down and watch a movie, complete with popcorn! Our family time is precious to us. We also enjoy helping others as we can.
What are your business dreams for the future? I have a modest 5 year plan. My husband and I own 13 acres on the popular highway we live on. I would love to have a little store on the highway (I would be happy with a nice portable shed type building)! I dream of a little place, nothing major, where I can make and showcase the products that I love; maybe have an area for other crafters and artisans. Ideally, I would love to hire some of the local teens to help out in the sales and general things. There is not a whole lot to do out here in the “woods” and a helping hand to others might just keep a few of them out of trouble and teach them valuable life lessons.
If you could give advice to other bath and body or candle businesses, what would it be? I have tried to think of advice that I would have given myself on my first go-round and here is what I have come up with:
1. Have FUN! There is nothing that you can do well if you do not enjoy what you are doing. If you love your work, it will never feel like a “job”.
2. Take the time to learn all that you can about your chosen field. I, for example, have spent the last few years learning about herbs and the properties that they hold. I still am a “newbie” at infusions.
3. Do what you are passionate about. If you are not proud of what you have created, people will pick up on that. If you love to ride bicycles, you are going to project a more positive attitude than someone who is just riding because it is the “in” thing. Believe in yourself and your products and that will sell others on your enthusiasm.
4. If you promise something, deliver! I promise all orders will be shipped within 2 business days. If I can not deliver on that (shortages do occur, emergencies happen), I immediately contact the customer and offer alternative solutions. My customers come first! I also follow through after every sale; an e-mail or a phone call to see if everything was to their liking is a simple thing to do to make your customers feel special and remember you.
5. Don’t give up! I have learned that it takes time to become comfortable with your business. Overnight success will rarely happen. Do not get discouraged when sales are slow, they will pick up. Above all, persevere and keep your head held high!
If you could have one bath and body or candle business question answered, what would you ask? All of the questions that I would ask would refer to creativity in scents, colors and names. I am not a terribly creative person.. no matter how hard I try to be!
Discounts Offered: In honor of Erica and the Bonnie Bath Co., I will give a 10% discount on ALL orders with the code BBath09. As always, shipping in the US and Canada is free!
Be sure to check out the Seven Runs Soaps website. You might just stumble on the CONTEST being offered. Something like - 2 Silk Soaps, 1 Sugar Scrub, 1 Lip Balm and 1 Hand Knit 100% Cotton washcloth from Barb's Unique Cloths & Soapbags.
Thanks to Amanda and best of luck with your business! I hope you all enjoyed getting to know Amanda as much as I did.