Lately, I have been looking back to the beginnings of Chagrin Valley Soap--when the business had one real employee (me) and was located in a little space under the deck of my home overlooking the Chagrin River.
It is there, amidst the majestic beauty of nature, that I fell in love with our customer community.
When I started my soap business my goal was to reach out and connect with people. It was always about doing something that I loved and sharing my story, my passion and my natural creations with others.
I had built my own very unsophisticated website. If you wanted to place an order you had to send me an email and then pay by check. While quite primitive compared to today's e-commerce standards, over the years I came to know so many nice people through the e-mails we shared. I shared engagements, weddings, births, illnesses, and deaths with people I had come to know but never met.
My new community completely understood my mission, believed in me and what I was trying to accomplish, and taught me a lot about strength, perseverance, happiness and the importance of the little things in life. They were genuinely "the wind beneath my wings."
Although social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc were not part of our daily lives back then, folks were joining internet discussion boards and sharing information about things that interested them like hair, babies, skin problems, and pets. Our company continued to grow due to word of mouth via a variety of these discussion boards.
You can see the timeline of our company here, but ten years ago this Autumn, in 2007, a lot happened to change my little company.
My son Sam, who had been teaching in Spain, came home to work with me on my growing Company. Sam used his people skills to manage the customer service for Chagrin Valley Soap and took over the manufacturing of the non-soap products.
Also, the little room under the deck was too small for my growing business. So, I persuaded Howard to give up his wood shop and double its size with an addition.
Garage sales and auctions helped outfit our new soap factory. Howard and I found most of our cupboards sitting on the lawn of a neighborhood home that had just remodeled their kitchen. We cleaned them, painted them and proudly added them to our new soap shop.
So why is Ida feeling so nostalgic now? It is because of the picture to the right.
We outgrew that "new space," moved out in 2011 and that old soap room has remained empty for the last 6 years.
This Spring, Howard and I decided to connect the soap room to our home since our eat-in kitchen is no longer large enough to handle our growing family.
When we pulled out the cabinets in our soap room addition, I found the words "Ida '07" etched into the cement floor. I don't even remember placing them there, but the memories and tears came flooding out.
So much has happened since I etched that little note in the cement floor. All of my children are now grown and married and I am a grey-haired grandmother. Where has all of the time gone? (Now I sound like my mother).
As I continue to complete my constantly growing to-do lists and brainstorm new ideas to grow my business, I am reminded that I need to take time to look back, in order to really appreciate the journey--and this has been quite an incredible journey for me.
I am excited that our company has grown, but I must admit that I miss my intimate contact with each customer. I am proud to say, that even though many years have gone by, our soap shop locations have changed, and our staff has grown, the mission and core values of my little company, Chagrin Valley Soap, are still intact.
Walt Disney once said, “Whatever you do, do it well. Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
Chagrin Valley Soap thrives because of you, our community. Our community keeps us working hard and with a passion for perfection. We always want you to come back and bring your friends!
The relationships we have developed are absolutely priceless and our community will always be the "wind beneath our wings."
Thank you all for being the inspiration that continues to drive my journey!