Starting Her Soap Business in High School! Interview w/ Kaiya Dale & Her Mom (PART 1)
Kaiya Dale is the 17 year old co-founder of Just Soapin! Learn more about her experience with starting her soap business while in high school and how her mom was able to support her in the process!
Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
Kaiya: I’m 17, I go to GALA (Girls Academy Learning Achievement). I really like science, specifically chemistry is one of my favorite subjects and I want to major in organic chemistry, which is one of my passions. So that's one thing I'm passionate about and I also really like dancing. I danced for eight years.
Definitely have to have some of those creative backgrounds as well as STEM, so I love that you’ve found a nice balance for yourself. Now that we know a bit about you, let’s talk about your business!
What first sparked the idea for your business?
Kaiya: It was actually my mom, because she was telling us, me and my brother, that she wanted us to start a business so we could see how the world works and what we would need in order to be financially stable. And it also was a business camp that my brother and I went to during the summer (Los Angeles Urban League Biz Camp) that also helped us get the business on its feet which really inspired us to continue. They got us some of our first customers and income.
Wow! That's incredible?
How did you find out about the business camp?
Kaiya’s Mom: I was Googling stuff and then I came across the summer program for teenagers. I remember when they were younger, I remembered the program because I looked it up and I was like, "when they turn 16, I'm going to make them do this program." But clearly I had forgotten. So I was like, “Oh, check it out. I'm going to make them start this business anyway. So why not?” It was the best program. They got paid to go and be part of this six week intensive. They learned how to write a complete business plan from beginning to end, how to pitch to business partners or investors. It's a great program.
That is absolutely amazing. So you had the idea there, but….
What happened between having the idea and then transitioning to actually starting the business? Did that also occur during the program?
Kaiya: Majority of it did. Yes. Because they kind of pushed us to make our business at a faster pace than we probably would have done on our own. So throughout the process we had to make our website, we were also pitching to judges at the end of it. So we had to come up with the entire business plan, all the money that we had to - we just had to calculate everything and have everything ready for us to pitch. So it kind of pushed everything forward since it was brand new.
I mean, that makes perfect sense because you know, if you're in this program but you went and hadn’t really gotten started, it probably would have been difficult to keep it going in that same way.
And for mom, how were you involved in the process of starting the business?
Kaiya’s Mom: Before the business really took off completely, I made them sell because I'm “the bank.” And so they knew that "the bank" needed to be paid back. So in order for them to even have funds to start the business, I was like, “you need money.” So we sold Easter baskets. We went and we bought a bunch of Easter basket stuff and for a month, it literally was a month. We prepared baskets and I made them sit on the corners for every weekend the month of March and we sold 40-50 baskets. It was enough money that they made to pay the bank back and have funding to start their business.
That is so creative and so much fun. Just really teaching those sales skills before you even get the business started. Practicing how to deal with having people tell you “no”, and being able to just keep moving forward. That is huge.
It seems that’s where you went from, an idea - like you had the program, you had the website, everything was sort of put together and then to get the startup money, you sold the baskets. So now that the business has started….
What's been the biggest obstacle in terms of running the business?
Kaiya: For me, it was really just staying motivated and continuing to create products because sometimes I just get lazy and I don't feel like doing it, but I know it has to be done. So it was just like having those rough days where I really didn't want to do anything, but I had to push through it and do it anyway because I knew it had to be done.
Being motivated to do the work in general and then also creating new things. So was it hard to sort of stay creative if that makes sense? Like you came up with something and then you have to think of something else.
What do you do to keep creative and stay thinking of new products?
Kaiya: Well, with our business, we have so many different types of products that we could make within our industry and because soap is so versatile within its fragrances, colors, designs, you can do so many different things with it. I think so far we haven't really hit the point to where we are stuck with our creativity. We're still kind of coming out with it, but I could definitely see that being a problem in the future. And I think we just have to research and get inspiration from other industries or other things that we see
Kaiya’s mom: I'm not really a news watcher, but I try to stay connected with what's going on in the world. So if I see a trend breaking out, like when turmeric was a really big craze last year, I was like, “Oh man turmeric.” I researched turmeric and I'm like, “Oh yeah, for sure, we need to have a turmeric bar.” So then we all sit down and we YouTube, we Google, we figure out every benefit and we figure out the best recipe for our bars of soap. Then we move forward just like our latest bar soap is hibiscus soap because we researched how good hibiscus is for your skin internally and externally. So it's just kind of staying up with what's trendy and what's poppin'.
So it’s about following what your customers are looking for and then being able to provide that before they know that they even want it sometimes. And then with soap making in general.
Did you have experience with soap making? Was this all new? And if so, how did you learn how to make soap?
Kaiya: It was actually all brand new. My mom had us do a lot of research. We watched a lot of videos. We kind of stuck with a few people's techniques and they just seemed to work for us. Of course we do have our bad batches, trust me. Still goes wrong to this day. It is hard, but once you kind of get the hang of it and you get in the flow of doing it often, it gets easier because you just know your timeframe, what needs to go in at what time, and you can kind of see after looking at the soap to know when something is going right or when something's going wrong.
So it started with YouTube and those video...
Are there any other sources that you looked into or was YouTube good enough to get you going?
Kaiya: YouTube that was our source. They told us everything we needed to know, where to make the soap, what to use, everything. It was our saving grace. Honestly.
Kaiya’s mom: It was really interesting too, because - I graduate daily from the university of YouTube, like that is my safe haven. My kids think I'm crazy sometimes because I'm like, "Oh, you gotta watch this video! Look what I found! I learned how to do this today!” Anything you need is on there and if I couldn't find it, we couldn't find it on there. Oh, I will find it online somehow. But we still had our trials and errors with listening to advice because not all advice that's on YouTube is sound device. So that's the give and take that you have to take away from that as well.
So would you suggest maybe using YouTube and sort of learning how to do it and then launching the business after you've kind of developed your process?
Kaiya’s mom: Definitely have to go through the challenge here before you're like, “alright, let's go!” You’ll hit a wall real fast.
Right. Absolutely. And as for the team it’s you, Kaiya, and then mom is obviously in there and then your brother.
Is there anybody else on the team?
Kaiya: At first there were six of us, but as time has gone on school started and we kind of just moved to the us three. We kind of focused on our business and they're still there to help and be there for us, but mainly it's just us three now.
I completely understand and it’s great that you mentioned school, which brings me to my next question:
How do you balance everything that needs to be done with school and then also fulfilling the obligations of your business?
Kaiya: Well, when we first started our business, we were actually on winter break, so we didn't really have school at first. So, you know, we were just pumping stuff out, especially when we were in the summer camp, we were just able to make soap every day and it wasn't a problem. Once school started, I just had to stick to a strict schedule pretty much if we needed to make soap I knew I had to do it. I couldn't get lazy, so I would just come home and do it and I would just have to have the mindset to want to do it. But I also use money as my motivation and also my mom, because I wanted money and it's not like my mom was just going to let me sit around and not do it anyway.
And we'll stop here! But tune in next week and we'll share PART 2 of this interview where we hear more from Kaiya and her mom about what entrepreneurship has taught her as well as how necessary it is to start teaching entrepreneurial skills to girls now!
Connect with Just Soapin!
Stay happy, healthy, and innovative!