When a small business owner opens additional locations of their business, there are many decisions to be made and processes to navigate. How do you know if the new location will be profitable? Do you need to hire more employees? Can you expand your inventory appropriately?
This fall, longtime Entrepreneurs Forever (eforever) peer group member, Samantha Story-Camp, is opening a third Pip & Lola’s location in The Strip District Terminal. During Pip & Lola’s expansion, Samantha engaged her peer group and facilitator, Terry Doloughty, and was able to make confident decisions about her growth, access financial resources, and know that she isn’t alone in the learning curves she faces.
For Samantha, the opportunity to open additional locations was unexpected and required her to move quickly. Both venues reached out to Samantha directly, and she was able to turn to her facilitator, Terry, and peer group as a sounding board. Terry previously managed the Pittsburgh Public Market, in The Strip District. Now closed, the Public Market was housed in the space that is now the Strip District Terminal. Terry’s expertise and experience was invaluable as he helped Samantha review the initial proposal. His insightful feedback helped her make a confident decision about moving forward.
“When they sent over the letter of intent, I sent it to Terry and asked, ‘Can you look at this? I have no idea if this is normal.’…And he was really funny because he said, ‘You know me, you know I tend to be conservative about a lot of this stuff, but you’d be stupid not to do this’,” says Samantha.
Since Pip & Lola’s opened in 2011, Samantha (a.k.a. Soap Goddess) has made more than 250 vegan and vegetarian lightly-scented soaps so people don’t have to suffer from headaches. Accompanying the openings of Pip & Lola’s additional stores, Samantha is also creating new lines of products. Samantha has been able to discuss different ideas for soaps and how to market them in her Entrepreneurs Forever peer group. For the launch of The Strip District store, a discussion with her peers about customer feedback sparked an idea for a product line that will launch with the opening of The Strip District store.
“We’re going to start offering a line of naturally fragranced oil products and do a whole thing and then we’re going to do one a month….So each month we’re going to have a soap, a candle, and a lotion all with that scent and when we run out, it’s out…And I know that would not have occurred to me without the (peer) group. I have a lot of good ideas, but the well runs dry sometimes,” says Samantha.
Growing any business comes with mistakes and learning curves, but having a network of people who are on a similar journey makes those learning curves manageable. Leading up to the opening of Pip & Lola’s new store locations, Samantha needed to learn how to improve her search engine optimization and resolve a business-related tax issue. For Samantha, her peer group is an environment where she can be honest about the challenges that she is working through and the areas that she is not an expert in. On an emotional level, she is validated by others who also struggle with the same areas.
“I think that having the knowledge that it’s not just you is the thing that works so well about Entrepreneurs Forever…Sure, there’s education and this, that, and the other. But the feeling that you’re not the only moron on the planet is really validating. We all get stuck in our heads and think, ‘Everybody else has it together, and I’m stupid.’ In the peer group, you realize that everybody has that problem, everybody forgets about a bill, everybody runs out of stock, everybody has supply chain issues. Realizing that it’s not just you. That knowledge makes you go, ‘Okay, cool. I’m just going to keep on keeping on’,” says Samantha.
Samantha continues to make her products at the flagship Pip & Lola’s store in Homestead, PA. Recently, Samantha needed to update her soap-making equipment. With more efficient equipment, she now has the capacity to make 200 pounds of soap per day, but needs space to expand her cooling racks. During a peer group meeting, she learned about Honeycomb Credit, a company that connects small businesses with expansion loans through crowdfunding, and successfully launched a Honeycomb campaign (closes August 10 at midnight!). The campaign will give Pip & Lola’s working capital to build more storage space and provide an extra cushion for the first few months at their third store location. With Honeycomb’s support and resources that fuel the campaign, Samantha is freed up to focus on the bigger picture of her business.
“When I was in the intro meeting with Honeycomb, I started crying. I’m like, ‘Wait, you guys edit the videos? I don’t have to come up with perks? You’re going to give me verbiage? This is like Christmas.’ Again, Bruce [my husband] does all of the physical work, but that mental work is exhausting. And we talk about that in the group for those of us who are trying to push more.