It started with a sick little boy. Actually, he wasn’t sick so much as he was allergic to just about every soap, detergent, and ointment out there, creating a very itchy and painfully uncomfortable existence.
It continued with a concerned mother, creative genius, and brilliant businesswoman who stumbled across an idea that would one day pay for her dream home.
It sustains through passion, ingenuity, generosity, and overwhelming geekiness.
The Luxury Lane Soap success story has an unlikely beginning, a riveting middle, and an ending that will SHOCK you. Read on as Kylee Lane shares her most valuable resources, her critical advice for crafty folks who want to monetize their talents, and her projections for when her company will be a million-dollar one (hint: it’s not when you’d think!).
Working Up a Lather
Tell me about how you went from making soap for your son to making your first sale to a stranger.
It just really felt like a natural transition — I never planned on making soap to sell it, so I never thought about profits or price points. I’d give some as gifts to family and friends, and then got requests for more. Obviously, there was a need, and I fulfilled it. My business continues to evolve, and over the past seven years my company has been shaped by my customers’ (and my personal) needs.
Why “Luxury Lane Soap”?
I love this question. As my business developed, I went through many name changes. When I first started selling to the public, I had a very “alternative” looking, neon-colored website, and it just did not work for the market at that time. So I revamped and toned things down. It wasn’t until I finally stopped trying to be something I wasn’t that Luxury Lane Soap happened to pick up speed. Since that was the name I had when I got big, it is the name I kept.
What is your personal motto?
What have been your most valuable resources?
My family. Aside from being the reason I dove into this in the first place, my husband Rory and our two children produce a plethora of ideas on a daily basis. I could literally design a new soap every single day and never run out of ideas.
Washing Away the Obstacles
What have been your biggest obstacles?
Space would be number 1. We don’t have nearly enough of it, and our growth has been inhibited. Luxury Lane Soap will be expanding eventually, but this last year has been a constant struggle.
How do you develop product ideas?
Product ideas usually start with “Wouldn’t that be cool if…” and then it gets written on the marker board, no matter how ludicrous. After a few weeks of kicking around the possibilities, we’ll settle on a design. By the time we’ve designed a product, built a model, and made the mold, we’ve put an incredible amount of time into it, but that’s why it needs to be something fun that I have personal interest in.
Your popular Fight Club soap was recently licensed through Hot Topic, and you were asked to stop making it. How did that unfold?
I was just a fan of the movie, making a product because a licensed one didn’t exist. With all the fan-made versions out there, it was pretty flattering to be singled out by 20th Century Fox. Obviously they were afraid with me making mine [that] their licensed product wouldn’t have a market.
What other responses have you gotten from the companies who hold the trademarks for the creative sources of soap you make?
Since I don’t try to represent any product as anything more than a fan-made interpretation, most intellectual property lawyers leave me alone. Once they find out I make these products myself in my house, it usually gets dropped. Others just ask us nicely to “cease and desist.”
What does a “normal” day look like (if there is such a thing)?
I try to keep a schedule, but it really is hard. When you work at home, tiny things always pop up that distract you. Basically my day looks like this:
Start working at 7 AM. Lunch at noon. Work until dinner, at six. From 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM we all just sit and breathe and then it is back to work at 9pm until about midnight. It is like this 7 days a week, except on Saturday when I only work until noon, and then it is all of the deep cleaning house work.
That type of day sounds really scary, but it isn’t when you are doing something you love. The trick is to involve the kids as much as possible and it becomes a team effort. We have gotten so much closer since Luxury Lane has taken off. And when we have “Family Days” with no work, we REALLY enjoy the heck out of them.
Rinsing Away the Fakers
What do you know now about starting and running a business that you wish you had known when you started?
Pick a business name you are willing to have for the rest of your life. Really. Consider that the name you choose to represent your work will be the name you have forever. Do not lock yourself into a niche market, because times are always changing, and you need to be prepared to evolve your business with it.
What advice would you give to others who want to start home-based businesses?
Do what you love in abundance. Do not design a product solely to sell. Find something you do on a regular basis anyway, like knitting, and make a few pieces for the public. Never, EVER pick up a hobby just because you want to sell it. You will lack passion and people really do have a sense for that, as it shows in the end product
Your work has to speak for itself. If ten people make the exact same thing as you, you had better be the one making it the best. Look at what you make – remove the wrapper and the sales pitch and set whatever it is in front of you. What do you see? I hope that when people look at what I make, they see art. Not just a bar of soap, but an individual artistic creation. Art isn’t about paint or sculpting clay – it’s about the intention and the passion of the artist. Make whatever you’re selling art, and it will find a market and succeed.
My friends, extended family, and business advisers all tell me I have to slow down and stop working, but it isn’t “work” for me to do this. When I am going to take the weekend off, I get excited because now I can design more soap! I don’t make soap to sell it. I make soap, because I am literally obsessed with the medium. Every last detail, from designing a product to developing a fragrance to signing thank you notes, I love all of it.
The business part has got to be secondary to passion.
There you have it! Okay, so maybe we didn’t quite get to the part about when she’ll have a million-dollar company. But that’s all the reason to tune in for part two this afternoon!