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  • Writer's pictureCalla Norman

A Day In The Life of a Soap Goddess - Behind the Curtain at Pip and Lola’s Soap and Sundries

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Sami and Bruce Story-Camp, owners of Pip and Lola's

At Honeycomb Credit, all of our staff members are encouraged every quarter to go out into the wild and spend a day shadowing a local business owner. We call it, “Nothing Important Happens In The Office.” Essentially, what it means is that Honeycomb staff get the opportunity every quarter to spend a day shadowing a business owner, asking them questions, and getting their hands dirty. This motto was brought to us originally by our Director of Product, Joe Lipple, as one of his defining work philosophies, so it’s only fitting that he shows us how it’s done!

Joe spent a day with one of Honeycomb’s alumni small businesses - Pip and Lola’s Soap and Sundries. Pip and Lola’s ran two Honeycomb Campaigns in rapid succession to open up their third location in Pittsburgh’s Strip District - raising a total of $112,400!

After a day spent with Pip and Lola’s owner and “Soap Goddess” Samantha Story-Camp, Joe had a lot to say about his experience. Let’s see what he learned!

Opening a soap shop can be a messy business!

Pip and Lola's is a family-run soap store owned by Samantha and Bruce. They started making soaps for their son's sensitive skin, and the store is named after their children, who inspired the business! Pip and Lola’s soaps are unique in that they’re barely-scented, and are vegan or vegetarian. Most of the soaps have fun names that call back to Samantha’s roots in the theater - there’s a whole line of soaps named after Shakespearean characters!

Pip and Lola’s has grown immensely to three locations, and are known throughout the Pittsburgh area for their soaps as well as their social roots - for every two items sold, Pip and Lola’s donates a bar of soap to domestic violence shelters in the area.

When Joe joined them for a day, they had just moved into a new storefront in the busy and walkable Shadyside neighborhood and were getting their feet under them. Joe noted that there was lots of stuff everywhere - boxes, supplies, raw materials, and more. The storefront itself was in great shape, but behind the scenes, things were still shaping up.

“I went to help organize the space, and take the burden of menial but important tasks off of their hands,” Joe mentioned. “I moved a sink, organized boxes, took out the recycling, and washed the soap out of bottles from failed experiments. Their hot water was not yet on, so rinsing soap out of bottles for re-use was really time-consuming but necessary. They were thankful for the help!

Digging deeper - it’s more than just moving boxes!

“I had the great opportunity to dig more deeply into their experience,” says Joe. Samantha and Bruce were in the process of closing their location in the Robinson mall, which had much less foot traffic than what was sold to them by the landlords. This caused them to have to reduce hours for their employees. Thankfully for them, the landlords entered a revenue share agreement on the $1400 rent, which was 2x their sales alone (plus employee expenses, materials, etc.). They used a trusted lawyer in their network for free/cheap advice, and were able to break the lease without further consequence. But the experiment cost them dearly.

Having all of these locations has also been a bit of a challenge for Pip and Lola’s to surmount. Between their locations, they have 11 different landlords, and it has been a challenge to get responsive answers and relevant actions from them. You know, the important things any retail store needs, like hot water, or the keys to the material elevator (the property is on 3 levels, and this is a major pain point).

Pip and Lola’s are currently getting good reporting from their point-of-sale system, Square, accessing reports like sales by time, location, etc. They have not yet implemented COGS (cost of goods sold) into the equation yet, but have intentions to do so.

Joe has also learned that at Pip and Lola’s, marketing is key, and has been a struggle. "Our social media person is helping. Used to own an Etsy store. She's not cheap, but damn good." They tried cheaper options but they were not good - just showing that you pay for excellence!

“They love what they do, and it shows.”

At the end of the day, Joe found some really strong takeaways in how they’ve grown as a business, especially through their interactions with Honeycomb and their investors.

“They love what they do, and it shows,” says Joe. “There is a lot of heart in this business and they are thankful for their investors.” Samantha has told us that they chose to take on a higher interest rate for their Honeycomb loan as a way of giving back to their investors who have believed in them.

They also took on a longer repayment period, which actually can be useful to their business. Every time that investors receive their quarterly disbursements, they get reminded of Pip and Lola’s and how awesome of a small business they are! In this way, the Honeycomb loan also double-times as a marketing tool, reminding already loyal customers that they’re still there, still paying back their loan, and still serving up high-quality soap!

Learning the realities of independent business ownership to better serve local business owners

Joe’s experience at Pip and Lola’s reminds us why we work to get out of the office and regularly meet with entrepreneurs in our area. They have a variety of daily challenges, from getting old soap out of bottles to negotiating with landlords, and understanding those issues allows us to better help them get the funding they need to grow. Learn more about Honeycomb Credit by filling out the form below!


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