Welcome, This is the third interview in my small business highlight series. If you missed any of the previous interviews and store links be sure to start here. You won’t be disappointed. During this interview series you are going to meet small business owners who had a dream of sharing their creative gifts. I’m sure you’ll be able to find some great ideas for the upcoming holidays. My goal in this series is to highlight small biz owners helping them get seen. I also hope that if you are a small business owner or thinking of becoming one, their advice will come in handy for you. Support local. All stores highlighted ship within the USA. Some ship worldwide as well. Happy Shopping. Let’s get started. Today’s small business interview features Carol, owner of Lilly Sage Apothecary.
You can tell by reading the about page on Carol’s Apothecary site how laid back and fun she is. She strives to create an atmosphere of joy and peace. Join me as we dive in to learn more about her journey.
Carol Lawrence: Hi Carol, Welcome! Is your store only located online or do you have a brick and mortar location too?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Both. Our website is: www.lillysageapothecary.com and the shop is located at:
1097 Alpharetta Street, Roswell, GA 30075 USA
Carol Lawrence: Let’s dive right in. What was the creative spark that gave you the idea to launch your business?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: I make soap. I grew up within a large family and I loved cooking for everyone. Making soap and formulating sprang from this love. So, I guess the shop was/is an extension of this expression of affection. I’ll study an oil or extract then look for pairings that are a perfect fit.
I find joy in it. Also, in addition to being a creative outlet, it should be said that the true value of owning and operating a sticks & bricks store is that I get immediate and direct feedback. That value of that can’t be understated.
Carol Lawrence: Can you share with us one of your customers favorite products?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Hummm. I know my top sellers. In terms of soap it’s the Charcoal & Cedarwood Soap. It’s been the top seller since I opened 3 years ago. I am in love with it, and apparently so are my customers. After that… I would have to go with Charcoal again – this time it would be the Charcoal & Honey Clay Mask. It’s both fun to use and really effective.
Carol Lawrence: What country is your business located? Do you ship outside of USA?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: We’re in the US, and no, we are not shipping outside the US at this time.
Carol Lawrence: How has Covid-19 impacted your business?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: This year started out to be the year we were waiting for. Any start up is a challenge. We expected that. We opened in 2017 and have struggled. Organic growth takes time. Again, we expected that. But (finally!) January was up 100% over last year, and February was up 90%; the 2019 full year average took a 50% leap over 2018 (we opened in 2017). So, the early 2020 increases looked very exciting. It felt like brand awareness had clicked… then COVID. So yes, it has affected my business and still is. We are affected by both the uncertain economy and the fear of getting sick. My shop is open and feels like an oasis. So, people still come in, but the numbers are down. I’m holding my own. A few months have been flat and a few have been down by 10%. That’s not as bad as many. At least we are still open.
The bigger question is how will the holiday season play out. After all, this is retail, and retail needs the holiday sales to be written in black ink. We shall see. My web-sales are up. But my web sales don’t pay the bills. They needed work even in the time of COVID. I’m ecommerce challenged as a result so is my brand.
Carol Lawrence: I’m hoping to help bring in some exposure for your online sales. I also bet your brick and mortar store smells amazing creating a healing, soothing environment for customers to shop.
Carol Lawrence: Do you do marketing for your business?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Absolutely. I have a tight budget so I have to pick and choose but I do. I use social media actively (Facebook, Instagram and Google). I can’t afford Yelp. I post routinely. I also pay for ads on Nextdoor and a few other locally targeted programs. I have to watch my budget but to organically grow brand awareness you have to keep in front of people. It matters.
Carol Lawrence: Where do you see your company in the next two years?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: First – SUCCESSFUL! I have to start with that. I’m going to really focus on growing my anti-aging facial line (TOPAZ) in SKUs, in national e-commerce sales, and in wholesale. I must grow. The little local soap shop is wonderful as a connection to my community and for feedback, but it won’t take my brand to the next level. It’s time. COVID or no COVID.
Oh, and, I want to develop a men’s line. I love formulation and the process of designing products. I’m a nut. What can I say?
Carol Lawrence: What small business tip would you like to pass on to someone who is at the very beginning stages daydreaming about starting their own business journey?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: You will need more money than you thought. More money and more time. Being a business owner doesn’t stop at 6PM. It’s like a newborn baby. It comes first.
Carol Lawrence: Who are your business mentors?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Melinda Coss is an amazing entrepreneur and teacher. But to be honest, there are many really great brand ambassadors. I want to be one when I grow up. It’s a special mix of talents. I can tell you that I recently completed the Diploma in Organic Skincare program offered by Formula Botanica of the UK. So amazing. Best decision I have made in a long time. During that program I became acquainted with many truly exceptional brand ambassadors. They do a great job of lining up inspiring talents. If your followers are interested in the business of natural cosmetics or use of botanicals, then they should check out the program. Simply excellent.
Carol Lawrence: Do you have a team helping you out? If so, how many employees do you currently have working for you?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Less now that COVID came to town. I have a few shopkeepers but I’m the only one who manufactures products. I have to change that and I will. I want to invest in people. Ask me this question in 2021, I’ll have another answer. Just watch.
Carol Lawrence: I’m a big believer in building my life around my business instead of the other way around. How do you balance your life and business?
Carol – Lilly Sage Apothecary: I don’t! LOL. I do, I guess. I will, maybe. LOL. It’s about delegation and trusting your team. I love hiring great people. I can’t imagine my shop or my brand without the contribution of my trusted graphic designer. But for now. I have to be conservative. So, for now, I eat and sleep the shop/brand. Literally! I dream in essential oil blends, then I come in and make them.
Carol Lawrence: I love it when inspiration arrives in our dreams! I receive information the same way.
Carol Lawrence: I believe in paying it forward. Please share with us your favorite place to shop online or something fun you’ve bought online recently.
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: I am a giant believer in this. I look for ways to share the love. I give reviews and help with local fundraisers as often as I can. As for online shopping… I shop for wholesale retail. I look for unique items that are small batch and demonstrate integrity and craftsmanship. For example, Apolis Global (https://store.apolisglobal.com). This is a pay-it-forward retail site. Check it out.
Carol Lawrence: Is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up our interview together?
Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary: Only that I love what I do and I have customers who love their experience in my shop. I want to hold onto that. We all do.
I believe that people don’t just choose to live in a town because of a low crime rate, or good schools. I believe it’s because of the community identity. We are social animals and community is part of how we define ourselves. The restaurants and shops define that community. So, we need to keep them healthy. If you don’t feel safe visiting a shop, then call. Ask if they deliver or can package items up for you. That little act is kindness and will serve to help you protect “community”.
Carol Lawrence: Thank you so much for sharing your time and your story with us. I look forward to giving your products a try.
About Carol A. McEwin – Lilly Sage Apothecary
I was a hippy. Now, I’m a hippy with an espresso machine.
I grew up mostly in Tennessee. My parents are educated people who love art. Having expressed a minor talent in it, I was encouraged to attend art school. So, I did. I focused on 3D art, primarily pottery. You know what’s a great idea? Taking an aptitude test in high school. It’s likely a standard practice today, but it wasn’t then. In between kicking pots, I took one. The results were inconceivable. I, an artist, scored best in math and mechanical aptitude. The test went on to suggest a career as a garage mechanic or a chemist. I did “occasionally” partake in a little illicit chemistry, but this was insane. I was a nonconformist artist hippy. It would be years before I could truly appreciate how perfect that evaluation had been.
I have adventure in my soul. So, as a young woman I began to travel. I had heard Muses live in Alaska, so I went to find out. I lived in “the bush”. I made soap, sourdough bread and my own butter. I raised chickens, canned veggies and routinely ran pesky moose out of my garden. I had plenty of firewood and life was good. The air in Alaska is clean, and sustainable is a way of life. It was a good place for me. I became a woodworker and built furniture. Alaska is a wonderful place for pioneers. And, yes, I found Muses.
In time I wanted to be southern again. So, I headed back south. In 2017, I opened a little soap shop, Lilly Sage Apothecary. Remember the chemistry aptitude? It came in handy when I undertook formal training in organic / botanical formulations. Yep, I still make my own sourdough and butter. And, you know that old reference to dirty hippies? It couldn’t be further from the truth. We make soap… and espresso.
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Carol Lawrence resides in the mountains with her hubby of 34 years and four chickens. She is very active in the lives of her two granddaughters. Family is her #1 priority. She is a Best Selling Author and Biz Owner for over 10+ years. Marketing, customer service, business operations, human connection, consulting, writing, helping her clients build their businesses behind the scenes and her heart based coaching is where her passions lie.
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