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How this entrepreneur made $100,000 making soap in microwaves

This story is pretty unique. I connected with Lisa via Facebook after reading her story which got delivered to my inbox by Shopify. Both myself and Lisa use Shopify as a platform to sell our products on & Shopify decided to share her story with the world. I got so inspired by this incredible and feisty woman, that I thought to myself I will get in touch and interview her for the new Blog series #GirlBoss.
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A GirlBoss is someone who is crazy enough to believe in their dreams and pursue them.
A GirlBoss is someone who does't take no for an answer.
 A GirlBoss is someone who lives life on her own terms.
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Please welcome Lisa & her business HoneyBunch
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Q - Hi Lisa, tell us more about who you are & what your business is about?
Basically I'm a start up queen, I love starting from absolutely nothing, creating something unique and then challenging myself to build a brand as quickly as possible.  Some people have sports as their interest ...I have my business.  Currently at the moment I own three companies in 3 different countries, all  representing a self created soap brand, made in New Zealand and infused with Manuka honey, similar to lush but less the SLS and nasties.. (I'm a massive animal lover so not into any animal tested chemicals etc)
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Q - How was your idea born?
Well, basically I've been involved with manufacturing for around 7 years ...was a tad bored, even though I was possibly one of the only women who had managed to start a manufacturing business with a microwave in my kitchen and export my handmade product to china (That's another crazy story in Itself) ...anyway manufacturing is a pretty grotty businesses and after having many retail businesses I decided it was time to step out of the factory and create a new brand, I had been inspired by the margins my Chinese customer was making, but not impressed with his narrow mindset, so after many trips to China, assisting him to create his brand and sell him new products I thought it was time I did something myself, it has always been on my to do list ...to have an international brand.
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So when I saw an ad on FB for the shopify buildabiz competition I decided to start honeybunch and attempt to win it ..I didn't win but made the top 100 out of 42,000 (I actually cried for a week in the fetal position when I found this out)but shopify thanked me for being one of the entrants who really stood out, sent me a signed book from Seth Godin saying 'stay weird honeybunch' and wrote a blog about me on their main blog site ...So the competition effectively launched honeybunch and my international dream.
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Q - Were your friends & family supportive throughout & how do you deal with negativity from the one's that don't believe in your idea?
 Great question, funnily enough my husband contributed to the original idea of having all the products including Manuka honey ...yet he is not a risk taker and completely doesn't want to know anything to do with the business.  My entire family thinks I'm nuts and I've learnt by de fault that most people don't want to celebrate success and prefer to revel in failure ...for me my failures have been my ultimate successes, and through these last few years on this particular journey I've met other likeminded people internationally both on social media and from my travels so I don't feel as alone as I have in the past.  Being an entrepreneur can be seriously lonely at times so it's nice to know there are others out there like you, as friends really don't want to listen to you dream 24/7 about your business.
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Q - What was the initial investment in this business?
$300 NZD .. I basically started and self built my website and invested as people ordered ...So I boot strapped from the word go. 
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Q - So did you start your business online & then transitioned into brick & mortar stores? Where are your stores based?
Yup, online and then into a store as it was important for me to have a physical store in NZ. I had to gain trust in Hong Kong before I opened a store there.
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Q - How did you manage to get into the Chinese market?
Originally I owned 4  Retail stores before a Chinese man came in to my store and asked (in Chinese) if I could make this soap in 12 styles. Of course I said yes, however I wasn't the one making the soap, I was ordering from a manufacturer myself. I had a soap maker in the South Island of New Zealand make it for me.
So the Chinese gentleman said he was in NZ for 1 week and asked if I could prepare 12 samples for him before he left. I said of course and jumped on the plane the day after to see my manufacturer. To my horror, the business had sold to a new owner who wouldn't lower the price for me or do anything as she didn't like the idea of selling to China. I orginally saw myself as a broker, so I flew back that night, got on the phone and called a hippy soap maker I found in Auckland and asked her if she would teach me to make soap (Nuts right?)
She agreed... I paid her $800 and she taught me the next day how to make soap (Wait this is not even the craziest part yet). So that weekend, armed with my new skills I made 12 random samples in my microwave at home & on the TuesdayI I took the soap samples  to the potential future customer.
Are you ready for the next crazy thing? A week later he placed an oder of $100k... I was like WTF ..so bought 8 microwaves and made about 3 tonnes of soap. He still doesn't know this to the day and at the time it nearly killed me... Anyway I upgraded to a shed with a couple of BBQs and low and not long after, the woman who said "No I won't be making soap for you to sell to China" went belly up and offered to sell me the factory. So of course I bought it and the rest is history.
About 6 months ago I sold the factory as I'm not motivated by it anymore.
Q - You're one very ambitious, determined & driven woman. Where do you find all of that energy & drive?
I often ask myself this, and I think it's because I've always been told I should have gone to uni and just had a job. It's almost like I want to prove a point and I want anyone who meets me to realise that life is more than a job and that its too short. So why not just do what you want to?
 I can't understand why people would put them selves under so much pressure to have a house/mortgage with no life adventure.  I really just want people to remember me as the person who was encouraging them to break the mould and live life outside the BOX. 
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Q - Tell us more about your war on your bank & how you set up a super successful Facebook campaign & went on to sell 75000 bath balls. We must say we loved the honesty & quirkiness of your campaign "We've got balls"...
Well my bank is a bunch of (&*£%$)  basically. They used me for their national advertising campaign and all they did was come into my factory for a day with a film crew to work, while claiming that they were helping businesses grow. I hadn't opened in HK yet and was planning to ask them for financing to do it. So I put them on the spot and on filming asked them for a loan ... I don't think they expected that
Anyway I needed 1/2 million to to open up a store in HK. After 6 months of selling my soul and signing my life away they lent me $150k. I took it and did everything I could to open my business in HK anyway. Unfortunately I didn't anticipate having a brain bleed in China while visiting my Chinese customer.
Hence the fact, I ended up in a Shanghai hospital for 4 weeks, had 4 surgeries and a loss of my left eye sight. So after not being able to fly back to New Zealand due to air cabin pressue for another 2 weeks, it put my HK start up 3 months behind opening. As soon as I arrived back to NZ, I was in complete shock to find out that the bank were threatening to pull out my funding as I was behind forecast. So it thought @*&%$£. I'm going to highlight this moment and raise my own funds, hence the bath bomb idea.
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Q - You hand delivered every single one of those 75000 around NewZealand. How is that even possible & did you manage to cover your bank loan?
Yeah I did ,,.it took ages ..people were pretty cool and supportive but of course there were a few haters ...and funnily enough after all the publicity the bank decided to re 'structure' me.
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Q - You also own your own warehouse? How did that come about and isn't it easier to deal with manufacturers?
I sold the factory and the warehouse this year to one of my staff, and now I just deal with them under a supply contract, and it's been a pleasure to watch my 'baby' grow under some new energy.  
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Q - If you weren't in this business, what would be your other business venture and why?
Well I've just started a mentoring type photo gig website www.1womanbrand.com as I help so many people anyway, so I thought I might as well try and make something out of it. I own about 50 domain names and I'm interested in a few product concept ideas, so I'll possibly pursue them when the time is right.
Q - Have you got any other projects in the pipeline for 2017?
Well I'm going to travel and write ..writing a book is on my list ...possibily sell this business  ... I would love to intern for a famous marketing guru person ...
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Q - How do you balance life with a crazy business? Do you do any activities, meditating, take holidays to stay sane?
Lol ..yup I run every day now ...it keeps me happy as I'm really tough on myself emotionally.  I travel a lot to HK and now Macau where the stores are and I actually don't do much when I'm there  (don't tell anyone) and I have a trip planned after Valentines to see friends in the states and go to Mardi Gras ...
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Q - Let's say I want to start my own business, but I just have no idea what I want to do yet. Where do I find one?
Everyone has something they would love to do, what are your hobbies and passions? Find one there.... Also you will be dead soon so why not just give it a try? I say 'if it doesn't hurt anyone - just do it'.  
Q - In your opinion what sort of qualities do you need to drive a business forward and succeed?
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Substance. So many people complain and expect something just to happen over night. That's rubbish and I also think you need to be humble but strong. It's pretty easy to become disheartened but people love to supoort hard workers so that would be my advice. 
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Q - What's your strongest social media platform for this business? Definitely
Facebook but I'm partial to Twitter as I have met a bunch of amazing successful like minded entrepreneurs here. They are an awesome support even though we have never met and I'm just getting into my Instagram for my own personal use for now. Im loving Instagram now, but didn't get it to start with. Slowly getting there ;)
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Q - Do you get most of your customers through Facebook advertising & do you advertise much? Also do you use Google Ads to drive customers through to your website?
I don't use google ads, but I do use FB ads ...I spend and mix it up and tell a story ...I would consider myself a whiz on the old Facebook now.  
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Q - What would you say is the best way to drive customers to your website? 
Make sure to offer value for money, everyone wants a good deal. 
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Q - I know you are very very very active on different forums. Specially on the Shopify forum. Do you find that this has increased your sales at all? Or just the brand profile within the Shopify community?
Lol ... I actually just like to throw my 2 cents in and wind people up ..I don't understand a whole bunch of stuff they talk about and I find some of the groups quite whingy... So if I have a great month I'm going to share it to break the boredom ... The NZ groups are very sterile, "you can't even put a post up without a moderator".  I like the shopify culture and believe In the  idea of anyone being able to make a website and get started.  I would actually love to work there.
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Q - What advice would you give to someone who's starting out in business?
If you love the idea, give it a go. If you can leave this world with no regrets about trying to make your dreams come true then go for it. What's the worse thing that could happen? You could loose some money, but wow won't you have some great stories to share?
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Follow Lisa on social media
Honey Bunch Web - http://thehoneybunchshop.com



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