Kelley: Allison...Thank you for agreeing to be our very first interview. Tell me what got you started.
Allison Kontur: I'm honored to be your first interview, Kelley! I was working a job that was unsatisfying AND going to school to be a Dietitian when we stumbled into a little Bath & Body Shop in Sedona, AZ. We contemplated buying a franchise, but wanted more control over our future (including the products we wanted to carry). We knew we could create something on our own and we set out to do it! A local woman in Ohio was selling her supply business, so my partner (Sydni Fox) and I purchased her business (which included two websites) and here we are!
Kelley: Sedona is AWESOME!! Sedona is such gorgeous country and very inspirational. What drives you in business?
Allison Kontur: I am driven by personal freedom. Sydni would say the same thing and being a (somewhat) silent partner in Smell No Evil, Ltd. affords her the freedom to pursue her dream of acting while still maintaining an income. It's a win-win situation for both of us!
Kelley: I know you are vegan. How does that impact your products or does it? Is your business partner vegan as well?
Allison Kontur: I am actually a vegetarian, but aspire to be vegan! Sydni is vegetarian most of the time, although she occasionally eats chicken or fish. My childhood on a pork farm gave me insight into both ends of the spectrum. Being vegetarian does guide many of our choices when it comes to raw materials and products that we sell. We do not carry any raw materials that have been tested on animals and we do not test any of our products on animals. We do, however, sell a few animal-derived products such as Goats Milk Powder.
Kelley: Ohhh...sorry about that. I should not have assumed they were the same thing. What is the difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?
Allison Kontur: A vegetarian may still eat eggs, dairy products and/or honey. They may also wear fur (although unlikely) or leather. Veganism is a choice that eschews all forms of animal products. No eggs, no dairy, no honey and generally avoids wearing any animal products like leather or fur. Many vegans believe that animals should be held in the same regard as other sentient beings like humans!
Kelley: Thanks so much for clarifying that for me. I come from an extended family of vegetarians but never, truly, knew the differences between the two.
Kelley: Where do you see yourself, professionally, in 5 years?
Allison Kontur: We are working on expansion, even in this tough economy! We are seeing increased demand for large-scale, private labeling and bottling services which we do not have the capacity for now. Our first step is a move into a larger warehouse. Personally, in five years I'd like to see myself teaching more about formulating and maybe writing.
Kelley: That would be great! I know I already told you that I would love to see you write a book (and so I can market it at Soapies). What would be your 5 favorite ingredients to work with?
Allison Kontur: It is so hard to choose, because there are so many fabulous raw materials out there! Shea Butter (although Olive Butter is a close second), Jojoba Oil, Naturally-Derived Fragrance Oils (Cocoa Absolute is a close second), Behenyl Alcohol & Dead Sea Salt.
Kelley: Great choices for sure. What are your favorite products to make?
Allison Kontur: Hands down, we LOVE making body scrubs!
Allison Kontur: On the retail side we offer custom scented brown sugar & dead sea salt scrub, a coffee salt scrub as well as a few Limited Editions like Pomegranate, Summer In Tuscany and Root Beer!
On the wholesale side we offer Bulk Brown Sugar Scrub, Dead Sea Salt Scrub, Cocoa Sugar Scrub and Coffee Salt Scrub...most can be custom scented too!
Kelley: A Root Beer Body Scrub....Now that is to die for!! What would you say your best and top-selling products are and why do you think they sell so well?
Allison Kontur: Best sellers tend to be consumable goods, or those that get "consumed" or used up and require that more be purchased to replace them.
Lotion is always a top-seller because nearly everyone is familiar with it and uses it at some point. When you run out, you need more!
Our Botanical Dead Sea Salts have been very popular this year, they are an easy up-sell, look beautiful and are relatively inexpensive.
Body Scrubs are popular for us as well because ours are emulsified, don't leak and can be used year-round.
All three items are consumable goods!
Kelley: They all sound fabulous!
Kelley: In percentages, what percent of your business makes up research and development and what percent makes up the making of product on a daily or weekly basis?
Allison Kontur: We run a full production schedule and all custom products are made to order, so 50-75% of the time, we are producing something. We allot 20-25% of our time to research and development depending on the season.
Kelley: WOW!! You are a very busy gal for sure!
Allison Kontur: Busy is my middle name!
Allison Kontur: Absolutely! Running is my "zen" time, my time to think or clear my head. My best ideas simply come to me without grasping for them so I usually lace up my runners, hit the trail and open my mind. It is very liberating!
Kelley: Sounds like me with the exception of running...I do most of my thinking in the shower. There is something about hot, steamy water to clear your thoughts and open up the imagination.
Allison Kontur: A spa day should be in every girl’s future! Otherwise the shower is the next best place!
Kelley: I agree!!
Kelley: Where do most of your ideas come from?
Allison Kontur: Sometimes I get ideas from nature. Sydni and I both do a lot of research although hers is more out in the field. She has lived in New York City for the past year and is now relocating to the West Coast, so she is in and out of boutiques and shops looking for ideas or concepts that might strike a chord. Most of my travel is work related, so my ideas come from tradeshows like in-Cosmetics, seminars and creative workshops.
Kelley: That is great having two minds racing all the time for new inspiration.
Allison Kontur: It also helps that Sydni is a Licensed Cosmetologist, so she has access to willing human guinea pigs!
Allison Kontur: We are expanding our body scrub line for fall which will include a sugar scrub made with Organic Cane Sugar. Additionally, we are attempting to formulate a facial scrub that is cream-based.
Kelley: WOW!! Those sound very intriguing! What is something you have always wanted to include in your product line but haven’t had the chance to do yet?
Kelley: Now that grabs my attention! I use mineral make-up from a well-known retailer and would love to make my own. We host events here in Scottsdale, Wild West SoapFests(tm) and Potluck BBQ's. Our next event is August 30th and we are having a Mineral Make-Up Class! It should be tons of fun! Maybe you could offer both!?!? Not everyone will want to make their own and you could then cater to all.
Allison Kontur: We have donated goodies to Wild West SoapFests(tm) in the past! Always sounds like a fun time!
Kelley: I think the most important aspect will be the tutorials you will have for the customer.
Allison Kontur: Sounds like maybe a mineral makeup video tutorial is needed!
Kelley: Both my daughter, Jackie and my younger son, Cameron's, girlfriend, Jessica, both wear mineral make-up as well. There is definitely a large market for the end product or raw ingredients.
Allison Kontur: I concur! We've been toying with the idea for a while and the economy has been a big part of our delay, but I know there is definitely a market as other suppliers have jumped on the bandwagon already.
Kelley: Speaking of bandwagons, how big of a role does advertising play in your business and what mediums do you utilize?
Allison Kontur: We are ALWAYS advertising. As an online retailer, we do not have a storefront so we rely on internet advertising, word of mouth, tradeshows, social networking (like Twitter & Facebook), gatherings like the Wild West SoapFests(tm) as well as some print advertising to get our name out to people. We have an advertising budget and we stick to it, allowing 10-15% of our budget to be applied to new advertising methods each year.
Kelley: Sounds like you and your business partner have a great grasp on the ins and outs of advertising and the importance of it.
Allison Kontur: Advertising is a necessary "evil"! You can't be afraid of it, you just have to put it in your budget and learn from mistakes.
Kelley: As you say, "I concur!"
Allison Kontur: When you make your money back on an advertising campaign it's a great feeling! But, you have to accept that that isn't always the case.
There are expenses to every successful business and advertising is one of them. Never feel embarrassed to ask for advice either, just make sure you ask someone who knows what they are talking about!
Kelley: I, wholeheartedly, agree with you on that. Allison, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed. Since you mentioned human guinea pigs earlier…Thank you so much for being one for me today. It has been a true pleasure interviewing you. You are simply a delight! I wish you great success and good fortune in your endeavors…Keep up the excellent work and let me know when that book is ready!
Allison Kontur: Thank you so much, Kelley, for taking the time to speak with me today! This business relies on guinea pigs for education and for success. What better way to learn than from others!
Kelley: Well said...Have a fabulous day and a better weekend! Toodles for now!
~ This concludes the Soapies Blog Interview with Allison Kontur ~
Allison's companies are located in Peninsula, Ohio. She and her partner have been in business for the past 5 years with a target market of mainly females ages 25-55 years old but anyone will surely LOVE their products!
Smell No Evil, Ltd.
PO Box 340
Peninsula, OH 44264
(Facility Closed to the Public)