When I started EB in my little apartment, I wanted as many people as possible to buy my products- of course! I was building relationships with local stores, growing slowly-there was only so much demand I could meet anyway-but really needed a break-a boost in sales… I met various industry people along the way who followed a certain formula- manufacturer-distributor-retailer.
So I discovered if I wanted to be successful-to be in the stores like Whole Foods and get larger distribution in the health food industry-I had to have a distributor-a middleman/woman- who would buy my products for a low price, mark them up and then re-sell them to all the various stores on my behalf. Sounded great to me-except the part about having to sell them for next to nothing but “the volume will make up for it” I was promised.
Year after year, volume went up, labour costs went up, insurance costs went up, materials costs went up, rent went up as I had to move the business out of my home and the volume still wasn’t making up for it. I found myself trying to figure out how I could get more sales while also cutting costs in order to stay competitive with the commercial brands. It turns out there is really no way to cut costs without sacrificing commitment to quality and the environment and this was just not an option for EB since we only produce the very best quality products we can for our wonderful customers.
I struggled year after year with how much I disliked working with the distributor-no communication from their sales reps, no idea who was selling my products and who the staff in these stores were. I have always prided myself on being accessible to our customers yet here I was not even knowing who was selling my stuff! This was not the vision I had for EB. Not to mention products getting damaged in shipping-lord knows the warehouse staff packing the orders isn’t concerned with leaky bottles of liquid soap and damaged bars-they just pack and ship regardless and it hurt me that my loyal retailers were continuing to order under these conditions
Having mass distribution for EB was my dream but unfortunately, trying to do it through a distributor just doesn’t work for a small company producing quality products with lots of love. I had fallen for the idea of fast growth the easy way and it turns out that the only way for a company like mine is good old fashioned hard work- getting customers one at a time and partnering with retailers who believe in our brand. After a lot of soul searching and a big reality check I realized I had to finally follow my heart, cut ties with the distributor and thus some great retailers who will only order through a third party instead of directly from us since I don’t feel they can represent the brand well and I don’t like being so disconnected from my customers.
Knowing I had to make this change, I began calling some of our other retailers, asking them if they would be willing to order directly from me, instead of the distributor and they all said the same thing and I quote, “ Omigod I would love that!” And I’m not kidding or exaggerating- I have been so touched by these amazing, supportive people. The owners, the managers, the buyers-thank you so much for your support. Of course, to my customers-I would have no business without you so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. You can be certain that any store where you will find our products in the future will be a store that directly supports EB and in that sense truly supports “local” and “small business” and not as a marketing or branding campaign but as an actual practice.