Jim Gregory is majoring in Anthropology at the Center for Business Preparation at Hanover College. He has always dreamed of entrepreneurship. This combination of interests led Jim to use his great grandmother’s soap recipe (updated with vegetable oils, in place of animal fats) to start his his soap and body products company “Grandma Gee’s, Esoteria Body LLC”. He started the business in January 2008 with no financing, and through trial and error, he has arrived at the right mix of oils and ingredients to produce a popular product.
During the 2008 fall semester Jim participated in a Chicago-based entrepreneurial program. He returned to Hanover College energized and ready to expand his soap making business, but also to encourage other students with their small business ventures. Jim collaborated with a national network of college entrepreneurs and CEOs under 30 to bring the entrepreneurial network to the campus. The Hanoverian, the alumni magazine of Hanover College, featured an article about eight students (including Jim Gregory) who were empowered by the Hanover College President, Dr. Sue DeWine, to follow their dream. For Jim’s part, Dr. DeWine believed in his dream enough that she allowed a pilot usage of his soaps on the Hanover College campus with great success.
The rapid growth of the business was met with obstacles. Jim’s car was packed with soap making ingredients and he needed space to produce the product to fill increasing orders. He also had business startup questions and needed a business plan. Jim was referred to the Southeast Indiana SBDC by Robyne Hart, former Hanover Professor, who had worked with SBDC business clients through the Collegiate Management Program. Jim first visited the SBDC in Dec 2008 and has had several meetings with Linda Wood, Bill Cord and Andy Sons. He was introduced by the SBDC staff to the Ohio River Valley Food Venture, a shared-use commercial kitchen in Madison, IN. His production problems were solved with the availability of the state-of-the-art kitchen facility. One production run can produce 100 bars of soap in the facility in just one night, with the potential for 1,000 bars when needed. The current production schedule requires one full time and up to three part-time employees, depending on the size of the production run.
Jim is very grateful to the SEI SBDC for their assistance and he stated “The SBDC is extremely under-utilized and through their help and the Ohio River Valley Food Venture Kitchen I am now fulfilling my entrepreneurial dream”. Sales have increased by 75 % and he has expanded his product placement in retail outlets and is now selling his soap locally at Bev’s Hair Chateau & Magic Tan, The Front Porch and the Floating Cow. Jim makes beer soap for the second largest established micro-brewery in Chicago – Half-Acre Beer Co. New markets are being penetrated in the metropolitan Louisville, KY area. His best selling bar is Menthol Rush, a mint-scented bar that he said is perfect for waking up a person and clearing the sinuses.
Jim recently had a full page “Soapy Sales” newspaper article in the Madison Courier that featured 5 pictures of his soap production activities.
Jim’s philosophy is “Everyone needs soap. If you put a goodwill behind it, that need can also solve other needs too”. As a result of a SBDC contact from Sandstone Industries, a local organization that employs handicapped adults, an arrangement is underway to focus on human development to package the soaps.