I’m back!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been having the time of my life. Long story short, I decided to pivot and do everything possible to advance my skills in entrepreneurship, business strategy, and building a brand. This led me to beginning my MBA this fall at the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business. I love it and I’m kind of obsessed with it so far. It is hard, but I have never felt such a thrill when I understand a concept, finish an assignment, or get up extremely early to go to class. (I am not an early riser, but I’m trying to correct that).

There was only one other time that I have felt like this in my life, like I am in the right place at the right time, and that was when I started Gently Soap. However, not many people know how or why Gently actually started.

I always say that I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. I never set out to create a product line or even sell anything. I was convinced that my research would make me an great asset to a company like Burt’s Bees or Proctor and Gamble (funny to think about this now) and that I would help them create a product line for people like me, people with super sensitive skin. I could say that I just decided to do it on my own, but that would be entirely dishonest and, honestly, not at all who I am.

I was not motivated to branch out on my own. Entrepreneurship never seemed like a real option to me. I had no motivation to struggle, to cold call, to really go out of my way to make sales…and I still struggle with this tremendously today (although I am learning that if I want this to work, I have to push myself and leave my comfort zone). I am the creator, I always have been. Whether it was fashion designing and making dresses out of bed sheets when I was younger, to ceramics and art in my tween years, to now being obsessed with all things soap making…I love to create.

Watching something so small, like a plant, turn into something so applicable to our daily lives is one of my favorite things to do. After my initial research project ended in 2019, I could not stop learning about herbalism. I was obsessed with it and would buy any book I could find about herbs in North America, or in African/African-American culture, or just in general. I would spend nights staying up reading and highlighting. I would try to make any class project I had at this point about herbs. I was also interning and volunteering at UGArden medicinal herb garden every semester to learn more about the stuff you couldn’t be taught in books.

I started to think about the ways you can combine herbs to create something powerful, or something that smelled pretty darn good. I began watching YouTube videos on soap making and herbal product making. I would also help package and create teas at UGArden. It was through this that I was inspired to think of ways on how to create products on my own. I started buying natural soaps, seeing how other people did it. I critiqued their bars and found thing that I liked and hated about natural soaps. I joined a bunch of facebook groups about soap making. Through observation, reading, learning, and a lot of trial and error, I began to write my own soap recipes. More importantly, I came up with my own infusion process. This was when I started realizing I may be on to something…something I loved.

At this point, it was early 2020, and we all know what happened then: Quarantine.

Looking back at it now, it is insane to think that it took staring at a wall in my parents’ house for months to inspire me to really take the leap of faith into entrepreneurship, but it did.

Now before I say this, let me just say that I find beauty in many religions, especially ones so deeply ingrained into the cultures of people of color - like Christianity is for many Black Americans. I never want anyone who reads these blogs to feel that they are exclusive. Everyone is welcome here and I love building a community of so many different individuals. For me, however, if there is one thing I truly believe in, it is the power of prayer. During quarantine, I prayed a lot. It was at a time where I hated the current career path I would have to take when graduating college and I was praying a lot about guidance and opening doors towards careers that would actually fulfill me as a human being. The truly crazy thing is that I, in a very Martin Luther King Jr. way, had a dream of making soap…and making a heck ton of money doing it.

In a career, I knew I wanted to change lives. I wanted to provide people with some form of comfort in areas that I was never able to find comfort in growing up: my skin was a big part of that. Like I mentioned in the first blog post, having sensitive skin has taken a huge toll on my quality of life. Feeling limited in my personal care choices completely sucks, but dealing with constant flare-ups sucks more. There are even times today that something will cause some kind of adverse reaction (currently adjusting to double washing my bed sheets and comforter once a week because I have started getting rashes on my “sleep side”). Eczema and other things like TSW, HS, psoriasis, and more are such a rollercoaster battle. Gently Soap does not cure these things but the amount of relief that I and over 1500 different people (an counting) have felt in under two years is insane to me. It honestly amazes me how a bar soap that was specifically created to bring joy back to bathing for people like me, is riding a wave and traveling places I haven’t even been to myself.

I launched Gently Soap as Professional Plant Girl on October 10th, 2020. I listed every soap, plus a couple of that I had made in quarantine online and sold out in 5 hours. Looking back at pictures of those early batches I cringe. They were so “rough around the edges” but they are a reminder of the first real step I took to pursue my dreams.

I find myself always focusing on the work I need to do to make this community bigger and more lucrative but it is incredible to have moments in my emails, on social media, and at markets that I get to really sit back and acknowledge how far I’ve come from the first bar of soap I made in 2019.

I love saying I “raised the bar” on sensitive skin care, not just because I think Gently Soap is truly redefining what it means to take care of sensitive skin but because I literally raised each bar soap like it was my own child. From conception of the idea to the literal birth of the company. Even in its infancy stages right now, I’m so proud of Gently and well…myself.

This is the last intro week, but it you have any questions about the launch day/the raising of my bars, feel free to comment below. Next we will talk about the actual creation of the brand, from branding to bullsh*t proofing the formulas. Stay tuned.
September 18, 2022 — Kristen Dunning


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