Aarin Elizabeth founded iVi Scents in 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
iVi Scents specializes in handmade, nontoxic bath and body products. Each product is clean scented, natural, and made personally by Aarin Elizabeth just for you. After just one use with any iVi Scents product, your skin will be left noticeably softer, smoother, and extremely moisturized. This is because every product is made without the use of genetically modified organisms, parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, mineral oils, sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS), triclosan, or animal cruelty.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
Before iVi Scents, I was serving the community as a public middle school teacher. In my quest to find a cheaper, better smelling classroom air freshener and hand sanitizer, I discovered that these items were very simply made. I figured that not only could I make them better smelling and cheaper, I could also make them less toxic. Thus, iVi Scents was created. It was the 12th business that I have started --several from childhood—but the only one that has been profitable thus far.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
I operate my business from my home. The benefits of this is obvious: I don't have to battle traffic, I don't have to pay rent, and I don't have to dress up. However, the not-so-obvious drawbacks, are many. When you work from home, there is a constant temptation to work 24/7. Sometimes, it is difficult to step away from my laptop. Second, because I work from home, I am still expected to do family obligations that I wouldn't be expected to do if I worked outside the home. My family doesn't understand that when I am working, I cannot always cook, do laundry, or cuddle.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages, disadvantages to being a women business owner?
Not only am I a woman entrepreneur, I am also a minority entrepreneur, and a young entrepreneur. I feel that in all of these arenas, disadvantages may exist, but I have encountered far more positive experiences than negative. One of the greatest advantages of being different is that you stand out. When I show up for meetings, inventory orders, or retail conventions, I am never the person that people expect to see. I find that this difference just further defines my niche, which is wonderful. My advice to any entrepreneur who doesn't fit the "norm" is to embrace this as an opportunity, not curse it as their downfall.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?
I thrive in a social marketing community. I am young, which means I have already embraced it as a way of life, so transferring it to business was not only easy for me, it was a natural course of action. Currently, I advertise exclusively on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. As my business grows, I will partake in other advertising methods, but right now, these avenues have been tried and true.
My advice when working with various social marketing communities is to develop relationships with your customers. Their advice, comments, complaints, and encouragement have been an integral part of my success.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Creating and running my own business has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. The reasons why are rather unexpected.
First, there is no one to rely on but yourself. You can't call in sick, you can't go to the doctor without health insurance, and vacations are rare.
Second, entrepreneurship is unpredictable. You could do $10,000 in sales one month and zero the next. Your costs could be exceedingly high or equipment could break down. When these things happen, you are the one that has to figure out where they are going to fit into your budget.
However, the benefits far outweigh the costs. Being your own boss is the best way to succeed in a capitalist society like ours. Helping out another person's company by clocking in and out at their business is a nightmare to me. So although times get hard here, at least it's mine, and I always find motivation in that.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
As a new business owner, there are many things that I wish I had done differently. When I first started, none of my real life costs lined up with the costs I predicted in my business plan. I was operating expensively, ineffectively, and down right foolishly.
Now, I have learned various ways to bring these costs down. Some of the ways that I do this is buying in bulk, using a shipping carrier that gives me the most bang for my buck, and remaining stocked at all times. These things all seem intuitive now, but when you are first starting out, sometimes fear gets in the way. I used to be afraid that if no one bought my products, that I would get stuck with the inventory and overhead. While this is always a possibility, entrepreneurship relies on faith. And faith without corresponding action is really not faith at all.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
It takes time to grow a business. When everyone else is sleeping, eating, and clubbing, I'm working. Because I'm such a small business, I have to do a lot of the work on my own. I make all the soaps, run the website, ship the orders, create the recipes, and do anything else that needs to be done. It's hard work, but nothing beats the joy of being your own boss, doing something your interested in, and having financial freedom.
Thanks for the inspirational story, Aarin. Good luck growing your business!