“Balancing Act” is a series focusing on the amazing people who run a successful business while working full-time, and somehow still manage to sleep and eat occasionally.
Lisa Salamida is the magic behind Savor, a soap and body products business she runs with her husband Mike. Not only are her products to die for, but her packaging, presentation, branding, product photography, and virtually everything else business-related are impeccable as well. And she is very open and giving when it comes to helping new businesses, which is the ultimate show of grace — and one which I’m sure will give back to her in good karma for years to come.
1.Tell a little about your business – what do you make/ sell, how long have you been in business, and what do you love most about it?
Savor opened on October 23, 2007, just before my dad’s birthday. In a way, he is probably the subconscious motivation behind the business – he was self-employed for most of my life, so I like to think I got that drive and determination from him. (Another way to put it, we’re darn stubborn!). I make a wide variety of soap bars, whipped soaps, body butter, body mists and occasionally lip butters and bath salts.
I know that with careful planning and even more careful budgeting, Savor will be a successful business, supporting both of us full time some day. At the moment, I’m enjoying my double-life ; a computer tech by day and a soapstress by night. Soapmaking gives me a wonderful creative outlet – from the blend of oils to create a special scent, to selecting the ingredients for their special qualities, and just designing the look and feel of the soap itself. It is incredibly fun – I know I get more ideas in my head than I?d ever be able to make!
I put in 20-40 hours a week (not counting “laptop time”, just running the shop itself). My husband Mike puts in about 20 hours, and we hired a friend to help package, label, and stock, and he currently works 10 hours each week.
2.How does it differ from your day job (creativity, skill, autonomy)?
Being a computer tech is mostly pretty compatible with running Savor.Â I’m comfortable using programs to my advantage (Excel, Etsy Hacks, etc). I have computers in my house all networked, so I can be in my studio crafting and have access to my printer in my stock room, or be able to check my shop, that kind of thing – and I always have my laptop and broadband mobile card with me, so I have internet wherever there is cell reception.
Since my tech duties are mostly sitting at my desk and remote controlling various systems, I can have my personal laptop with me and easily run my store at the same time.
3.What has been the most challenging part of juggling a business, day job, and family? How have you gotten through the difficult parts?
The biggest challenge has been to live through the messy parts. Last year, we bought a house, and now we’ve got plenty of room for both a studio and a shipping/stock room. Before that, we were working in a condo – the soapmaking took place in our kitchen and the shipping and stock room was in an upstairs bedroom. This created an absolute mountain of mess, trudging up and down stairs with heavy boxes, and even the condo itself was on the second floor so all of our supplies had to be lugged up stairs. Honestly, that was really a nightmare and I’m not sure how we got through it.
That’s basically remedied, so really the only struggle left is having the time and energy to complete everything we want to do. We’ve hired a cleaning service (they cleaned the condo too), so all of the household chores are taken care of. We just recently started a meal service as well – while I love to cook, we simply don’t have time to. Our meals are delivered in dry ice on Friday and we’re set for the week – it’s wonderful! This frees up time and energy to devote to non-soap things – art, gardening, running, biking and camping.
4.Identity is often closely linked to what we do professionally. How do you identify yourself, and does it relate more to your business/ artisan side, or your day job?
Right now, I call myself a computer tech and small business owner. I think of running my business as my primary occupation, and my day job as being my means of becoming self-employed in the future.
5.Give one organizational or business tip (or product) that has been invaluable.
If we’re going to talk Etsy-specific (as that is the only place I currently sell directly), I would say that the scripts Ian writes for Etsy Hacks are the only thing that makes my store run. Etsy simply is not designed for high volume selling, but Ian makes it possible.
Outside of Etsy, my new toy is a barcode scanner and system for inventory. With barcodes on all of my items, scanning them in and out of inventory as they are created and sold helps me keep everything counted.
6.Some people use a side business as a way to slowly change gears from employee to business owner. In the future, do you ever see yourself transitioning to full-time entrepreneur? If so, what would ultimately help you ultimately make that leap? If not, what benefits do you enjoy with your current situation?
While I love San Francisco with all my heart, this place is quite expensive and there’s no way to live without our day jobs (Mike and I do work at the same company as well). Our work provides health care, dental and optical care, pays our gym memberships, and provides a wonderful retirement package and life insurance. Thinking long-term, I’d like to do 4-5 times the amount of business we currently do. That?s probably going to have to come from wholesale. At the moment, we don’t seek out any wholesale accounts, they’ve all approached us which has been fine for now. Ideally, I’d like to have a year of our current gross income saved before we go full-time.
7.Any additional words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Live debt free. In business and in personal accounts, the only debt I feel comfortable with is a home (and if we were in a less expensive area, we would have paid cash if we could). Living debt free means you are beholden to no one – you are financially free. I’ve bought some very expensive equipment and had some pretty big outlays of cash, but it has all been cash. If my business folded tomorrow, we’d walk away clean, without any worry or stress (other than disappointment!). I could never stomach working my butt off just to pay interest to someone else.
Many thanks to Savor for the peek behind the scenes into your incredible business!!