AN INTERVIEW WITH ALIYA HUTCHISON FROM SAILOR MOUTH SOAPS

I was lucky enough to get to work with Aliya for years at LUSH, we were work wives and partners in crime. Aliya taught me so much while we worked together, one of the main lessons I learned from her was that not everything was urgent and not everything needed to be answered immediately. Waiting, thinking and consideration time are all important. I've learned to adopt this attitude as I've grown in my career and it's been incredibly helpful to me. Read more about all the awesome lessons and advice Aliya has! 

Why did you start your business or take the role that you're in now? 

I broke my leg playing roller derby back in 2009 and needed about two months off work. What started as some much-needed R&R from a toxic job became a level of boredom, I hadn't experienced before. I spent a lot of time dreaming about what to do next and became obsessed with gardening, one of my life long passions. Once I was back on my feet I headed to my local library to find a specific book on native gardening and instead found a book on soap making, misfiled in its exact place. My first thought was "you can make soap?"

 

It was serendipity. I quickly became addicted to handmade soap and like many handmade businesses, I began to sell because A) I had more soap than I could possibly use in ten years and B) my family and friends encouraged me to. I was never creative in the typical sense - I couldn't draw or paint well but I loved really hands-on art like sculpture, collage, linocuts etc.

 

Soap making allowed me to create something artistic but also functional - because I am nothing if not pragmatic. I love objects to look beautiful but also be useful and consumable - no clutter in my house (at least that's the goal!) Sailor Mouth Soaps rebooted in 2018 after a few years off while I was working an interstate job and had a baby. I was craving the business side of things and a creative outlet - all of which I could do from home and around the odd hours you tend to have with a tiny human at home. It needed to be flexible and scalable with the intention of growing slowly. It's a marathon not a sprint with a self-funded small business. Ask me how I know, haha.

 

Heaven Hell soap by Sailor Mouth Soaps

What inspires you and gets you out of bed in the mornings? 

At the moment, it's more necessity than inspiration I'm afraid - toddler-geddon begins at around 5am each day. Luckily I'm a morning person but don't expect much from me before I've had a strong long black!

 

The most inspiring business women I draw inspiration from is Anne Marie Failoa aka The Soap Queen. She's the creative force, leader and visionary businesswoman behind Bramble Berry - a highly successful soap, bath and body craft supplier in Washington DC. She's the author of many soap making books but my absolute favourite is published by Forbes Books - "Live Your Best Day Ever Thirty-Five Strategies For Daily Success" and I want to get it into the hands of every female entrepreneur out there.

 

Her story is endlessly inspiring and her strategies are so freaking actionable, you won't be able to put the book down. I find personal, relatable stories from now successful business people that have done it tough (TOUGH) and lived to tell the tale the most inspiring. The creative side of what I do, no problem, I have more ideas than I can actually create around a few daycare days per week;
"it's the inspiration to keep going when you get knocked down, keep seeing opportunity where others see none and thinking 360 degrees on your own which can be hella tough!"
Authors like Mike Michalowicz and Podcasts like The Business of Making are my lifelines some days! Definitely check them out if you need to tap into your larger purpose and WHY.

 

What's been the best lesson you've learned in business or your career and why? 

There's so many but I think the most important is to be customer-centric. It doesn't matter if you are B2C, B2B, product or service-based; whoever is your customer needs to be at the forefront of every decision you make. A loyal following can make or break your business so listen to their overall vibe and provide exceptional customer service hand-in-hand with what you sell or do.

 

It's also important to know there will be copy cats and yes, it's freaking awful but it's a fact of business life that if you do something well, eventually someone will copy it. Many of my original design concepts and styles are now commonplace in the bath and body scene, such as crystal soaps. I've had my concepts and copy stolen, even my photographic style back in the early days, right down to the person buying the same props as me. I mean, what?

 

As Oscar Wilde once wrote - "We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars" Be prepared to either fight for your IP or be thinking so far in the future you're already onto something else.

Glossy Nurture soap by Sailor Mouth Soaps

What does the future look like for you? 

It looks slow and steady and I'm ok with that! I grew too fast the first time round and while it was amazing for my ego, it did nothing for my profit margin and now that I have my business sea legs, I'm all about doing it right.

 

I'm contemplating a rebrand in the next year or two because our name doesn't feel right anymore and our branding and design needs some work. Bank rolling that entirely from the business cash flow means it won't happen as soon as I'd like it but that's how I roll.

 

For now, I'm really happy with splitting my time between full time mum and part time business but I've had an incredibly varied career path and the most incredible opportunities have virtually jumped in my lap so I don't rule anything out anymore. Maybe you'll see me in a boardroom again one day.

What's one piece of advice you'd give other women in business or in their careers? 

If you're working for someone else - be your own advocate in the workplace both in terms of rights and pay. Women pay the "women tax" in business - we often don't get paid maternity leave, have to jump through hoops to return to work and struggle to return to the same paid position as before when our availability/priorities change. Know your rights and negotiate hard.

 

And if you're self-employed - put money in your superannuation! You'll be shocked at how fast your existing funds are eaten up by fees.

 

And finally - there isn't a male equivalent of the term "resting bitch face". Don't waste your time getting distracted and brought down about what other people think about your damn face. Your face is fine. Do your work and kill it girl!
Witchy Wisdom Soap by Sailor Mouth Soaps

 

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