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How I Transformed my Hobby Into a Thriving Bath and Body Business

Denise Zannu, founder of Black Mermaid's Bath & Body

Have you ever thought about turning your passion project into a business? Whether you love to cook or you're a novice carpenter on the weekends, we're all passionate about something. And while transforming a craft or skill into a full-blown business can be intimidating, there's no time like the present to make your dream a reality.

I took a leap of faith when I founded Black Mermaid's Bath & Body, a skincare and beauty company that creates bath, body and spa products with all natural ingredients. What began as an exploration in kitchen science quickly became my full-time job.

In the beginning, I found myself wondering if I could really do this. I think it's a question that many young entrepreneurs ask themselves. But if you're wondering if you can build your own business, my answer is yes.

From hobby to business

I haven't always worked in the beauty industry. For years I was a special education teacher in Georgia and Virginia. In my science classes, I taught my students about chemical reactions by making soaps for them and the teachers. I considered myself to be a "kitchen chemist," studying herbs and aromatherapy to create products that are healthy for your skin and foster emotional well-being.

I never envisioned creating a business out of it; it was just a fun way for the students to learn. But when I decided to gift my soaps, the recipients enjoyed them so much that they asked to purchase more.

That's when I knew I might be onto something. I decided to sell my products at a holiday bazaar in a church basement and made $500 in three hours. In that moment, I knew it was a great business opportunity.

Embracing the unknown

From that point on, I never looked back. I launched a website with full ecommerce capabilities and attended industry-related trade shows. Fast forward five years, and Black Mermaid's Bath & Body has grown from five products to over 50, featuring multiple product lines for the bath, body and spa, including body and facial soaps and other products like creams and lotions, men’s shaving soaps and beard balms, sugar scrubs, facial masks, and more.

Growing my product line and keeping up with customer demand is exciting, but also incredibly challenging at times. Black Mermaid's Bath & Body is a small operation — I'm involved in everything from designing the new products, manufacturing and shipping to managing marketing efforts and handling billing. I've learned much about running a business in a short amount of time because of my involvement in every step.  

Finding a different kind of business partner

Invoicing, inventory management and tracking sales became time consuming, as I was doing it all manually; I realized that I couldn't do it all by myself.

But I wasn't alone. According to a recent report, small businesses are spending way too much time on administrative tasks. In some cases, they are spending up to 230 days-worth.

The hours add up quickly. I felt as though I was spending too much time on administrative and accounting tasks that took me away from what I loved most: creating beautiful, effective skincare products.  

I needed a partner to help me handle the administrative side of things, so I could pay more attention to doing what I loved. In hiring staff, I focused on obtaining support for operations versus management. I never considered how software could help, but when I found Sage One, I suddenly had a one-stop shop for managing administrative tasks. This meant I could spend more time meeting customer demand and growing my business.  

I knew that digitizing certain parts of my business would allow me to spend more time building my business. Yet, the thought of "going digital" with certain tasks scared me. It was the fear of the unknown that prevented me from focusing on what really mattered – growing and loving the business.

Take the leap

If there’s one thing that I've learned, it's that you can teach yourself how to do anything. And with the right tools and partner, what used to be a time-consuming task is now easy.

Don't let fear failure. It can be a roadblock for entrepreneurs and can ultimately lead to the downfall of a small business. Risk is a part of growth and a key element in being an entrepreneur. Embrace the unknowns and accept that the right technology and partners can help you succeed. I'm in the soap and skincare business, but for my company to thrive, I needed to invest in partners who know what I don't and are willing to help me learn along the way.

About the author: Denise Zannu started by making natural products for co-workers, friends and family. Using her knowledge of herbs and aromatherapy, she crafted creations that were healthier for their skin and elevated their emotional wellbeing. Years later, Zannu focused her passion and drive to launch Black Mermaid's Bath & Body. The company's purpose is help people have healthy, beautiful skin – naturally.

Image Credit: Denise Zannu