Jennifer Morsell started making soap as a hobby in the late 90’s. As a busy mother with small children, she stole time while they were sleeping to create the original formulas for what would become a beloved line of personal care products in her small kitchen in North Pole, Alaska. After giving her experiments as gifts and asking friends and family to serve as guinea pigs for products she was testing, requests for more started bubbling up.
Her hobby turned into demands for refills and more gifts, so Jennifer started selling her wares, and in 2001, Mountain Madness Soap Co. was born. For about 10 years, the business grew steadily and built a loyal customer base by selling at farmers markets, craft fairs, and on Etsy, and Jennifer and her husband Andy gradually added new products to their line. With Jennifer managing product creation and production and Andy handling business and operations, the husband and wife team found themselves with a solid foundation to build upon.
A Natural Goods Company Lathered in Success
They relocated their family and growing business to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2008, and it was there, after much consideration, that they decided to make the leap to opening a small brick and mortar store. “It was pretty risky,” said Andy, “but it paid off.” After just a year and a half, the pair outgrew their first shop and moved into a 4,200 square foot space on Sherman Avenue, the main street with all kinds of quaint locally owned shops and restaurants, in downtown Coeur d’Alene. This building now houses all of the company’s retail, production and fulfillment operations.
Building a Squeaky Clean Foundation—Both Online and Off
With the retail presence established and thriving, in 2016, Jennifer and Andy decided it was time to expand online as well. After 10 years of selling on Etsy, they decided to build an e-commerce site of their own.
Andy, an engineer and computer programmer by trade, knew the importance of making the company’s online operations as streamlined as possible, so when he set out to build the Mountain Madness website, he made a concerted effort to choose software solutions that could talk to each other. They built the site using Shopify, and Andy designed custom solutions for inventory management, accounting, and accepting wholesale orders.
When it came to choosing a shipping partner, seamless integration was of paramount concern. “Because we still planned to sell on Etsy, we needed a good shipping solution that would work across multiple channels and aggregate all of our orders in one place,” said Andy. “We evaluated a lot of options that connected with Shopify, and Shippo was the best fit.”
Andy also appreciated Shippo’s simple pricing and ease of use. He says their fulfillment staffer, Kendall, starts her day in Shippo. With the ability to batch print all of the orders from one place, she doesn’t need to go into Shopify or Etsy. While the company ships most of its orders to consumers with USPS Priority Mail, they also have negotiated a custom rate with UPS for wholesale orders. Both are easily managed in Shippo.
Continuing to Bubble Upwards
The work that Andy and Jennifer put into building a strong, scalable online presence is already paying off—in the last twelve months, the company’s internet sales have grown 200 percent, and the company is expecting at least 100 percent online growth this year.
While Andy is confident that the online systems they built will be able to scale with the company, he says the larger challenge will be the physical side of fulfilling orders. “With all of our channels growing, we expect to run out of space for production and fulfillment in the next 2-3 years.”
Andy’s advice for entrepreneurs who are building their online presence is to think long term. “Make sure that you automate your sales channels and processes from the beginning,” he said. “Tie them together and let Shippo do the work on the back end.