Tale of a Successful Small Business in a Rural Community
Ram L. Chugh
The formula for Sandy Maine's highly successful soapmaking business is hardly one that you would find in any economics textbook or formal M.B.A. program: Start with no formal training or real business background. Work with less than a $15 investment and without any formal business plan to start. Be willing to share everything you learn with any of your potential competitors, and locate in a place where both the raw materials for your product and anyone interested in buying what you produce, for the most part, are at least a half a world away.
Such an approach would seem more a recipe for misery than success, but the Parishville, New York, soapmaker has enjoyed exponential growth in sales every year for nearly 20 years, thanks to a positive attitude, a willingness to "play hunches," and a commitment to sharing her knowledge with her peers-- and the fruit of her labors with a wide variety of hometown and worldwide charitable organizations.
Through the wise use of emerging technologies like the Internet and a stubborn insistence to simplify her operations as much as possible, Maine has been able to merge her New Age values with some old-fashioned hard work to not only develop a niche in her market, but to actually exert influence over the entire specialty soap industry. Maine's resolute spirit and vision of what could be has helped her to see beyond the geographical, technical, and organizational limitations of the north country region to develop a well-established and ever- growing enterprise.
The SunFeather Natural Soap Company is located in the small rural community of Parishville (population 1,900) in northern New York. This company was included among the 24 successful businesses profiled in our 1986