Monday, December 23, 2013

Featured Artist: The Soap Opera

COUPON CODE:  TakeTenOff   (10%)

My name is Mischelle...although most people call me "Mzz Thang". It's a long story, but I've been called that for over 30 years.  I live in Pittsburg, California and I'm married to a great guy named Larry. 

All of our kids are (finally) grown and gone, so it's just Larry and I...doing our best to "age to perfection", although I know we're going to have to try a lot harder on that one! <giggle>.

I have two businesses: The main one is called the "Fo-Shizzle Design Studios" and the second one is "The Soap Opera". I also have an additional shop here at The CraftStar (Mischa's Memories) just for vintage items.

I started The Soap Opera after being gifted with a bar of someone else's handcrafted soap several years ago. That soap felt so good and I felt so clean that I knew I would never buy store bought soap again! I started researching about different oils and the qualities they add to the soap, and the journey began! It started out just making soaps and ventured out into lotions, shampoos, conditioners, bath bombs, perfume oils, products for your lips...and even laundry soap, carpet powder and our newest product, "The Turdminator", an odor eliminator just for bathroom use! :-) 

The Fo-Shizzle Design Studios is all about handcrafted jewelry. I decided not to stick with just one style - but rather to offer a variety of styles and materials, so there's something for everyone. And...our prices range from $10 to $300 - so people can actually come in and buy something that's unique and one-of-a-kind...and not have to check under their couch cushions for change or take out a 2nd mortgage on their home to be able to afford something nice.

Tell us 3 fun interesting facts about you!

Three *fun* facts?  Hmm... let's see...

I was a professional musician (bass player) in the San Francisco Bay Area for thirty-two years (this is where I gained my nickname).  I performed with jazz greats such as Sarah Vaughn, Laurindo Almeida, Art Blakey and Michael Wolff (from the *old* Arsenio Hall show) just to name a few...and was invited by Rodney Franklin (jazz pianist) to do a USA-tour, but had to turn him down - as I'd found out at the time that I was pregnant. 

I was a professional full-time darts player for fourteen years, traveling the world to compete and representing California and the United States. I was nationally ranked #11 and world ranked #13 at the top of my career. I was also inducted into the National Darts Hall of Fame in 2001.  I retired from playing darts in 2007 after tearing two tendons in my shoulder (for the second time).

I'm a 22-year survivor of ovarian cancer and was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus  (Lupus)  19 years ago. 

I own a retail store, selling both my handcrafted jewelry and my bath and body products. My day begins at 5 am, crawling out of bed and heading to my in-home soap studio. At 7am it's time to go to the store and open for the day. I'm here until 11pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday...and until 1am Friday and Saturday nights. Then I go back home and head back to the soap studio until around 2am. every night. I've been living on about 2 to 2 1/2 hours sleep a night for the past 4 years. Until I can relocate to a larger store which has a kitchen so I can make my soaps 'n stuff, it'll have to do.

Do you have any help or are you the only person that works your business?

I am the wearer of many hats (I work alone).

What are your hopes and aspirations for your store and where do you see yourself going from here?

I hope to move into a much larger store front soon...and to hire at least two employees.

What was the hardest thing about starting your business?

Believe it or not, PAINTING the building was the hardest thing!  <giggle>  The building I moved into is located in a bowling alley and the walls are wood slats that had 40+ years of nicotine in them. It took 3 coats of primer and 4 more coats of paint to keep the nicotine from seeping through! 

What's the best thing about being a small business owner?

Having the freedom to make my own schedule (although I haven't had a vacation in over 4 years). And guess what? If I ask the boss for a raise...I know she's going to give it to me!  <wink>

Have you experienced any major accomplishments or recognition?

For my jewelry business, I was awarded "Best of Martinez" in jewelry design for 2011 and 2012. A couple of my pieces have been featured in David Eikon's Fashion Forward and on Trend Hunter.

What are three tools or pieces of equipment in your work space that you could not absolutely live without?

chain-nose pliers, a silicone soap mold and my computer, of course! 

Have you ever experienced a small business/craft disaster? What happened?

Who hasn't? We all experience some kind of crafting disaster in our lifetime! My biggest one was when I made a loaf of soap and it decided to "volcano" on me. 

What item in your shop is your top seller or is your favorite design?

My top seller for The Soap Opera is my newest product, called "The Turdminator".  It's a better version of the (popular brand) pre-poo spray and although most people think it's really gimmicky, it really works!

What marketing / advertising method(s) have worked well for you and which have not?   

The best marketing I have found is simply to give out a business card (and a sample if possible) EVERYWHERE you go.  If you are going to the grocery store to do your weekly shopping? Give the cashier a business card and sample. If you are going to the bank? Give the teller a business card and sample. You just never know where your next customer is going to come from.  Also, make sure you bring up your business when chatting with anyone. Let's say you are at the gas station filling up your car. You go in to pay (or you're standing outside pumping your gas). Make it a point to start up a conversation with anyone who may be close by. For me, I generally tell a woman that I like her earrings or her perfume and ask where she got them. It's an instant conversation starter, and gives me the chance to edge in some conversation about my businesses. In the end, I hand them a business card and sample or sometimes a $ off coupon for first-time customers. 

The worst advertising I'd ever done is a tie between placing a listing in the Yellow Pages...and placing an advertisement in a movie-goers brochure.  Both of the salespeople for those companies *guaranteed* my business would increase.  

Yeah.  Right.

What are your 2 favorite items from other shops on The CraftStar?

One of my favorites is a necklace from DzignbyJamie. 

Jamie makes some of the cutest glass lampwork beads and I just love her hand stamped metal jewelry! (I own the necklace posted above)

Another is the light bulb characters (any of them) from Two Hens and a Chick. So imaginative and they are just too cute!!!!

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