#SWAAYthenarrative

Meet The Grade-School Sisterpreneurs Who Launched A Multi-Million Dollar Business

People

Think back to when you were about 10 years old. Like most kids, you likely had the foresight and motivation to finish your chores and complete your homework, and you may have even dabbled in crafts, sports, or extracurricular activities on the side. In 2013, Sisters Isabel and Caroline Bercaw were doing the same thing, only their adventures in making and selling bath bomb at the local art fair ballooned into a multi-million dollar business before they were even old enough to drive.


The Impetus to Make and Sell Their Own

“When we were younger, we loved using bath bombs, but most of the ones we were buying had over a dozen ingredients and thick, greasy additives. They left a lot of gross residue in the tub, and we felt dirtier after our bath was finished," Isabel told SWAAY. “So, we set out to create bath bombs that were simpler, and had just the right balance of color, fragrance and moisturizing oils."

Today, Da Bomb Bath Fizzers are sold at over 5000 stores around the USA, including Target, with a projected growth of 500 percent over last year's revenue. They've also got 150 employees — including their CEO mom, Kim Bercaw, and CFO/COO dad, Ben Bercaw — and have 30 SKUs with plans to expand the line in 2018.

Isabel and Caroline Bercaw.

In addition to being made with simple ingredients, part of the reason why Da Bomb Bath Fizzers have been so well received is because of their playful packaging and product titles.

For example, there's the “F" Bomb, Galaxy Bomb (which creates very Instagrammable black bath water), the Earth Bomb (which donates partial proceeds to ocean protection organizations), and Cake Bomb (made with sprinkles). Also, each bomb comes with a kinder surprise, to add an additional “element of fun" to bath time.

“When we were initially thinking about our package design, we decided to go with black because we thought the black would offset the bright, bold colors of our bath bombs," explained Caroline. “We hired a designer to bring our ideas to life. Beautiful, well-designed packaging was one of the first ways we reinvested in the business; that decision really paid off."

Organic Growth and Funding

Speaking of investing, what's even more impressive about this story is that the sisters haven't purchased any paid ads to promote their business. Da Bomb Bath Fizzers have grown so quickly on their own that they haven't had any need to formally advertise.

Instead, they've used Instagram and Etsy as platforms to spread brand awareness. Word of mouth has also played a big role in their success. And, they're completely self-funded, a fact they're very proud of.

“We've been really smart about putting money back into the business in order to grow it. We jokingly call this our 'accidental' business, because in the beginning we only thought of it as a hobby. We never had any idea it would become as big as it has. We kept getting more and more opportunities and we kept saying yes."

-Isabel Bercaw

Caroline added, “Our success has been a collection of thousands of small steps — mostly forward and some backward — that has brought us to where we are today. We've worked really hard, and we were so lucky we created a product that people love."

The Bercaw sisters say that what helps maintain momentum is taking time for themselves, which includes family bonding, unplugging, and traveling. When it comes to work, they've carved out time after school to focus on their business, and use these hours to address business tasks, talk innovation, and harness their upward trajectory.

Right now, they're working on a bath bomb recipe book, due out summer 2018, and have plans to create new products and expand into an international market.

3 Min Read
Business

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.