Moms We Love: Ellen Cagnassola of SweetSoaps

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What were you doing prior to SweetSoaps?

I was at home caring for my oldest daughter (born in 1995) full time.

What were the steps that you took to launch your business?

In 1998 the internet was heating up and I was obsessed with learning how to use it. I used it for educationg myself about business and marketing. It was a fraction of what we have today but I saw the value in education from the comfort of my home. Juggling kids and work is the hardest thing to do. The internet made it possible for me to be and do everything.

What were some high points (and set backs) that you faced along the way?

High points- Making Gold Monogram Soap for Neiman Marcus and being in the iconic Neiman Marcus holiday catalog. Making soap for celebrities such as Howard Stern and Tommy Shaw from Styx and being featured on Two and a Half Men and the Ellen Degeneres Show. Other highlights included being on MSNBC “Your Business”, Verizon TV “Push Pause” twice, and seeing my Santa’s Coal Soap listed as #2 on’s year end press release in the beauty category.

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What was the first year like?

The first year was like visiting a morgue. Silence and a lot of crying.

[laughs] What did you learn during the process of owning your own business?

Self-employment taught me resilience, percervearance, and discipline. I put my big girl panties on and learned survival skills that today are priceless. It means never relying on anyone for a paycheck.

Where is the business today?

I quit manufacturing in January of this year. I have 30 SKU’s in 3 of America’s largest retail chains, and I am a product designer for I have multiple marketing and social media consulting clients booked weekly, and plans to expand my DIY crafts kit business. My passion is product development and design.

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How has it grown over time?

Once I launched the idea of licensing my ideas it became fiscally clear to me this was the right path. After I stopped manufacturing it freed up my time to pursue other projects. I like being busy and never doing the same thing everyday. It keeps me sharp and ahead of the curve when I am constantly faced with challenges.

What are some of the most popular products?

Bacon Soap was a product I crowd sourced on Twitter in 2009 and it became #1 for a long time. Then came Zombie Soap which was a direct result of pop culture. I look to many places for inspiration but the most important thing is giving people something unique, and when you do, the PR opportunities fall into your lap.

How is your business different from other companies in the market?

Create a niche is best advice for any business. I am in no way competing with big soap companies–it’s impossible. You don’t need to be the biggest just be the best in your niche. Certainly there are far more soap companies selling more soap than I was but NO ONE can compete with my creativity. Instead of growing my business in a conventional way I decided to diversify my talents. I am totally digital and I can run multiple businesses and consult using a smart phone on the go. It’s not just survival of the fittest; it’s being digitally fit. It’s figuring out how to maximize your digital foot print and remain relevant today.

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How do you balance work life with family life?

I don’t use a clock while working; I play beat the clock. My priorities are family first and that has limited me in the previous years. I will say that it was the reason I am able to juggle so many things but still not feel any stress from doing what I love. My oldest is a freshman in college living on campus and my younger daughter is in 7th grade. Both are better students than I ever could have been. They are smart, beautiful and kind humans— they are my best work and proudest moments.

Photos: Courtesy of Ellen Cagnassola
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