When you think of bath and body products you may think of fancy commercials on television that show bountiful suds or perfumes that have sex appeal, normally promoted by movie stars or A-list models. Ray’s of Colorado hasn’t spent a dime on a spokesperson or buying ads to promote their product. Instead, their approach has been to promote their product to everyday people, like you and I, by promoting and selling within the avenues that makes sense. Not surprisingly, this approach has proven successful.
Chris Sniffen and brother Ray Sniffen Jr registered their business on October 10, 2010. A day they will never forget. Strategizing, conducting market research, and seeking assistance from the Colorado Springs SBDC were the first steps to ensure their idea was a viable one. The brothers knew that their father, Ray Sniffen Sr. (whom the business is named after) ingrained the right attitude in them – offer a service or product to customers that is better than what they are used to. Through the assistance of the SBDC, the Sniffen’s were able to sidestep many of the initial obstacles entrepreneurs endure by receiving advice on various subjects ranging from registering to funding their business. “Starting a business with our savings was scary. Having the support and education from the SBDC helped clear the path to fulfilling our dream. We were walked through the essential steps that we would have overlooked” said Chris as he reflected on his meeting with consultant Steve Imke.
Two young men creating bath and body products for both the male and female demographic isn’t the norm. However, with in depth research, talking with consumers, and knowing that staying clean is essential for all; Ray’s of Colorado has become a success. However, with all great things comes some sadness. In early 2012, Ray Jr. passed. Chris Sniffen, however, used this sadness to focus on his business and ensure that the dream he and his brother shared was fulfilled. In his own words Chris would like any entrepreneur with an idea to know “If you have an idea or dream, then go do it. It may not always be easy. You are the only one to make what you want happen. This is America and dreams do come true here. Owning a business has changed my life by making me mentally stronger to take on anything that comes my way”.
With hard work and selling at craft shows, farmers markets, on Ebay and Etsy, Chris has been able to grow his business three-fold over 2 years. Affordable products include, shaving soaps, lotion, chapstick, beer and wine soaps and yes, even Broncos titled soaps. Future growth starting in 2013 includes selling in local retail outlets and providing new products such as home soap kits. Additionally, Chris plans to continue and educate the consumer on the risks associated with chemically treated products versus using natural and organic materials, hold soap making classes, and give back to his community by providing soap to the homeless – a wish he and his brother both had.
When asked why Ray’s of Colorado is a success the answer seems simple to Chris. Be slow and steady when planning your business. Use resources that are available to you like the SBDC. Do your research and listen to your customers. “Constantly refining your business plan, respecting and listening to your customers, providing the best affordable product, and staying innovative is how to be successful…and not go broke while doing it. Additionally, seeing that your customer appreciates your work provides more happiness than money can buy.”