Sujoy Bhattacharya - Founder and CEO, Falls River Soap Company

Sujoy Bhattacharya is an entrepreneur, business consultant, and technology sales and marketing professional. He started his career as a Computer Software Programmer after completing his degree in Engineering in Ceramics & Material Science.

During his time as a business consultant and technology professional, he had the opportunity to work within and learn about various business areas, including retail sales and marketing, consumer products, manufacturing, high tech business ventures, and banking and insurance.

This unique mix of his educational background along with his professional background and experience became the firm foundation on which he launched his entrepreneurial venture. His exposure to technology and online business became the key differentiator that has allowed him to be able to create a successful fusion of traditional and new business ideas.

Sujoy had always been passionate about using natural and organic personal and bath products. This passion eventually became a hobby- he enjoyed making soaps and creams using only the best natural ingredients. This hobby one day spilled out from his basement and blossomed into a global business. That’s how Falls River Soap Company was born.

Living in the quiet neighborhood of Chagrin Falls, Ohio influenced the creation of Sujoy’s business as well. The town features a historic downtown right over the gorgeous waterfall of the Chagrin River. The impact of the natural beauty of the town, along with his passion for natural products and professional business experience, truly helped to inspire the leap into his entrepreneurial venture with Falls River Soap Company.

A company that started as a hobby from the basement of Sujoy’s house is now a known brand with products available in 7 countries. His skills, knowledge, and commitment to a top-notch product have propelled Falls River Soap Company to its current success. Sujoy is ecstatic that he gets to do work he loves every day.

How did you get started?

My wife and I have always enjoyed natural and organic products, but our biggest challenge was finding a good, old-fashioned handmade soap from good ingredients. When our son was born, we found out that he had really sensitive and dry skin. All the regular, store-bought soaps did not work well for him. Some of them even seemed to make the problem worse. That’s what motivated me to do some research on handmade soaps that could make my son’s skin better. I made my first batch of cold process soap with Brazilian muds right there in my basement and it worked wonders for his skin. After that, we kept making the soap. We would give it as gifts to family and friends. They loved it so much that they started asking for more. That’s when Falls River Soap Company was truly born!

What inspired you to start this business?

Our passion for what we do drives our business. Over the years, I think that we as a society have forgotten to enjoy the simple and pure things that nature provides for us. When we use natural products straight from nature, we get to experience not only the sheer joy of encountering nature in its real form, but we also see a lot of health benefits. Add to that our world’s race to modernization, which is making us forget some of our old and reliable ways! I believe that modernization and growth has to be balanced by the artistic and creative side of humans. That is the only thing that can keep us from turning into machines ourselves!

All of this love for nature and creativity inspired us to create products that are not just natural and pure, but are made the old-fashioned way. That’s why we use a technique called cold processing for all of our soaps. We really want to also infuse artwork into each soap, too. We want every single soap bar to be unique and intriguing to look at, as well as effective and beneficial for the skin.

I always compare our soaps to the exotic aged wines. Cold processed soaps are similar to those wines. You have to cure these soaps for 6 to 8 weeks and they keep getting more mild and gentle as they age further, which means they work better the longer they sit. This aging process continues even after the soaps are shipped off to customer’s homes. You just can’t rush a good thing, with either soap or a great wine.

How do you make money?

We have structured our business to be an online business, so e-commerce has been our primary source of making money. We have been fortunate that there is a big market for natural and organic products. It’s certainly been a tough marketplace to compete in, but we’ve managed to carve out a niche for ourselves. I think that focusing on Amazon has been one of the biggest factors that’s helped us grow.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

It was never started as a business to begin with. We weren’t ever driven by a desire to go make lots of money. We really started out by just having fun! But when we realized the potential for us to really make something of our soaps and have an impact in the natural product world, we discovered that there is a big marketplace for people sharing a similar passion to ours. That’s how we decided to transform our little hobby into a business.

We started on a very small scale from our basement. At first, we were using only online channels like Amazon USA and our website. But sales were really good and we were able to break even within the first four months of operation. We’ve been profitable ever since.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

When we started, we never thought that it would transform into the business it is now. Our story is unlike many other entrepreneurial tales where the business idea drives the next steps and the birth of the business. For us, our hobby and our passion for our products is what drove that transformation into a business and entrepreneurship.

Our doubt wasn’t whether it would work out or whether we’d become a really successful business. We were more concerned with being able to scale up to the demand and growth that we quickly experienced. Because we started in our basement, we were not equipped to handle the ever-growing demand that we found.  To handle this situation, we have started outsourcing packaging and fulfillment. We also started partnering with a few other local handmade soap makers to help us with the volume. This was by far the most challenging part, since finding them and then training them to make quality artistic soaps the way we wanted them made was not easy!

How did you get your first customer?

We launched our products at Amazon USA and it took just a day for the first sale to happen there. I still remember that the launch was the day before Thanksgiving. The next day, after we had eaten our Thanksgiving dinner with our family, I went to check the sales status online for curiosity’s sake. I was completely convinced that we would take several days to hit our first sale. To my surprise, we already had a bunch of sales registered after only a day online! People just found our products and started ordering them.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?

Our business structure is unique in the marketing aspect. We don’t have any retail stores yet, nor are we immediately thinking of using local retail chains to carry our products. Our business currently is online only and nearly all of our marketing strategies are digital in nature. We have spent most of our efforts on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media advertising, like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. We also use giveaways as a marketing strategy to spread the word because it generates a lot of attention.

I believe that the focus on the online marketplace is most important for our company’s growth.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

Like I mentioned before, we have started working with other handmade soap makers to help share the production load. This was a tough decision to make as we now need to make sure that product quality and craftsmanship is exactly the same as what our customers have been used to. And that’s difficult to do when you get different artistic minds working on the same thing.

Overall, we are really happy that we made this decision. Working with these great soap makers is helping us not just with our sales demand, but also in bringing additional products and creativity to our company and the marketplace.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I believe that we are successful because of our passion and the belief that we can do something that can leave a positive impact and improve the lives of people. I believe that profitability should not be the primary driving factor for business, but should be a natural outcome of the positive experience that you leave with the people around you.

For us, it’s not just the customers who are important. We think that everyone who learns about our products is important. Even if someone isn’t a customer at the time, they can help us market our products if they are happy with what we are doing. This just keeps spreading that positive impact further and further.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

I enjoy going through the reviews and comments that our customers post. I have read all different kinds of reviews. It makes me feel great when I read ones like parents sharing how it helped their kids’ dry and itchy skin issues, or when customers shared the joyful reaction of their loved ones when they received it as a gift. It’s things like this that make me so happy to be in this business and really make me feel satisfied with what we’re doing. It helps to keep us grounded and close to the reason that we created this business in the beginning!

What does the future hold for your business?

We started exploring global marketplaces and have started selling in Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, in addition to growing in our primary marketplace in the USA.

We want to become a known global brand in the bath and beauty product marketplace for natural and artisan products.

What are you most excited about? 

I’m most exciting about the creative process. Right now, we’re looking at creating new lines of products with unique and unusual raw materials. For example, one of my favorite ideas is creating soap made out of fresh brewed coffee. This soap isn’t just for the amazing, invigorating scent or the deep and beautiful color, but for the caffeine packed shower that it provides. Another fun idea has been our beer soap. We’ve been pouring out cans of beer not to drink, but to make soap with! And you’d be amazed what it can do for your skin!

I get most excited when we are able to bring something unique to the market. We’ve embraced the idea that our products can be functional and also give many more benefits than what they are expected to provide.

How does your business differentiate from other similar businesses?

Most similar business in the handmade artisan soap and bath products industry are local and exist as brick and mortar stores or stands at farmer’s markets. Many of them focus only on the quality of the products and not on the artistic side of the product.  We’ve taken that spirit of those artisan soap and bath product companies and positioned ourselves as primarily online. Instead of traditional sales channels, we use e-commerce marketplace selling through online channels. We have also focused on the aesthetics of the product by adding an artistic flare to the all-natural and organic products that we make. This idea of combining that artisan spirit with artistic insight and online commerce has helped us differentiate from our competitors and has also increased our footprint globally.

Which products are the most popular?

Our Himalayan Pink Salt Soap, Coffee Soap, Brazilian Mud Soap and Foam Free Shaving Cream are some of our best selling products. We can’t make enough of them!

 

 

Connect With Sujoy Bhattacharya: