On this week’s podcast, Marcus sits down with Erin Sheppard of Nire Bathery. Erin grew up on a farm in Grand Bay and became a huge consumer of high quality bath products through being a travel nurse after college. The story of her hand-crafted soap making beginnings started with a torn ACL and has taken off ever since! Tune in and listen or read on MobileAL.com, Spotify, or iTunes.
Erin: I'm Erin Sheppard, and I'm the owner of Nire Bathery.
Marcus: Well awesome, Erin. It is great to have you on the Podcast. Full disclosure to everyone listening, we don't know each other.
Erin: We don't.
Marcus: Yeah, so these are some of the fun podcasts because we get to know each other as we kinda go along, but to get started, we always get to know who the person is behind the business, before we learn about the business. So why don't you tell us the story of Erin. Where did grow up? Where did you go to high school? Did you go to college? Are you married? Just give us some of the back story.
Erin: Sure. I grew up on a farm, actually in Grand Bay, Alabama. And went to Alma Bryant High School in Bayou La Batre. I did go to college, I'm actually still a college student. I did my undergraduate work at University of Southern Mississippi. And got a degree in nursing. I've been a registered nurse for about ten years. And am now a nurse practitioner. I graduated from University of South Alabama. And I'm currently enrolled in their doctoral program.
Marcus: Golly. Just couldn't get enough?
Erin: I know, I'm just like learners. So.
Marcus: It is one of those industries where you do kinda keep going, I mean if you're driven at all you have to go back to school. And.
Erin: For me, yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Marcus: Do you work at a...
Erin: Actually, I just got hired on, I'm very excited with USA Family Medicine.
Marcus: Very good and I don't know enough about that is that a doctor's office or is that part of the hospital, or?
Erin: It's a clinic, now there's associated with USA, and they have the doctors that or family practice physicians there and they have a residency program as well.
Marcus: Very cool. No, so is that part of the, I guess that doesn't make any sense, so you're currently enrolled as a doctor in the doctor program but you're...
Erin: I'm working on a doctorate of nursing practice, while I'm a nurse practitioner. So I will remain a nurse practitioner
Marcus: While you're running a business.
Erin: Right. I'm busy.
Marcus: Gluten for punishment, I'd say. Golly and I thought I had a lot going on. You, obviously enjoy school.
Erin: I do.
Marcus: you wouldn't go this far if you weren't actually good at it.
Marcus: Right? So I mean as we've interviewed, a lot of people, a hundred plus people, we've just recognized that there's not any one path to business ownership. That there are some people that don't go to, don't graduate high school, there's some people that go and they get their doctoral degrees. Steven McNara is one that comes to mind, right? And so, it kinda runs the gambit, and I guess we're just doing that for those of you that are listening, just to high light the fact that there's no right answer when it comes to that. That schooling does not dictate the success of your business, sometimes it can help, and especially if you're going into nursing, you have to have that schooling. But for your business, you don't necessarily have to have that.
Erin: Sure. It was a steep learning curve for me, actually i did not go to business school. I am a nurse and now nurse practitioner, by trade and so, there is a lot to learn and it can be quite overwhelming, actually. But I was a travel nurse in my twenties and also personally traveled the world and loved doing that and nursing can be stressful. I'm sure you've heard.
Marcus: Just a little.
Erin: And through that, I really became a huge consumer of high quality bath products. And a bit of a connoisseur, I would say, as well. And in between my travel assignments, I would come home to Mobile and visit my family, of course. And in doing that, I could never find what I was looking for and I would be so disappointed. I love things that are small batch and high quality and I don't want things that are shrink wrapped, and not eco-friendly and I want them if they're hand-made. If I can get them. And I've always cared about my skin a lot, even since I was an adolescent, and so I thought why not make it myself. I injured my knee, I tore my ACL years ago, a few years ago, and couldn't nurse any more. Just for a period of time. For a few months. And I took that opportunity and my sister Jatta and I, collaborated on different ideas and products and essentially we spent the entire summer making soap. And we would take pictures of it, because we'd be so proud of it and post it on Facebook. The response was great. And I was so happy to see that there was a consumer base for a product like that and it's really just taken off from there.
Marcus: So what kinds, I mean in case somebody hasn't caught on, I mean Nire Bathery is a soap and bath products company, right?
Erin: Yes, it is.
Marcus: What predominantly are your products? Is there a like...
Erin: Soaps, bath bombs, I do scrubs and bath milk and bath salts predominantly. I'm always open to new things and experimenting. But those are the things that I currently sell on my website, Nirebathery.com.
Erin: And everything is hand-crafted and locally made. I believe in personally, I've tried to translate it seamlessly into the business, staying in and remaining eco-friendly. All of the labeling is biodegradable, I compost it, it's recyclable, lots of it is printed on recyclable paper, and I have solid lotions as well. I didn't mention that, but I do have solid lotions and those in a reusable tin.
Marcus: Very cool. Now are you manufacturing those locally or, you are.
Erin: Yes. Everything is manufactured locally.
Marcus: Wow, that's really cool.
Erin: Thank you. Thank you.
Marcus: I mean cuz it's not I mean I don't know it's just not that common to find that kind of stuff happening here.
Erin: True. True. And there are products here to buy, and that's wonderful. I just, I was always looking for something a little bit different. I'm quite particular and what goes on my skin, I'm looking for natural things and I don't want things that have palm oil, and sulfates, and parabens and I don't want things that have been animal tested, I don't want things that are shrink wrapped and the closest thing I could find is a big box store in New Orleans. And why not bring something local like that to Mobile?
Marcus: Full disclosure on this, maybe TMI, but like I can't use most hand lotions.
Marcus: Yeah. I have kind of some weird reaction to mineral oil. And so over the years I've gone to just using straight coconut oil because I don't have the same reaction to coconut oil that I have to mineral oil.
Erin: That's wonderful.
Marcus: But it took me a long time to figure that out. Like I would use just like your regular Jerkins or something like that, and I've had issues with my skin since I was a little kid, I've always had problems with Eczema, and stuff like that on my hands. And of course, it doesn't help that most of the jobs that I had through high school and college, were washing dishes, and stuff like that, that are really rough on the skin as well. So it, I mean even as a guy, like I get it, because I...
Erin: It matters.
Marcus: It matters. It very much matters. And if i don't put something on my hands every day, then I actually almost immediately my knuckles and my hands will start to dry up to the point
Erin: And crack. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah.
Marcus: So and I certainly I'm not a big bath bomb kinda guy, I mean like.
Erin: I mean I do make men's.
Marcus: I don't mean to scare anybody out there. That might actually be
Erin: I do make a men;s bath bomb. Its called Mantastic. If you're ever interested. My nephew came up with the name for that. And he's very proud of it and I am proud of him, too.
Marcus: Yes. Yes. Well so tell us, let's go back to some of the questions here. What was your first job and were there any lessons that you still remember from that?
Erin: My first job was Treasure Trove Souvenir Store on Dolphin Island, I don't know if you guys are familiar with it. Yeah it was cool. I'm an excellent folder of T-shirts, actually. Those would get messed up every day. But more than that, I think the greatest lesson I took away was no matter how big or small the job is, take pride in what you do. For sure.
Marcus: And I'm sure that's carried over into everything whether it's the nursing or the bath products. What you've done, it's apparent.
Marcus: Do you remember the first sale that you made or the first product really that you made, thinking wow there might actually be something to this, I mean you mentioned putting it on Facebook, and seeing the reactions, but what was that like because I mean you had really no intentions of going into business, right?
Erin: Right. And I do remember my very first soap. Jatta and I made Lavender Lemongrass and Shea.
Marcus: It sounds good.
Erin: It is. It is so good. And it's still one of the best selling soaps that I make. Its fabulous. All the oils that I make it with are infused with Lavender. And the water that use I infuse with oats. The first sale, was a resident's wife. We did a labor and delivery Christmas party every year, I was a labor nurse, and I gave a gift, we would make all these things, I would give them out to my friends and family. And as a hostess gift, I gave her soaps and scrubs. And she like me and cares about what goes on her skin, and what types of products she uses, what things she eats, that's all important to both of us. She asked if she could buy it. And I of course was like, absolutely. But I have no idea how much that costs yet. But that was the very first person to offer. And ask to buy it. From there, fortunately, I had friends and family offer to host trunk shows and so I would bring in all this product that I made, and this was before I had a label. I would hand letter the cards with the names of the products and I would essentially set up a pop up shop in their home and they would serve wine and cheese, I mean what's not to love right? Wine and
Marcus: Always a good way to get women to buy things. Is to serve wine.
Erin: Exactly. And it was so much fun. And I found great success there and what a blessing that has been. Seriks gift shop on Oak Street Place was actually the very first store that was interested and picked me up and I'm so grateful that they did. They're fabulous. Market at the Pillars, that's an event of the pillars every month, it's the second Sunday from 12 to 4 and it's full of local crafters and makers and bakers in the Mobile area. I get to do that every month, which I love. And a couple of stores out in West Mobile Domkey Market, and Sheik Jolee Boutique also carry my products. And there's a new store that will be carrying my products, they're not technically a new store, but it will be new that my products are there in Spring Hill so do stay tuned to find out when that is. We'll be there very, very soon.
Marcus: Very cool. Now if you were talking to someone that was looking to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Erin: Let's see. I would have to say, you are going to encounter lots of neigh sayers, do not dwell on the negativity. It is important to stay positive and it's overwhelming and you're going to fail, you're going to make mistakes, and you have to forgive yourself for doing that, which is hard if you're a very critical person, I'm critical of myself, but the important thing is to persevere and keep going. I can't emphasis that enough. You know sometimes I'm making products and I'm like oh this is not turning out actually how I envisioned it at all, but I'm so glad that I kept going because the final product is actually quite beautiful.
Marcus: Right. I noticed a lot of times that people that actually put out product that is of a high quality, that they are often times more critical of themselves and that's how they get to that product of high quality.
Erin: Absolutely, because I want to produce things and make things that I want to use. So I'm very critical about it, quite particular.
Marcus: Very discerning, particular is a good word. Also I would just say that there's a good chance that if you jump off into this pool of being an entrepreneur that the neigh sayers are actually going to be people that are very, very close to you.
Erin: Absolutely. I couldn't agree more which is surprising in a way and you can listen all you want but it's important to believe in yourself at the end of the day. And to trust yourself. That's what it really comes down to. Because you know there are a million reasons why it could go wrong and why it couldn't work, but there is some really strong reasons why it could work. And if you keep pushing and keep trying, I couldn't encourage anybody enough to do that.
Marcus: I would just say to those of you that are listening, that aren't necessarily looking to run a business, but just find these stories of these business owners interesting and that's why you tune in, I would say that if you are fiends or family or married or whatever, brother, sister, to someone who is starting a business, don't be that person. Like there's enough in their life that is drawing them down and pulling them down. There's enough negative thoughts in their own head
Erin: And self-doubt.
Marcus: And self-doubt in their own head, that they don't need that other person, they don't need you being that person, unless you literally think that they're in a position where they're going to do physical harm to themselves or you could lose everything and still recover, so they need to get that out of their system. They need to go down that path and they're going to bounce along and fail and they're going to succeed and then they're going to fail again and hopefully they keep going and they end up a success, but you really just need to be there and encourage them as part of that process. Now when you look to the business world, is there someone that motivates you? Is there somebody that you look to and think man that would be really cool to achieve, you know?
Erin: I, that's a hard question for me to answer, because there are a lot of really small and local business owners that I admire and through networking at markets, I love to see other small and local businesses succeed. I am inspired by that. I find and share joy in that. Because to me it's community over competition. I strive to be a person that lifts others up. It takes nothing from you to do that. And you shouldn't tear people down that's exciting for them and it's also really nice to know that you're not the only person who struggles in some ways. You know I'm not good at every part of the business aspect, again, I'm small and I'm new, and I didn't go to business school, so I feel like I'm starting behind and its just nice to have that comradery and share that you're not the only one who has a difficult time and a bad day and you tried really hard and it still didn't work. But it's important to keep trying.
Marcus: Yeah. Good, those, hey, Jerrod, slice that out. And put that in there. Cuz I mean if there's something that we've learned over the course of this is, I mean for me specifically, in running a business, it is difficult. You often times do feel that it is a lonely, lonely place. So it's always a joy to sit with other business owners because often times there's feelings that they have that are very similar and that you share and it's not all
Erin: Right. You know I've never set up a LLC, like how do I go about that? How do I use QuickBooks? You have to find these things out.
Marcus: You mentioned, okay, so you mentioned a couple of tools, and I'll go out on a limb, cuz this isn't something that I normally ask, but your business is online as well, are you using Shopify then?
Erin: I am. I am using Shopify.
Marcus: Very good. And so just draw that out, just as an illustration, because when we do talk to somebody that has a presence online selling Ecommerce, we do Shopify work, but I love that platform for people because it is super simple for someone to set up and
Erin: User friendly.
Marcus: It's user friendly and it literally it got themes that you can just be up and running in no time. So if you're looking to set up an Ecommerce site, obviously check out Shopify if you need help.
Erin: I recommend it.
Marcus: If you need help, call us but chances are you probably won't. Now are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations, that have been helpful in moving you forward? And I'll say that again. So books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful.
Erin: You know people and organizations have helped me most I think.
Marcus: Anyone specifically?
Erin: Yes. Gift shop on Oak Street Place. They were the first to give me a shot and take a chance and they have really helped me. My very first friend in college, I met through a sorority, so it was an organization, she is a very talented graphic designer, and her name is Lauren and she does all the design work for Nire. Additionally, every local opportunity I've gotten with Domkey, with the Spring Hill shop, with Sheik Jolee, Heather Feffercorn, Livia Noble, I do ...
Marcus: All people we know.
Erin: I do these custom bath bombs for the Pillars bride so if you book with them, they get a Pillars bath bomb that's made by Nire and the same for Lidea, it's called the Noble Bride. So I do some custom work on the side, as well with soap favors for weddings, but they are an encouragement to me. And they have certainly had a hand in helping Nire go forward.
Marcus: Nice. That is really cool. I mean Heather was a client. And we love what she's doing especially with the market. I think that's phenomenal. And sharing the makers of Mobile with Mobile. Cuz I know that there are a ton, I mean obviously that's why we kinda do this podcast. And Lidea was on the podcast a month ago or so, about ish. And I told her afterwards, that we were going to be BFFs and I still believe that. She freaking rocks.
Erin: She does.
Marcus: So she's my, is it inappropriate to say, she's my spirit animal? Lidea, I hope you're listening to this. What's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?
Erin: Personally, I'm pretty self-driven, naturally. But carrying perseverance over into the business world and being an entrepreneur is, to me, critical. And I think it's important to surround yourself with successful people and watch them and learn from them. And again to just not to dwell and set on and harbor negative thoughts. Cuz you're going to encounter em, you know you're going to get a lot of no's before you get a yes. I've gotten a lot of no's, that's been, I grew up dancing, through childhood, adolescents, in college, and you will hear no's before you hear a yes and you just have to keep trying. If you're passionate about it, keep going.
Marcus: Yeah you read all these sales books, and stuff like that. Or, I do, I'm sorry, I've read all these sales books cuz I spend a lot of time in sales, before running my own business, and so they always tell you it takes seven or eight no's to get to yes. Or something like that. And I don't know that I ever really understood what they were talking about until running a business. And I don't know that I necessarily care to go to one person and hear no seven or eight times, but at the same time, it is a running theme of hearing no, no, no, no, no, no, no, but it's the yes's that you have to grab on to and run with.
Marcus: When you're a business owner.
Erin: For sure.
Marcus: So I'm going to ask this. How do you like to unwind?
Erin: Bath bombs, of course.
Marcus: I have to, occasionally I'll throw that question in there. I felt like it was totally appropriate for this podcast episode.
Erin: Yeah, yes, definitely.
Marcus: Do you have a favorite bath bomb?
Erin: Bridgette Jones, cuz I feel like she's my spirit animal.
Marcus: That's great.
Erin: She, that's actually my favorite one. It's Lavender and lemongrass and it's filled with dried lavender botanicals and full of coconut oil and avocado oil. It's really great. But it smells so clean and it's fresh and it's relaxing all at the same time. Bath bombs, of course, that's how I unwind.
Marcus: You think Jarrod would totally judge me if I ordered one of those? Yeah, okay he's shaking his head no. So sounds like a good way to Yeah, order two? Okay so you mentioned all the shops that you're in. But where else can people find you? So give them the website address again, give them your Facebook page. Instagram, if you're on Instagram.
Marcus: So okay did we say why it's Nire?
Erin: Oh I get asked this question a lot. Even by people that I know. And Nire is actually [...] my name backwards and my step-dad used to call me that sometimes growing up.
Marcus: That is so cool.
Erin: Yeah, thank you.
Marcus: The stories behind companies, sometimes you don't hear that, and I think that's really interesting.
Marcus: Well, Erin, it's been great to have you on the podcast. Want to wrap up any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Erin: Sure. It matters. It matters what you put on your skin. It matters what products you buy. It matters that they're local. It matters that the packaging is eco-friendly. I am not on an assembly line, I created these recipes and make the product, I'm still hand-pressing fresh bath bombs, and I take the picture and work on the logo with my graphic designer and write the description so it all matters at the end of the day.
Marcus: Very cool. Yeah the skin is the largest organ?
Erin: It is.
Marcus: Yeah, most people don't think about that. But it absolutely matters what you put on your skin. Well Erin, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner.
Erin: My pleasure.
Marcus: It's been great talking with you.
Erin: You, as well.