A Technology Makeover

How technology helped to revamp a body care products company

Black Enterprise asked business owners how they’ve used technology to make over their business? Yesterday, we introduced you to Nancy Alert of Nancy Alert & Associates L.L.C., and today meet Selena D. Cozart, who shares how a small investment in technology can make a huge difference in revenues, outlook, and mindset.

(Photo by Elaine Odell)

Company: Salome’s Simply Delightful Creations
Principal: Selena D. Cozart, Ph.D.
Location: Charlottesville, VA
Type of Business: Soap and body care products
2009 Revenues: $5,000
After running my business for a year, I finally gave myself permission to consider myself an entrepreneur and business owner. Until that one-year mark, I thought of myself as a hobbyist who was trying to earn enough to pay for materials.

I have a Ph.D. in educational evaluation and, in addition to the side business, I work full time as a diversity consultant, specializing in education, mentoring, and community development. I also have a background as an English teacher, college professor, academic adviser, and K-12 diversity coordinator.

My interest in handcrafted soap began as an outgrowth from my desire to make my own shampoo and conditioner for my locks. I was interested in hair and body care products that are natural and that eliminated the harsh chemicals often found in commercially made products. As I continued my research for the best places to order supplies for hair products, I found myself ordering from Websites that catered to soap makers and chandlers (sellers of candles and soaps). The information on soap and candle making intrigued me and led me to another branch of online research—how to make body products. I started out by researching the market, looking at products, recipes, and procedures on various blogs, and on YouTube, as well as at sites such as Squidoo, ehow, and Expertvillage (which has since moved to eHow).

I began making handcrafted soap and personal care products using vegetable oils. My products contain no animal fats or petroleum derivatives.

So far, for Simply Delightful Creations, I have invested about $12,000. I typically spend 15 to 20 hours per week making products, and another 10 to 15 hours weekly on marketing, advertising, and networking to build the business.

I use an iPhone ($299, plus $120/month; AppleCare, $69; and MobileMe, $99/year) as my main point of contact and to help run the business. I also use the following apps: Vision Board, 99 cents; Twitterrific, $4.99; Soap, $4.99; The Best Camera, $2.99; Perfect Photo, $2.99; Camera Flash Deluxe, 99 cents; Red Laser, $1.99; and BlogPress, $2.99.

I am also in the process of adding Merchant Warehouse ($7.95/month, plus 2.1% per transaction), a credit card processing service that will streamline payment. The company also offers MerchantWARE Mobile, which means that I can do business from my iPhone while I’m on the go.

I use Facebook, Twitter, and Ning to create buzz about my handcrafted products. I usually post updates on production, pictures of products, specials that I am running, links, and updates to the Website. For example, in December, I ran a Cyber Monday special on my Ning site, which accounted for about 10% of my holiday sales. I was also a guest on the BlogTalkRadio show Lose Weight with Laura, where I made a special offer to listeners that translated into additional sales.

I have participated in Webinars with the Business Center for Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise for coaching on how to start a small business online and with Handmadeology for advice on how to organize and manage an online presence. I expect revenues of $15,000 for 2010.

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

ACROSS THE WEB
  • Samantha Jameson

    I love the range of businesses highlighted in this article. Selena’s story really encourages me to start where I am and build!

  • STEPHANIE HARRIS

    March 9, 2010

    Hi BE,
    My name is Stephanie Harris. I would really love to be featured in the BE magazine and would like to know who to contact.
    I am from Oxford, NC the place where the movie Blood, Done Sign My Name is in which the lady that witnessed the murder was my aunt. I am 28 years old. 2003 was the first year that my first business opened up. I was 22 years old. It was a homecare agency that provided personal care agency that was licensed by the state. I was the youngest in NC to own and operate a homecare agency providing services to disabled adults. One year later I sold the business for a nice amount. I worked for the agency for 9 months and got fired for absolutely nothing so I opened up another agency that same year, and in 2009 I sold that business. In between time, I started another agency in 2007 which is a mental health agency providing HIV Case Management and other mental health services and I currently run this agency. I have also owned a private duty nursing agency and a medical supply and equipment company.
    I am currently the youngest African American female to own a mental health agency in NC now. Believe it or not, I did all of this without a college degree and no I am not proud of that which is why I am attending St. Augustine’s College to receive my Bachelors Degree in Organizational Management because I only have a GED.
    In 2009, my company grossed $250,000 in sales, and expected to gross 1.5 million in 2010. I also plan to expand my company and open up an office in Louisiana in April of this year.
    I am currently working on my first book that is untitled, but it is a self-help book that will be geared towards people ages 18 – 40. I believe in helping others and giving back to my community. I have helped over seven people start their agencies through my consultant company. I am so confident that I can influence and inspire others if given the opportunity. I have a successful story to tell that came with many sacrifices but I came out on top. Majority of the people that I meet and share my story with are in total shock by the end of our conversation because they can’t believe all that I have accomplished at such a young age.
    I can be reached at (919) 523-7828 cell, (919) 693-1495 work.
    Email: harris8140@hotmail.com sharris@infinitehorizon-nc.com

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Harris

  • http://www.nubianlist.com/ London Wright

    Stephanie Harris I would love offer your business a free directory listing with Nubianlist.com. Also Ms. Harris you should NEVER leave your e-mail address in a comment area, your opening yourself up to spam (NOT from Black Enterprise) but from spammers looking for new fresh e-mail addresses. Do you have a website for your mental health agency? I just launched a program called ProjectHarlem.com a free service designed to upgrade Black businesses from web design, business cards, logos, we would welcome the challenge of putting together a site for you

  • JM Green

    Proud of you,Selena! You are so focused and organized. Thank you for sharing. You are such an inspiration to everyone!