Aroha finds a mouthful of success with soap, Hayle Heke

A lot of us entrepreneurs have gained retail experience over the years.. Our first jobs usually involved an element of merchandising, and some of us have continued to follow that career path quite successfully. Retailer managers are the unsung heroes of the supply chain. The problems they solve every day allow suppliers to pocket a pay check every week.

Here’s a problem that Aroha Soaps founder Hayley Heke encountered. What do you do when a supplier cancels a large order of one of your best-selling products just before the holiday season?

If you’re like Hayley, what you do is get down on the ground floor and make the product yourself.

“I was gutted to find my beautiful big jars empty right before Christmas,” said Hayley, “I [decided I’d] learn to make it my self, and my stock would never let me down.

“So I started my research. I have always loved aromatherapy, and with the thought of making something really good for you – I was hooked and started to research the properties of the oils, which are the base of my soap.”

The business started back in 2002 as a sole trader buying and selling collectables. Originally Hayley’s son was her only employee, but after they became a registered company in 2007, more employees were brought on board.

About five years ago, Hayley rebranded her business to become Aroha Gifts from the Heart, and six months later, the first batch of soap was produced. Hayley doesn’t get buried underneath the paperwork that comes along with being a relatively large soap producer. “It doesn’t really effect me – the company side of it. My accountant gets paid to do that!”

The pricing of the Aroha soap line is possible the only thing more appealing than the soaps themselves. With years of retail and merchandise experience to back her up, Hayley has developed a strategy that allows everyone to be able to afford it, while the brand value is reinforced, and the business is maintained sustainably. “Our in-store bars are $7.50 each or 3 for $19. On TradeMe, 4 bars gets you free postage, and that works out the same. I want people to be able to afford a good product – one that will help & nourish their skin. My motto is ‘Good product, good price.’”

Getting new customers isn’t a strenuous task when a bar of soap looks more flavoursome than the dessert you had at the 5-star restaurant you went to last night, but since the product is visually appealing, it needs to get out in front of potential customers’ eyes. The rest is self explanatory. “I have tried to use every avenue I can to get our products out there. There are copy cats out there too and you have to be careful on the net, but with our lovely stamp, watermarked pictures and unique style – it’s working well. Facebook is a fantastic tool. I really like Pinterest too, but I’m quite new to that one. I have found that Facebook works well for in-store, where we sell 80% of our products.”

Do you think the 2013 and 2014 are good years to be entrepreneurs in New Zealand?

2013 has been a very challenging year. This year, we have branched out into skin-loving lotions and creams, and that for me was BIG, but also lots of fun. I love what I do – seeing people love & enjoy the products I have created – it’s all made with Aroha!

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