I first stumbled into making bath products and hand gold-leafing the bottles when I was volunteering with a non-profit organization many years ago. I came up with the idea simply to help promote their story- not to start a business.
I grew up with a fashion designer mama, so product development has literally been under my feet since I could walk- No, really- I spent my childhood stepping over a minefield of hand painted t-shirts that were scattered across the floor to dry and inquiring whether there was paint or juice in the pitcher on the kitchen counter. Suffice it to say, I learned at an early age that creativity didn’t always have to have BIG DREAMS attached to it - small things were worth creating too. Creating beautiful products could be an extension of who I was and how I blessed others.
For years I used these small creative projects as avenues to engage the people and causes I cared about. I got the chance to work with amazing women (and their incredible organizations) who were going through some pretty dramatic life transformations. I got to sit with them and teach how to do creative things. I learned a ton from them as well.
Looking back now, I can see that these experiences were setting the stage for what was to come. I got to financially invest in women who were creating products alongside me. I got to set a standard for production, learn the importance of quality control and make a ton of mistakes. (Some of our early recipes for bath products were complete disasters. One day they would work great and the next day- not at all!) At the time, all I knew was: I loved creating and I loved working with other women. I stockpiled these products- the good ones- in my hallway closet and wondered what their future might be.
Time pressed forward and life offered some pretty hard, disappointing and unexpected changes for me. There was a time when I didn’t have the pressure of my own sustainability (because I was married and my husband's business had grown to a point where I didn’t have to grind the pavement anymore). But this new chapter meant I had to forge through as a single gal and figure out how to take care of myself.
That’s when those pretty, handmade products in my closet found their way to a shelf. The shelf of a little brick+mortar shop in an area of Ft Worth, TX that had long been forgotten but was seeing the early stages of new life. I’m pretty practical by nature, but risk seemed like a natural choice for me at the time. I had lost most of what I once held dear, so it didn’t seem like I had much to lose when I took the leap to become a retail owner. I stared up at that store- with a real, bonafide sign above the door- and thought to myself…."Wow, I didn’t even know to pray for that.”
Some months later, those products found their way into a showroom at the Dallas Market Center. The place where retail stores (like mine) all around the country go to find the items they will carry in their shops. A customer had found us on Instagram and told the showroom owner to reach out to us. As I sat there that day, holding the contract with 12 excited reps waiting for me to give the “GO!” to sell our products to stores, hotels and spas all over the U.S. I thought…”I didn’t even know to pray for this.”
One thing I did pray for was a team. I knew I couldn’t do this alone. I prayed for a team of women who “got me” - who were aligned in purpose and loved each other. A team who knew how to work hard and work together. I prayed and vowed not to “push” to make things happen...but instead, to wait on God to send me the right people at the right time. And God abundantly provided. I could write an entire book about my team and my grateful heart.
We worked and stumbled and learned and grew. We came up with internal systems and worked tirelessly to learn the external systems needed to work with the “big guys”. We learned how to manage our supply chain and what boxes sizes shipped the best. We learned that in 100 degree weather, we can only ship on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays so our products don’t sit on a hot truck over the weekend and melt. Mistakes, mistakes, and more mistakes. Mistakes were the road to every success we’ve had - and I didn’t know to pray for that either.
About a year and a half ago, I was at Market and someone inquired about our line and the stories behind it. Her name tag (required to get into the building) was flipped backwards so I didn’t know where she was from or the name of her store. As it turns out, this person (Kate) was the buyer for Crate and Barrel. Yes, the national retailer - CRATE AND BARREL!
She explained that they were wanting to open the category of Bath and Candle in the Spring of 2020 and wondered if our products might be a fit. She told me she would pass the info along to the bath buyer.
We chatted a bit.
We sent samples.
Then, we heard nothing.
In my experience, God has always planned my calendar much better than I ever could, so I trusted He knew what was best and let it be.
Months later we got an email from Kate. She was wildly excited that the bath and candle category had just been shifted to her plate and she was now the buyer in charge! I explained that while I had grown up in the industry and had some experience dealing with national accounts - I had not done anything to this scale with Winton and Waits products. Her gracious response and confidence in our brand quieted my fears and all of a sudden we had our first national account. Crate and Barrel held our hand and walked us through the entire process. They didn’t ask us to change who we are or what we do- in fact, they honored it and found a place for us. They kept our brand intact. And now, we’re thrilled to say that our products grace the shelves of each and every Crate and Barrel store. I definitely didn’t know to pray for that.
It’s mind-boggling to sit back and reflect on all that has happened over the past 2 years. The favor we have experienced in these areas is so incredibly sweet. I’m a firm believer in having goals and making a plan to accomplish them but sometimes, you just need to put your best self out there, buckle up and enjoy the ride. God is truly in control. His way truly is the best. May we always remember to pray for that.
(Edit: Since I originally wrote this post, we have been invited to be Crate and Barrel’s product partner for their new Cause Initiative! They are rolling out a corporate sponsorship for the non-profit organization, VOW, and asked us to design a candle to go along with their campaign. So...the journey continues...)