We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Valerie DeVito. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Valerie below.
Valerie, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What’s the backstory behind how you came up with the idea for your business?
I was deeply invested in soapmaking, I loved it! I received lots of feedback from customers telling me it was helping to improve their dry skin, and how much they loved the soaps, too.
After selling bath products for six years, I felt the pull to create a more cohesive branding. I was always drawn to vintage style, but at the time, my packaging was very generic. It wasn’t until the spring of 2017 that I honed in on the style of the 1920’s, Flapper Girls, and Art Deco.
The idea was a gift that came came in the form of an invitation. I was standing in my kitchen with my daughter, going through the mail when I came across a thick card, inviting us to a Decade Party. The sender asked that we come dressed for the event in the style of one of these eras; the 1920’s, 1950’s, 1970’s or 1980’s.
My daughter and I looked at each other, and at the same time, blurted out, “Definitely the 1920’s!” How fun!
I instantly got that tingly feeling across the top of my head, and down my spine,
I call that feeling an Angel Caress, and have always considered it a sign of ‘being on the right track’, or correct. But my excitement wasn’t just for what I was going to wear to the party, that feeling came because it felt like this might be the perfect fit for my new brand!
Coincidentally, I had just enrolled in an online branding course. I knew I needed to drill down and find a niche that felt right for me. I was excited about the re-brand and was already thinking up names in my head for my ‘girls’ aka The Flapper Set. Surely, I couldn’t be the only person on the planet who admired the styles given to us during that short decade in time.
Giving my handmade products a unique branding twist, truly felt like a worthwhile endeavor.
Valerie, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I’m Valerie and I live on Long Island, New York. I make vintage-inspired soaps, bath & body products, and soy candles. I fuse timeless fragrances with Art Deco style. My core collection is a colorful ode to the New Flapper Girl of the 1920s.
My grandmother was eleven years old when The Great Depression began. Her mother made “Brown Soap” in their tiny kitchen, and it was very harsh. When Grandma was finally able to get a job, her one small spend was for the milder factory-made soaps, and collecting them became a hobby that lasted a lifetime.
As a kid, I took every sleep-over opportunity available to take a soak in her big claw-foot tub. The prize in those pretty boxes lined up on Grandma’s dresser was the promise of an alluring scent and silky soft skin.
2011: Oh, hello! Here I am, walking backwards into my new soap business. I was a busy Licensed Massage Therapist and touching skin every day. I couldn’t help but notice how so many of my clients had extremely dry skin.
Enter my long-standing love of soap; it took me four months of reading before I tried making it, and then I reformulated my recipes over the next year. When I felt the soap was mild and conditioning enough for people with even the driest of skin, I began selling it in my massage studio. I opened an Etsy shop online in 2012
I am honored to able to bring my handmade products to you. Without you, there is no Gilded Olive Apothecary. Before I became a massage therapist, I worked for 22 years as ancillary staff in a hospital medical setting- that job was hard.
I’m not saying running a small business is easy, but being able to make soap for a living is a gift, and I’m so proud that my creations make people feel happy. In the long standing trend of minimalism, I think my brand stands out and offers people a fun alternative.
My Grandmother was a Maker. My mother was a Maker. I appreciate the labor of love that is anything handmade. I believe that useful items, made with good intention, carry with them an energy of positivity. I want to begin and end my days with these lovely things.
I’m a one-woman show. All my products are formulated and made by me. They’re vegan, palm-oil free, sulfate-free and phthalate-free. I hope you find something here that makes you smile, thanks for stopping by!
How do you keep in touch with clients and foster brand loyalty?
I foster my brand loyalty through a variety of ways! I offer an excellent Rewards Program, local pick-up, a free shipping threshold, and I let customers know what’s coming up next, via email and social media.
I spoil my customers whenever possible with sale events, fast shipping, free samples and a handwritten thank you note. They know it’s easy to contact me, and I’m always happy to help or include a note with gift orders. My customers are very appreciative, and I appreciate them back!
Can you talk to us about how your funded your business?
I’ll never say I’d never take a loan, but up until this point, I have not. I started out using the capital from my massage practice. I began very slowly in my own kitchen, ordering small amounts of supplies.
By the time I was ready to invest in larger purchases, (education, and equipment for instance) I had already learned that I needed to save up my money for those things. It took a long time, but I was testing things out at the same time, finding out what worked and what didn’t.