We talked with CEO and Founder Danielle Vincent about the business strategy (and adventure) behind Outlaw Soaps.
When you consider the tenacity required to live the Western lifestyle, it makes sense that “ordinary” probably isn’t in the vocabulary of those who lean a little bit outlaw. This is true when it comes to personal style and even personal care items, like soap. Founded in 2013, Outlaw Soaps celebrates this Western way of life. We asked Danielle Vincent, CEO and Founder of Outlaw Soaps, to tell us a little bit more about her brand and the Western business strategy behind it.
Tell us more about the Outlaw Soaps – who do you make products for?
We [sell] through our website and through wholesale, and so we love making products for places that we would want to go ourselves. I mean that really is our guiding light...would we want to hang out at the store? Would we want to hang out with the owner of a store, and are they fun, awesome, celebrating small makers and big makers and everybody? [A] perfect example of this is Coyote Corner in Joshua Tree [California]. We have been so happy to be in that shop and we’ve been in there for years. The reason that we even pitched them in the first place is because I used to go to Joshua Tree all the time, and I of course used to stop by Coyote Corner all the time, and so when we think about places that we want to work with, it’s always, ‘would we go to that store.’
What is your brand philosophy?
Our most distinctive quality is, I think, our scents, and our scents are really unique. They’re based on real life, so things like leather, campfire, pine trees, and sagebrush. We want scents that really remind people of real-life experiences and real-life things, and that really is quite unique in terms of, we’re not scented like floral, or coconut, or those kind of things. I mean, I have dirty fingernails all the time, and I think of most of our customers and our wholesale accounts are just really straightforward, excited, participatory people, you know, people who are getting out there and camping and hiking and stuff like that. We want to make scents that inspire those people.
...Our scents are really unique. They’re based on real life, so things like leather, campfire, pine trees, and sagebrush.
What is new and noteworthy from your latest product release?
Our Calamity Jane and Cursed Cowboy spray colognes will be available for pre-order. For retailers who are interested in buying these products, it would be standard lead time, so we’d be sending them out in early May. Calamity Jane is of course inspired by Calamity Jane herself; legend of the West, legendarily boisterous, honorable, loyal, and whiskey-drinking. Our Calamity Jane is inspired by her boisterous spirit, the clove, orange, cinnamon, and a little scent of whiskey, and it’s such a good scent. So it’s like spicy and sweet, and it’s like first thing in the morning. It just wakes you up and makes you feel happy to be alive. I don't know how else to explain it. You stand there, and you smell your hands, and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, this has the potential for the best day ever.’ Cursed Cowboy is more of a rugged, masculine, smoky scent. It smells like clove and campfire. And so yes, again, it’s that clove smell, but it’s really a rugged campfire smell. And again, like I said, we like making things that smell like real life, and we were really inspired by the image of that cowboy all in black. That wandering alone, cowboy, and so, that’s like a bold, I call it the scent of survivors, you walked through hell and came out the other side, that kind of smell. So that is going to be available for pre-sale, and those are beautiful. They’re in black boxes. They have gold trim. They’re just gorgeous products.
Have any products stood out as a retailer favorite/best seller?
Home on the Range is the scent of blackberries and fresh-cut grass and fresh laundry. It sounds to me like it would smell super fresh, but we created it to smell like endless summer vacation, like laying in the grass and having nowhere to be, that scent of joy and freedom. The smell of fresh cut-grass, it takes you back to a moment in time. Home on the Range is just such a beautiful combination of scents. In terms of what moves fastest for wholesale, it definitely is quite beloved. We have that in handmade soap, milled, which is machined soap, lotion, body wash. And then the other one, I would say that moves fast and is quite distinctive is Lust in the Dust, which smells like sage brush and sandalwood, with a little bit of campfire, and it is really the smell of the Mojave Desert. If you were to stop on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, get out of your car and stand there in the quiet of the breeze, and the heat and that warmth coming off of the ground, that smell of the sagebrush would be what you would be surrounded by. That’s what we’ve created is really the smell of the high desert. We live in Reno, [Nevada], and we have blue sage on our property, and it’s so wonderful to go outside and have that experience, you know, it’s such a good smell.
Are there any trends you’ve noticed in the market lately?
One thing that I would be remiss if I did not mention is that our packaging is sustainable. We are pioneers in aluminum packaging. Our body wash and our lotion are both in custom-made aluminum bottles that we had made just for us. We’re the only aluminum, personal care, bottle on Whole Foods’ shelves right now, and it really sets us apart from every other personal care brand out there. We believe very strongly that sustainability and recyclable packaging should be everybody’s responsibility. It should be the baseline for all personal care products and all consumable products. It’s difficult though, because our whole industry is built on plastic. And so we’ve tried to eliminate plastic, reduce the amount of plastic, and our biggest step with that was replacing all our plastic bottles with aluminum bottles. They work well, you know everybody says, ‘Have you tried seed or paper?’ Our products have to hold up for months in the shower, so we did a lot of product testing on what worked and what did not, and the only thing that really could stand up, you know, obviously you can’t use glass in the shower, so the aluminum was the natural choice. And I also think speaking of natural choice, our products are natural. We use fragrances, but they’re all sourced from the U.S., so they’re all FDA regulated, and Whole Foods has vetted them so they’re all clean. Not all fragrances are created equal, so we take the care to make sure that we’re buying from reputable suppliers. I think that natural is also one of those things that you just have to [do], and it’s becoming more financially accessible for people. It’s less expensive than it used to be, and so we’re happy. That’s always who we were since 2013, making handmade soap in our living room, we were always committed to natural and sustainable packaging, and of course, having a unique style. When we think about our product on retailer’s shelves, having that strong Outlaw brand, and supporting our wholesale customers. When they put us on Instagram we try to re-gram those. It goes along with having wholesale accounts where we would want to shop, because when we see our customers doing really awesome stuff we want to participate. And so that’s really something I think is a trend which we’re on is really supporting the wholesale customers in selling the products as well.
We are pioneers in aluminum packaging. Our body wash and our lotion are both in custom-made aluminum bottles that we had made just for us...and it really sets us apart from every other personal care brand out there.
How do new retailers go about setting up an account?
We sell through Faire. That’s been working so well for us, because it really enables retailers to have a risk-free experience. They can try our products. If it doesn’t sell through, then they can return it. It is no problem, but we have a 96 percent sell-through so it’s not a risk for us either. If people want to find out more about our wholesale, they can just go to our website on the bottom of our footer, the “wholesale / stockists,” and that tells all the information about how to order our products, and that’s where to set it up. We ship almost immediately, so somebody can order, and we have pre-made starter sets also, so it’s easy.
After the ups and downs of 2020, do you feel buyer confidence is returning?
I think definitely. We’ve seen such a huge increase in wholesale sales. Even year-over-year, even last year when it was just starting, and everybody was kind of like, ‘I'm not sure what’s gonna happen.’ This year has been totally amazing. I think people are hitting the road. I think people really are excited to have the vaccine. They feel more comfortable with hand sanitizers and masks, and so they’re hitting the road. Where we really are is in those places where people visit when they want to experience something, so that’s good for us. I think, overall, people are excited to celebrate life again. I mean I don’t know how else I can put it, but I feel like people have just been so inside and that was one of the things we really wanted to provide to people was the remainder of good times, like our stuff that smells like campfire and whiskey and gunpowder. Like ‘don't forget that you still will eventually get out there and go camping with your friends again’. That’s what we want people to remember, and so I think people are very excited to get going out, and get back to get back to celebrating life.
I think, overall, people are excited to celebrate life again. I mean, I don’t know how else I can put it, but I feel like people have just been so inside and that was one of the things we really wanted to provide to people was the remainder of good times...
What is your advice to retailers looking to gain ground in 2021?
It’s all about differentiation. Your store has to be known for something, whether it’s small business, whether it’s the products, products with a sense of humor, very luxurious products. Your store has to say something about the person who comes into it, and it has to say something about you. I think that people who go into a store and have an experience of being transported in some way, whether it’s transported to joy, transported to another time. I think having a memorable experience when you walk into a store. [Outlaw Soaps] do best [in stores] where people are having an experience. And so I think that has to be the trend in 2021 is make it a memorable experience to be in your store.
A variety of Outlaw Soaps are available in the C&I Shop.
Click here to peruse more stories and interviews from the Western industry.