Entrepreneurship can be a tough journey, but it is never one that has to be taken alone. Small business owners Tammy Kinzel and Carol Renis will tell anyone that running a small business requires collaboration and teamwork to achieve success. After working together for a number of years, Kinzel and Renis decided to buy Ginger Clean last year. Through their hard work and dedication, they are starting to grow their small business.
Ginger Clean is a manufacturer of alternative cleaning products that are made from all-natural ingredients which are less harmful on the human body than conventional cleaning products. The company was started by Ginger Blackmore who, after 20 years of using conventional cleaning products, had grown weary of their harmful effects. She decided to make her own cleaning products using nothing but all-natural ingredients like baking soda, salt and almond oil. Ginger developed a variety of products like laundry soap and shower cleaner. She sold them in local stores in northern Michigan as well as directly to customers. Renis was a customer of Ginger’s who loved using her products. So in 2009, when Ginger told Renis that she was thinking about closing the business, Renis had to make a move. She talked with Kinzel, already an owner of her own gardening business, who agreed to partner with Renis to buy the business from Ginger.
After taking over the business, Kinzel and Renis decided to take some classes on running a consumer product business. “I had experience running my own service business, but there are big differences between the service industry and the product industry,” explained Kinzel. However, “We were told we were way past the classes,” recalled Kinzel. Instead, they decided to attend a local product show where local retail buyers look for new products. While at the show, they met MI-SBTDC Region 2 director Chris Wendel, who she had heard on the radio only a week before. Kinzel talked about her business with Chris and they decided that she and Renis should meet with Wendel later to talk about ways of expanding the business.
Kinzel and Renis began to meet with Wendel on a regular basis. “Chris was really a great leader for us. He helped us with our financials and setting goals for ourselves,” explained Kinzel. She particularly appreciated walking through projections and budgeting. “He helped us benchmark against industry standards which really helped us connect the dots on a lot of issues.” Wendel was also able to help Ginger Clean with their marketing. Because Ginger Clean had a limited budget for their marketing, Chris suggested social media as a low-cost way to increase their brand recognition. The idea was a success as Ginger Clean has developed a loyal following of customers online. Kinzel and Renis also decided to redesign some of their packaging to improve brand recognition.
These changes really paid off as over the next 14 months Ginger Clean expanded their distribution from 2 stores to 23. Their products were also recently picked up by a local distributor to help expand the availability of their products even more. Ginger Clean products are now sold as far south as Rochester. “We really expanded faster than we thought, which was great, but the whole process takes a lot of time and effort. It does not happen as easily as you see it on T.V.,” noted Kinzel.
Amazingly, Kinzel and Renis have been able to make all of the changes while still holding on to their other jobs. While working in a partnership can require a lot of patience, Kinzel says that they have been able to work out a good chemistry for sharing responsibilities. “We have made very specific roles for each other, so we always know who has responsibility for what,” said Kinzel. “And we have also agreed to be really honest with each other. This encourages us to think logically and make decisions for the betterment of the company.”
While the company is growing dramatically, Kinzel admits, “We would like to continue growing and offer our products in more places.” As for the SBTDC, Kinzel states, “They really are an invaluable service and are very helpful. Chris helped us look over our business and ask specific questions and has kept encouraging us along the way.” For people looking to start their own small business, Kinzel offers some good advice. “Talk to as many people you can and take your time and do a lot of research to avoid making costly mistakes.”
For more information on Ginger Clean, visit www.gingerclean.com