2019 was the year of the unexpected, challenges and resilience. After all employees went through the exercise of listing their top 5 life dreams for 2018, we kicked off the year with a wonderful retreat where we placed the 5 big dreams of the Soapery, named by the team : making a big ecological impact, becoming influencers in our community, creating memorable events, going on consciousness-raising journeys, becoming a resource sharing place. It all seemed so big...Then came the implementation of a second production line in Bolton, and then everything accelerated. We went from 22 to 39 resources in a year, set up a management structure to support all this human wealth, and made hundreds of thousands of soaps, by hand, with precision, rigor, determination and patience. This fast pace became a new tempo, we were sometimes surprised and dizzy by this speed, but most of the time, it motivated us.
We created several really wow events, including Discovery Weekend, Clothing Swaps, and Days of the Dead, which ultimately died itself with the November 1 disaster. That's gone and already on the 2020 schedule.
We have filed a sustainability plan and taken actions to move towards being as environmentally friendly as possible. It seems so obvious because it has been at the heart of our concerns since the beginning. The scope of the company is different now, we have to rethink ourselves.
I was able to buy the factory that year, and I took the opportunity. It was the right thing to do, my intuition told me so. When a business leader makes decisions with confidence, sometimes big ones, and often quickly, it is because they are right for him, and perfectly aligned with his vision. This was the case, even if doubt crossed our minds. What if we were wrong? Anything is possible, even what we dare not consider.
We prided ourselves on our ability to plan our fall and the head start we had on production. It would be busy, but we were so prepared. We were looking at the tsunami head on. "Not even afraid, we'd say. The wave finally caught us from behind. For one night, everything changes. Our reality becomes a nightmare. The worst scenario, or almost. This famous flood that swallowed the fruit of our labor, our year-long planning, the combined efforts of the entire team, our ability to innovate, to find solutions and, I believe, our innocence, too.
The community rose up. It carried us on its back while we suffered our wounds. It looked us straight in the eye and said, "You can do this. We were not alone. You were there with us.
Mont-Savon was instrumental in our relief. It's such a powerful image. It was a great funeral. We were cared for, supported, loved. In the midst of adversity, we realized that we had the chance to get closer to one of our dreams, to become influencers. We picked up the mic and shared with you. It made us grow, once again. At that moment, I realized that buying the factory had been beneficial for the sustainability of the company.
For exactly two months, as Mark Twain said, "they didn't know it was impossible, so they did it.'' We did the impossible. We stood up, like grown-ups. We wiped our brow, took all our courage, and moved production, restarted the ovens, and began the long climb up our Everest, rebuilding our inventory. The building was not ready for the 20 employees who had to move in overnight. No large staff room, no powerful enough internet, no phone lines. We had to act fast and accept to camp for several weeks, in conditions that were not optimal at all.
We arrived at Christmas at the same time as everyone else. We didn't make our numbers, that's for sure. We managed to ship all the orders. Everyone was able to celebrate with their families with a light heart, satisfied that they had made it through such a critical time, and that they had arrived safely in one piece.
It's the end of a year, but also of a decade. For my company, it has been super significant. Ten years ago, we were one-tenth the size and one-tenth the number of employees. I think I was ten times less happy in my role, if you can quantify it that way. Every day I am overflowing with love, gratitude and admiration for my colleagues. I think they are wonderful. They inspire me. They can do anything.
Almost three years ago, when we moved from my home in Austin, I had finally made my "child" self-sufficient and I no longer had a sales growth goal for the soap factory. I announced to my team that they were my new project, that I was going to spend my time taking care of them. That's when we started thinking about what happiness at work was, the context of individual empowerment that dominates liberated companies, and my own freedom as a business leader. I, who had spent so many years without giving myself the right to dream, was going to become the one who would allow others to touch their dreams.I've been looking for a long time for a way to share what we do at the Soapery. I don't find it very easy to do it on social networks without seeming to flatter our ego. We like to do better than say we do. We found our recipe for happiness, the first ingredient of which is to meet our needs. Then we project ourselves towards our dreams, and our individual projects, to then connect them to those of the big group. Our team is growing, but few people are leaving. When they do, we congratulate them and say "Mission accomplished! But we find ways to allow many employees to develop, according to their talents and life goals, to become complete humans and to grow. And it's so easy to find the solutions, it's just a matter of taking the time to think about it. And to love. Deeply. Getting up every morning to be the leader I want to work for.
To all of you, for 2020, I wish you to find your way. For the future, I wish you to follow it, to find the people who can accompany you, the tools that will benefit you, and that your baggage is not too heavy to carry. I wish you softness and lightness. And love in abundance. Loving is the most beautiful part of the human experience.
CEO-owner, Savonnerie des Diligences