As the hustle and bustle of Christmas falls fast on us, you may be searching for a few more perfect gifts for those on your gift list. I highly recommend checking out Alyssa of A.J. Murray’s amazing products. She has wonderful soaps, lotions and an entire line for men….which is wonderful because they can sometimes be the hardest to buy for. I loved hearing Alyssa’s story, and loved reading about her business growth. Spend a little bit of time getting to know her and her products, and then check out her websites for more!
Oh, and have a wonderful week getting all your lists checked off, and gifts wrapped, and children cuddled and homes cozied up. And then try to sit still for a minute…just so you can actually enjoy the thought that Christmas is coming, and it really is a wonderful time of year!
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Alyssa Middleton, a wife and mom to two (9 & 5). I grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon and after a decade of moving all over the United States, I’ve settled in Louisville, Kentucky.
What do you make or do?
I’ve owned a women’s spa products company since 2007 (Vintage Body Spa, which has been rebranded and will relaunch in early 2016). As the company grew and received more publicity and wholesale accounts, more and more colleagues and strangers reached out to ask me to share my secrets and tips on growing a handmade bath and body company. In 2011, Bath and Body Academy was born. Through that company, I coach, teach and mentor other beauty makers in starting and growing their businesses. I’ve co-written two soap making books and a perfumery book, all of which have become Amazon Best Sellers. I’ve also written some best sellers through my Beauty Business Basics Kindle series.
Never one to sit still for long, in late 2014 I launched A.J. Murray’s, a men’s grooming products line. From shaving products to beard care to lotion and soap, discerning men (and those who love them) will find something they’ll need and love.
Where can we find your creations?
You can learn all about Bath and Body Academy at www.bathandbodyacademy.com
and you can find out information about the men’s products at A.J. Murray’s www.ajmurrays.com
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business? How did the name come about?
A.J. is a nickname for our 5 year old son. Murray is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. In keeping with the rich history of men’s grooming product company names like ‘Doc Brown’s’ or others that were named after a persona, it made sense to combine the two sentimental names into our latest family business, A.J. Murray’s.
8. What obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life?
It seems like I’m regularly working on my money ‘issues’ – whether it’s believing that artists (me) can really be financially successful at the next level I’m working towards or finding ways to creatively respond to extended family members or acquaintances who ask when I’m going to get a ‘real’ job. Ugh, don’t all of us creatives have those types of people we can’t stand to deal with?!?!? Being an entrepreneur, especially a creative one will make you address your money and self confidence issues like nothing else.
Though my businesses are successful and I’ve been doing this work full time for more than six years, at times I wonder if I should go back to a traditional job for a couple years just to pay off my student loan debt from my Master’s degree that isn’t even used, even though I know that would be soul-sucking and miserable. Thankfully those thoughts don’t last long as I know I’m just not cut out to work in a cubicle, and it motivates me even more to work harder and run my business leaner so that my family can benefit more from my work and we can eliminate that debt that hangs over my head.
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
I get my creative, dreamer traits from my mom’s side of the family. My grandparents were woodworkers and I loved to hang out in their workshop as a child. The smell of fresh wood shavings is still one of my favorite, most comforting scents. They took their RV and set up at craft shows up and down the West Coast, which was my first introduction to crafting as a business, though I never considered it for myself until decades later.
My mom is a seamstress and can do it all, from pattern design to sewing doll clothes to curtains to wedding dresses and beyond. Growing up there were always bags of fabric scraps for me to play with. One of her best friends would come over for sewing weekends where they’d hit the fabric store and then spend almost every waking minute of a weekend cranking out blouses, skirts and dresses in every imaginable color and pattern (this was in the 80’s). As I grew, I loved standing in as her model so she could double check that her hems were even and straight.
I loved making things with my hands and dabbled in a variety of hobbies, but didn’t learn to make soap, lotions, etc until I was an adult with an infant daughter. But the lessons I learned from my grandparents and mom about a) the importance of research, b) measuring twice and cutting once, c) to hold onto my faith, trust my instincts and follow my heart and d) that everything is “figureoutable”, have all served me well as a hobbyist and now as an entrepreneur.
What’s on the horizon for you and what you do?
2016 is already shaping up to be a big year for each of my businesses:
- My original company has rebranded and it’s website will relaunch in early 2016.
- A.J. Murray’s has a lineup of new products to be released and we’ll be securing new wholesale accounts across the U.S. and Canada.
- Bath and Body Academy is releasing at least two new e-courses and there are four book projects on the calendar. My team and I are also offering more live classes on making soap and body care products and I may start offering weekend bootcamps for both product making and business building. I’m also speaking at the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild 2016 Annual Meeting in May, which I’m really excited about. I’d love to travel more often, speaking and teaching.
- Finally, I’m in the early stages of looking at larger space to house each of these entities under one roof.
What would be your perfect day off?
I get an amazing level of rejuvenation and creative energy from being outdoors, so an ideal day would include a long hike in Glacier National Park, Montana, taking breaks to soak in the scenery, journal and daydream. Next I’d have a long soak in a mineral hot spring followed by a massage. A lovely dinner and leaving the windows open to hear the water from Flathead Lake gently lapping the shore to lull me to sleep would round out a perfect day.