By Andrea Rumbaugh
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Love this story about Lydia Evans, and her foray into the skincare business, first for women then for men. Evan’s story is one of hard work and patience…her company was not an overnight success, but what happened the night she appeared on “Shark Tank” changed everything.
Lydia Evans created the SW&G Bar to appease her brother, a barber looking to soothe ingrown hairs and breakouts caused by shaving. The licensed esthetician never expected the loofah-infused shaving soap that cleanses, exfoliates and disinfects to become her most successful creation.
Her main focus had been creating skin care products for women. But SW&G Bar sales quickly overtook her other products, and that escalated further when Evans pitched the soap to investors on the TV show “Shark Tank.” She wasn’t offered a deal, but her sales from the SW&G Bar grew from $54,000 in 2013 to $400,000 six months after her episode aired in late 2014. The SW&G Bar is now patent pending, and Evans has two trademarks for product names.
Evans discussed the journey and her Houston-based company Soaps Washes & Grooming Essentials, known as SW&G Essentials, with the Chronicle.
Q: What were the early days like as an entrepreneur?
A: They were hard. They were a struggle. Wherever I saw a barbershop or a barber pole, if it looked reputable on the outside, I would go in. I would do a presentation to the barber. I would give the guy samples. And when I would come back in a week, generally the barber would ask me for samples and then he’d want a bar or two or three for himself and his special clients. And then my reputation kind of got a little bit better to the point where people would refer me and then I would get calls. It was heart and hustle in the beginning. But it was a learning process. I had to go through everything I went through to be prepared for something like “Shark Tank.” There’s just no way possible I would have been prepared if I didn’t go through the bumps in the road, the disappointments, the people who will order a bunch of stuff and then last-minute pull out on you.
Q: When you were on “Shark Tank,” how did it feel when none of the Sharks wanted to invest in your product?
A: You know how many no’s I heard before I got in front of those five people? I’ve heard thousands of no’s. No’s prepared me to stand there in front of those people. That’s not to say I didn’t want to pass out and cry when I walked out of there, because I did. I wanted to pass out and cry because then the reality set in. I just told the whole world all my personal business about my business with no deal. I have no patents in place. I have no trademarks in place. I don’t have the revenues, the profits to be able to get these big item things done. And then worry set in. … I think the most motivational thing for me was nobody ate me alive. Nobody called my idea crazy. Nobody called my idea insane.
Q: How did your company grow after the episode aired?
A: The night we aired was a nightmare. It was the best, worst day of my life. I aired at exactly 8:31 p.m. By 8:35 we were at $35,000 in sales. To me that was unbelievable. My web designer was calling me. ‘The website has crashed. Four million people are on the website.’ And then she calls me back, ‘Lydia, there’s 6 million people on the website. It crashed again.’ I looked at it again and we were at $70,000. And it just kept going up. I woke up in the morning and by that time we were at $150,000. Everything else was a blur. … I only had 100 bars in my second bedroom closet. So I went from this extreme high to the reality set in. It took us four months to fulfill all the orders.
Q: Were people pretty patient?
A: Minus about $1,800 in orders we had to refund. But when you look at the grand scheme of things, I didn’t do too bad, huh? I had to take off my “yay, I was on ‘Shark Tank’ hat” and put on my “humble small-business owner” hat. And I just started calling people. They stuck by me, and they were patient.
Q: When did SW&G Essentials leave your apartment?
A: I opened this facility two weeks after I aired on “Shark Tank.” I went from a team of one to a team of six. They were all in my apartment, and one day I went through three rolls of toilet paper. And I said, “Everybody got to go. I need my personal space back.” And so I sent my dad out on this hunt for space. And my dad found this spot. Signed the lease the same day.
Q: What are your future plans for SW&G Essentials?
A: I got approached by Cedric the Entertainer, who has a hat company called Who Ced? They wanted to do a brand collaboration with us. So I think I’m going to do more brand partnerships and alliances. I believe that if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. So right now my main focus within this year to two years or so is working on my brand partnerships with other established brands. And then, from there, I’m looking into possibly revisiting the retail side of things.
I thought I wanted to do the big box retail stores at first but I don’t know. It’s a lot that comes with that. Maybe I’ll revisit that then. But for the most part it’s the brand partnerships and working on QVC. QVC has contacted us.