On a mission to find the most environmentally conscious, safe, and effective skincare products, Bonnie Schiffman ultimately decided to take matters into her own hands – thus, This Stuff Goes Bad was born. Equipped with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University, she initially worked in sustainable building in efforts to reduce the negative environmental effects of new construction. After a few years of both working by day, and teaching yoga and dance classes at night, she decided to change course and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in dance.
In Los Angeles for four years, Bonnie has lived an artist’s life of dancing and teaching, while still living by all of her environmentally conscious principals. She strives to find new ways to reduce her carbon footprint day by day, and is always on the look out for new, sustainable options to everyday living. Noticing a lack in the market for a skin product that was fair trade, zero waste, made with high-quality organic ingredients, and seriously effective, she set off to create her own line of body butter.
This Stuff Goes Bad was created with the intent to form a business that is 100% for the planet, for the people, and for healthy, gorgeous skin.
Where did the idea for This Stuff Goes Bad come from?
I have been following the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database from the beginning, always being concerned about the beauty industry’s effects on the environment ever since reading Starr Vartan’s “The Eco Chick Guide to Life” my freshman year of high school. The more I learned about ingredients in common beauty products, the more I realized the safest product would be the one I created on my own! I had always experimented with different DIY skincare ideas, but once COVID hit and all other job opportunities vanished, I realized I could create my own job by selling my products online.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m still a dancer and yoga instructor at heart, and will never stop using fitness as both my motivator and my stress reliever. I always start the day with a workout, either teaching yoga or dance, or taking a class for myself. As a new small business owner, every day is incredibly different, but I make sure to set myself up for success by constantly going back to my one BIG list – the most important aspects of the business, all listed on one page. I’m constantly asking myself – will this task help with anything on the BIG list? If not, why am I spending time on it? I focus on making sure I have enough raw materials, making the body butter, checking in on marketing and PR strategies, and ensuring that all websites and social media pages are up to date. If it doesn’t relate to getting the word out to new potential customers, and making sure current customers are happy, it’s not on the list.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I just do it. As simple as that sounds, that is truly how it works. So many people wait and wait and perfect and perfect, but I have come to the realization that there will ALWAYS be another improvement to make. Nothing will ever be perfect, because there will always be more work to do. When I thought that my recipe felt good on my skin, I sent it out to friends. It wasn’t perfect. I made adjustments. I did more research. And rinse and repeat. I created a website (it was roughhhhh at first) I got a ton of feedback, and I made it better. If you want to start something, you need to just accept the fact that the first one might suck, and you will only get better. I love my product now, and so do my customers, but who knows? Maybe I’ll discover another amazing raw ingredient and decide to add it in, and the product will only get better. Maybe I’ll learn a new marketing trick, maybe I’ll find a better social media platform to work through, but for now, I’m doing the best that I can, and it’s only up from here.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I love that zero waste is finally a TREND. I have always been an advocate for reducing plastic consumption and waste, and it seems like the world is really catching on. I even found a toothpaste that comes in a glass jar! There is so much waste in the plastic industry, and I am so glad that the #zerowaste trend is pushing plastic out.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Taking breaks. Sometimes I get really caught up in one task, as I’m sure all my other perfectionists out there can relate. Maybe it’s digging for hours for the perfect hashtags to use on an instagram post, or maybe it’s editing and re-editing a new label, taking forever to decide on fonts and word placement. Sometimes it’s wording an email just right, or deciding whether or not I should splurge on the bigger sized package of raw ingredients – will I be able to use all of that up this month? Any time I feel like a task is taking too long, I take a break, walk around, do some yoga, get a snack. When I come back with fresh eyes, it’s so much easier to get it done faster, or realize it’s already done, and go on to the next task. Sleep on it, but faster.
What advice would you give your younger self?
GO FOR IT! I waited SO LONG to do what I really wanted, not realizing that non-conventional career choices were truly possible. Stop being so scared. Or if you can’t, be scared and do it anyway.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It’s possible to have a business name that sounds negative.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Throw the noodles against the wall and see what sticks. (Not literally, but that would be a GREAT stress reliever). I am always up for trying new things (as long as I know I can afford it). Especially in the beginning stages, you never truly know what’s going to work best until you try it, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to promote, new ways to make my product better, new ways to make the website more SEO friendly, you name it. I never settle with where I am, and I’m always looking for a way to improve.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Calling anyone and everyone I knew. Literally. I discovered a friend of a friend who works in PR, my grandmother’s friends son is a lawyer, another friend’s dad was a contracts lawyer, an old friend who started her own prepared food business, and the list goes on. You might not think you are connected, but the more you talk about your business and the more you ask your friends for referrals, the more connections you’ll make! I have gotten so many amazing ideas just from picking up the phone and calling anyone and everyone that might be useful. On the other hand, I also don’t take one single piece of advice as fact – get a LOT of advice, get second and third and fourth opinions, and write everything down. The best pieces of advice will most likely be given more than once.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Sometimes I got talked into paying for services I could have just done myself. When you really need help with something, or there’s a piece of the business that’s just not your “thing,” of course there are definitely times to outsource. But don’t get caught up with outsourcing too many things in the beginning. Have confidence in yourself, do the research, and do what you can on your own, that way everything will come out exactly as you want it. Otherwise, you end up paying for something you might not love!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Make your own body butter. Really! There are so many different moisturizers out there, but the best one for YOUR skin will be the one you create on your own. Research and find ingredients thats benefits resonate with you (mine were shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil, but maybe you’d rather use coconut oil, almond oil, olive, etc). Melt them down, cool them off, whip them up, and bam. Your very own body butter. And if you think your final product is better than mine, let me know!! Or start your own company, and sell your own. I’d be so happy to try it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The dymo 4×6 label printer. It was definitely more than $100, definitely unnecessary, but also my favorite purchase so far. Packing and shipping is my LEAST favorite activity, so making it a little bit easier was worth it to me.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
HARO! It feels so good to write pitches to people that ACTUALLY WANT PITCHES. Cold pitching is the worst.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Read novels. Read fantasy books, fiction novels, books about people and places and love and friendship. Learn about different cultures through story. To be 100% honest, I cannot read another business book, self help book, or manifestation book. Of course there are always more business lessons to learn, but sometimes, I need to go somewhere else and step into someone else’s shoes. Right now, I’m reading “Home Fire” by Kamila Shamsie. It’s incredible, devastating, mind-opening, and has nothing to do with business.
What is your favorite quote?
Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. – Arnold H. Glasow
- Do it anyway, even if you’re scared
- Stick to your big goals, and don’t get caught up in the little stuff
- Take breaks
- Use your friends, reach out to everyone, form connections everywhere
- Have fun! If you don’t believe in your business one million percent, how will your customers/clients believe in you? Be confident in yourself, do something you love, and people will be drawn to your energy.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.