Raising the bar: Outlaw Soaps relocates to Northern Nevada to sustain growth
SPARKS, Nev. — It’s late 2012 and Danielle Vincent is tired of her job at the Oprah Winfrey Network.
To cope, every morning, before surrendering to another monotonous workday, Vincent has a ritual before walking out her door. She picks up a bar of soap, holds it up to her nose, takes a deep inhale, and smiles.
This wasn’t just any bar of soap. It was a handcrafted cut of soap Vincent had purchased from a quaint store earlier that year while honeymooning with her husband, Russ, in the wine country of Paso Robles, California. The soap, made by the company Windrift Hill Soaps, smelled of cocoa butter, almond and coconut.
“The work hours were pretty brutal and it was hard to keep going,” says Vincent, who was a digital project manager for OWN at the time. “Smelling the soap brought me back to our honeymoon and how wonderful it was.”
So much so that one morning, Vincent’s daily soap-smelling ritual brought on an idea — a business idea.
“I thought if I could make anything that smelled like a memory, what memories would I want to trigger?” she said.
Her initial idea was a campfire-scented soap, inspired by her fond memories at Joshua Tree in Southern California’s high desert.
“That smell was so close to my heart that we started experimenting with how to make soap,” she recalled. “And so we just kind of taught ourselves from YouTube videos. Our startup costs were a little over $17.”
Eight years and countless hours of trial and error later, Danielle and Russ Vincent are in their seventh year as owners of Outlaw Soaps, a fast-growing company that recently planted its flag in Northern Nevada.
‘A PRACTICAL MOVE’
Outlaw Soaps relocated its main production operations from nearby Grass Valley to Sparks in early January to address the fact the company’s growth was being stunted by its California location.
Specifically, this past fall, PG&E’s rolling blackouts for wildfire prevention left Outlaw Soaps without power for nearly all of October, Danielle said.
“That was our peak production season,” said Danielle, noting the blackouts not only impacted their business, but also stability for their employees. “One of the things that we’ve always really valued is being able to provide steady employment for people and provide opportunities.
“It was a difficult season for us and really heartbreaking.”
Though Danielle said the process of relocating was admittedly challenging (Russ stayed in Grass Valley to oversee production over the holidays), the opportunity to migrate to Sparks made too much sense for them to ignore, considering Northern Nevada’s growing reputation as a premier distribution gateway to the West.
“For us, it’s a very practical move,” said Danielle, adding that the company’s 2,400-square-foot Grass Valley location remains open “for the time being.” “The access to our suppliers and being in a very big shipping hub is really, really awesome. The fact that our box supplier is two miles away means we can drive over there; we save thousands of dollars a year in shipping just by being able to pick up our own orders.”
The striking views of the Sierra Nevada, access to outdoor recreation, and booming Reno-Sparks economy didn’t hurt, either.
“It’s really an awesome, vibrant community, and everybody’s so nice,” she added. “There’s just a feeling of ‘we’re building this together,’ and I love it.”
PRIMED FOR GROWTH
Since setting up shop at its new 8,100-square-foot production facility on Spice Islands Drive in Sparks, Outlaw Soaps has hired seven people to boost the company’s employment to 18 total.
The company plans to hire four or five more production/fulfillment workers and a brand manager in the next five months, though those plans are “intertwined with their hope to get venture funding,” Danielle said.
“We’re currently looking for funding so that we can build our inventory to fund our growth,” she added.
Outlaw Soaps grew by 375% last year, and so far in 2020 has already grown by 600% year over year, Danielle said, adding that the company is on the heels of generating $1.26 million in revenue in 2019.
Along with bar soap, the company’s Western-themed soaps and personal care products — including lotion, body wash, deodorant, beard oil and solid colognes — are handmade in small batches.
The company creates unique scents ranging from blends of gun powder/sagebrush/sandalwood to whiskey/tobacco/coffee to blackberries/sun-dried laundry/fresh-cut grass. Further, all its soaps and oils are vegan, and all deodorants and solid colognes contain beeswax.
Locally, the only place people can go to buy Outlaw Soaps products is Whole Foods Market in Reno, though you can also go to company’s website at liveoutlaw.com to shop online.
“The thing I’m always interested in is how does this move to Sparks play into the growth of the company?” Danielle said. “For us, it was a necessity. There was no other option. And we really feel like Sparks is really the place for us to be a worldwide brand.”
Danielle mentioned she also plans to set up a “soap museum” in the company’s new Sparks warehouse. There, on display will be a bar of soap she’s held onto for eight years — the same bar of soap she sniffed many mornings before work, the bar of soap that spurred the creation of Outlaw Soaps.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.