Fortune Small Business:

Bob MacLeod was a talent agent and Steve Byckiewicz a flight attendant in 1980 when they ditched city life for a farmhouse and a fresh start. Unlikely entrepreneurs, they were mostly interested in gardening and entertaining. But dwindling savings prompted them to launch a business inspired by their healthy lifestyle.

Almost 30 years later their company, Kiss My Face, sells more than 200 bath and body products in 19 countries.

What inspired you to launch Kiss My Face?

Steve and I weren’t exactly visionaries. We moved to a 200-acre farm in Gardiner in 1980 because we couldn’t afford to stay in Manhattan. We were both vegetarians and grew most of our own food, but soon began running out of money. We started selling our produce to health-food stores in nearby Woodstock, Kingston and New Paltz. After we took some produce to sell in Manhattan, we realized we could get three times as much there as we could upstate, so we began selling in the city once or twice a week. Back then, produce wasn’t labeled organic. We just called it homegrown, and consumers responded.

One day, while Steve and I were shopping at a Woodstock clothing store, we saw a big basket of rough, earthy-looking Greek olive oil soap. We thought it was beautiful. Its label listed a SoHo importer. We drove into Manhattan, bought several cases, repackaged it in old olive oil tins and added labels that read, “Pure Olive Oil Soap of Greece.” We brought it to health-food stores and sold it along with our produce. Within days two stores requested more, and one had sold out. We were onto something.

Then our importer called. He was moving and couldn’t supply us with soap for a few months. So I requested 90 days of credit in exchange for his inventory. Steve and I rented a U-Haul, loaded it with six tons of soap — 24,000 bars — and stored it in our garage and in our barn.

Was it hard to sell 24,000 bars of soap?

Continue Reading: “How Kiss My Face Got Started”

Photo by FSB.