How to Start a Goat Farm
Behind every farm there is a unique story and for Mike and Shannon Wiggins it all started with a couple goats. Their daughter became involved in 4H and they soon learned what exactly would need to be done if they wanted to be seen as a serious farm. After registering with the A.D.G.A they became Galloping Goats Farm and home to a variety of different goats. Shannon soon began to realize the potential behind the milk. Tapping into her creativity she created goat-milk soap in her kitchen using only the best ingredients. Her soaps quickly became a natural choice for anyone looking for a great soap for sensitive skin.
Tell us a little about Galloping Goats Farm and Washington Goat Milk Soap.
Galloping Goats Farm started when one of my daughters got goats and joined 4-H. We found out that we needed to join the American Dairy Goat Association if we wanted to be taken seriously. When you join A.D.G.A you have to have a herd name. We decided it would be easier to pick one if we went outside to look at the goats and get some inspiration. When the goats spotted us they were quite away off at the bottom of a large pasture. They came running up through the field with their long ears flapping in the wind. I said, “That’s it, Galloping Goats.” Several years later when I decided to start the soap business I just kept the name because we wouldn’t have the soap without the goat milk, and also because it fits my sense of humor.
What inspired you to start making goat milk soap?
Two things inspired me to make my own soap. First, my daughters and I all have sensitive skin. I wanted to make a product that they could use without their skin breaking out or getting dried out. The second was that I had all this milk! More milk than my family could drink and more than I could make cheese with. You have to be a grade A dairy to sell milk in Washington sate, which costs a lot of money and felt to complicated for my life at the time. So it was a way for me to use up some of the milk and make a great product at the same time.
How many different scents/types of soap do you currently offer?
I carry about 35 scents of soap. I often think I should cut back but there is always a fragrance that I come across or an idea I have that I want to try so I end up trying new scents quite often. I also think it is important to stay fresh and current. Have new things to tempt my customers. Scent is a very personal thing and different people are drawn to and feel comfortable with different types of scents. I even carry scents that I don’t particularly care for because I know that someone else will love it. I also carry a skin salve that I made for my family. It worked so well that my kids finally talked me into packaging it and selling it. It has been a big hit. I sell lip balms and bath salts. I try to appeal to many people. I realized that at a lot of the gift fairs that I do women are the ones buying but they are always looking for a gift for their guy so I came up with the “Dirty Man Can” It has a couple of bars of soap and some other things in it. I only sell it when it gets close to Christmas so it is special. I am always trying to think of new things that I can make that are a natural extension of my products and that will expand my business and give people something new to be watching for.
Any new scents in the works?
I am always on the lookout for some new hot scent.
What separates you from the competition?
I am not sure what separates me from the competition. There are a lot of other goat milk soap makers out in the world and online. I think a lot of what makes a person successful in a market with so much competition is personality. Of course, the first thing is to have a good product and to belive in your prosuct. I try to make a parsonal connection with my customers. Most of my return customers are people that I have sold to at shows or festivals and they love it then give soap away to their friends and they love it too and come buy from me or go online to find me. I give soap to people I meet. My dentist, my chiropractor, my kids friends parents. They almost always come back for more. I think that if you are good at reading people you can connect. Online is a little different, you have to have things about your website that appeal to certain people and realize that you are not going to connect with everyone. It is hard to get your web site high up in the search ratings without paying for a professional to build it. It takes time and diligence. I blog, twitter and face book. If you have the capitol, hire someone to build it.
Besides online, where else do you sell your soaps?
I have a few wholesale accounts and they have all been businesses that have come to me and asked me if they can carry my soaps. I would like to spend time pursuing more but I am also a wife and mother running a farm and business. I need to have time to play with my family as well.
What are some lessons your business has taught you?
Some lessons that my business has taught me is that I never make good decisions when I feel pressured. I have to slow down a bit and think things through more. I also learned by doing markets and festivals that people are just really feeling the need to connect with other people. People like it when I remember them or remember their favorite types of scents. I also learned that there is a very fine line between being friendly and helpful and being annoying. You have to be real or it turns people off, understandably so.
Did you ever imagine you’d end up where you are now?
Never in a million years did I think I would end up where I am now. But I know that God has placed me exactly where he wants me in the time that he wants me and I am totally fine with whatever rolls my way, even if it is to give it all up.
Do you have any advice you’d like to offer fellow entrepreneurs that are just getting started?
To people just starting a business-check the laws of your state. Make sure you get a proper business license and pay your taxes. Be willing to go with the flow and have fun with it. Let your creativity flow.