Small Business, Big Thinkers: Freedom Cadet, FREE FOLK Organic Skincare

At what stage in your business did you connect with IncubatorWorks? 

When I got connected with IncubatorWorks, I was about a year into my business making organic skincare products, but, at that time, all of my operations were on hold. I was actually considering giving up. My youngest sister attends Alfred University, and one day as we were driving her back to campus, my mom pointed out the Alfred IncubatorWorks. She said, “you should look them up.” The rest was history!

What were you looking for when you signed up for the Co.Starters program?

I was most looking for support and guidance. I had spent the last year doing everything possible to make my business thrive, and I felt hopeless. I realized I needed some help and that I didn’t need to do it all on my own.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience? 

Co.Starters definitely delivered the support and guidance I was looking for. On Day 1, I remember going to Corning Community College and receiving a huge binder that held our workbook for the class. My inner nerd was thrilled! The most impactful classes for me were the ones where we focused on our business finances, though I hated them at the moment. I tend to avoid dealing with finances because they feel overwhelming, but the spreadsheet template created by IncWorks was very helpful. It was in-depth yet not overwhelming. It had way more details than the spreadsheet I’d created for myself. It even accounted for waste in the production process! Those classes helped me to feel more confident in my pricing decisions.

The most impactful moment for me was giving my pitch. It was the first time I was formally talking about my business and the work I’d done through Co.Starters. I was so surprised that I won! The competition winnings allowed me to file my LLC!

Tell us how your business has faired since the pandemic started. Do you think that anything you learned with IW might have helped through this process?

I started my business during the pandemic! In the beginning, supply chain issues made it really hard for me to find materials. For example, I wanted to package my products into glass jars, which were sold out almost everywhere I looked! This meant that my cost of goods sold was high. I think everything I learned about pricing through Co.Starters would’ve helped me price my products at a more sustainable cost. My original prices weren’t high enough to make much of a profit!

Have you continued your relationship with IW?

Yes! I hope to move my “production lab” to a space in the Alfred location. My apartment just isn’t cutting it! I love that IncubatorWorks offers space to local business owners at a reasonable price. I know some extra space will make a really meaningful difference in my business – and my sanity!

What advice would you give a small business owner considering IncubatorWorks business development program?

“Take a chance. You will never regret investing in your dreams!” As with all self-development programs, you get what you put in. I think with IncubatorWorks, even if you just show up for every class, you’ll get plenty to give your budding business a fair chance to thrive. If you are considering it, just do it!

What lessons have you learned in running a small business during the pandemic? What advice would you give another doing the same?

Focus on lean operations as much as you can. Cut out unnecessary costs and explore ways to do more with less.

What inspiration can you offer to another looking to start their small business journey?

I’ve grown in really beautiful ways since starting my own business. Being a small business owner has helped my confidence. You can’t run a successful business if you don’t believe in yourself. The journey towards believing in myself and my dreams has been a tough one but also a very important one.

What can we expect to see next from you/your business?

You can expect to see me this summer at the Sunday Markets in Alfred and Chamberlain Acres in Elmira. In the fall, you’ll see FREE FOLK products at Finger Lakes Unique (be sure to stop by for a holiday gift basket for your self-care-loving loved one!). I’m hoping to launch my website this fall!

Thank you, Freedom, for sharing your story with us! To learn more about our upcoming CoStarters, visit this link!