Small Business Spotlight: Sweet Sprig

The first time I came across Sweet Sprig I couldn’t get over how beautiful the products were. Soon after, I realized that all of the products were handmade using only plant-based ingredients from one extremely skilled individual. Leah is a true talent and makes the most beautiful bars of soap I have ever seen, as well as candles, gift boxes, party favors and more! All of her products make for great items to have for yourself, a friend, family or to gift! So, let’s learn more about Leah and her company Sweet Sprig.


Business Name: Sweet Sprig
Owner: Leah LaFera
Established Year: 1997
Location: 14 N Church St, Schenectady

Facebook: @SweetSprig
Instagram
: @sweetsprigsoaps
Website: www.sweetsprig.com

Tell us about your business and the story behind its creation! 
Sweet Sprig has been providing a more natural and luxurious skincare experience since 1997. I’ve always had a passion for creation. Motivated by the desire to create, I began crafting my own all-natural body soaps at the age of 14. For the past 24 years of experimenting with different botanical materials, the soap business has expanded to include candles and artisan bath and body products.

Using my Bachelor’s degree in Art I parlay my education and personal passion into the design, creation and testing of every product. As a dedicated environmentalist, I also believe the products we put on and into our bodies should be gentle for ourselves as well as the planet. That’s why every product uses only plant-based ingredients that are always cruelty-free and designed to minimize waste.

I truly put my heart and soul into every design to create long-lasting scents and unique botanical combinations. I want my customers to give their body and soul the care it deserves whether it’s been a long day, a special day, or any day. At Sweet Sprig, each product is hand-crafted with care, love and artistry to support the sweet moments of luxury in your everyday life.

What products and services do you offer? What makes them unique?
I design eco-friendly cold process soaps, botanical top soy candles, skincare and home decor items inspired by nature. I’ve been an artist my whole life and in recent years have put down my paint brushes and other tools to focus on growing my craft. It is amazing how creatively fulfilling soap making can be. I use all-natural colorants like paprika, indigo, turmeric and carrot juice to bring my bars to life. Adding textures, blending essential oil scents and hand-laying dried botanicals to the tops of each bar gives me such joy! 

It is so lovely to be able to get back to designing wedding, bridal and baby shower favors once again. Last year I spent months designing and promoting my new line that I released just before lockdown. I think I did a grand total of three wedding last year. I have done double that just this summer alone.

My absolute favorite service I offer is my signature gift boxes. In fact, my new retail shop at 14 N Church St, Schenectady has a gift box station. When I check my online orders each morning my heart does a little flutter when I see someone has ordered a box to send to a friend or loved one. Each gift box is given loving attention. I first fill it with Sweet Sprig goodies and recycled crinkle paper. I hand lay real dried moss and dried botanicals like pinecones, lavender sprigs, tansy, nigella or any other flower I have in season.  From there each box is tied-up with raffia, stamped with a wax seal and adored with sprigs of dried flowers. 

What do you love most about running your own business and being a business owner?
Hands-down, being able to create beautiful objects with my hands each and every day. When I hear back from a customer about how a bar of soap has made their skin softer than ever or a gift box sent to a chemo patient offers comfort and relief I get immense fulfillment. My goal is to create as much beauty and moments of luxury for others as I can, while I can.

What has been one of the most memorable experiences or opportunities that you’ve experienced since opening your business?
For 22 of the 24 years I have run my business I was either working full-time or going to school. In February of 2020 I left my career as a librarian to run Sweet Sprig full-time. It just felt like the right time to work for myself and give the biz the attention it deserved. Well, I don’t have to tell you what happened in March 🙂  Earlier that year I had invested in my ecommerce site so was luckily well equipped for a pandemic. People needed soap and boy did I have soap. I saw all but one of my revenue streams dry up temporarily. My website business though was taking off like crazy. In the first month of lockdown I think I saw an order from every human I know. People stocking up for themselves and sending lots of gift boxes to friends and family.

My favorite memory of this time was reading all of the sweet, and heartfelt messages customers were including in the boxes I was sending out. Gifts mailed to old college roomies, moms and dads, pregnant sisters, all with the kindest, most comforting words. I was avoiding the news big time back then and loved that my experience of the height of the pandemic was the loving support of customers.

What advice would you give to aspiring business owners?
Cash in on the abundant free resources at your disposal. There are so many incredible free resources available to small businesses in NY including: The Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, SCORE, Small Business Development Center, IgniteU, and books, classes and databases from your local public library. Don’t forget that social capital too. You likely know someone or know someone who knows someone who has experienced what you are going through. Ask to take them out to lunch for a transfer of knowledge and start building a business relationship. Don’t work in isolation. If there is a small business you frequent and admire try to chat-up and get to know the owner. I love and rely on my business buds. We  send each other customers, collaborate on product and promotions and share business tips. These relationships were so helpful over the past two years as we helped one another navigate grants, unemployment, healthcare, loans and other pandemic related issues. 

Look, I’ll even be your first business buddy. Stop-by the store for a cup of tea and we can talk shop. I love nerding out on small biz talk and helping out other entrepreneurs. 

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