Metaphor Organic

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The Quest for an All-Local Soap Bar: Part I, Distribution

Errol DavisComment

Metaphor began in many ways inside-out. We started with principles and larger goals, and then tried to figure out how to make them work within practical business constraints. One ideal was to establish all-local supply and distribution chains. We got our first batch of oil 4 blocks away from our house at Rainbow Grocery, and our essential oils around the corner at S.F. Herb Co. To obtain the lye took a slightly greater trek to the Ace Hardware store at the corner of Church and Market. Our first wholesale account was a whopping 1 block away at the Mission Statement, followed by Viracocha and Her Majesty's Secret Beekeeper all within a half-mile radius. Mission accomplished, right?

Well, we quickly discovered there are a limited number of accounts available within bicycling distance that would carry our soap. Maybe 10 in S.F. To pay ourselves full-time we would need more like 50 to 100. And small gift shops from around the country (and world) began to seek us out! We soon took the same stance as a lot of people who are vegetarian for environmental reasons, or "meat minimalists." That is, dramatically cutting back achieves nearly the same result as eliminating it altogether. So we decided to be "carbon minimalists," which is, indeed about as far as you can go when even breathing releases a bit of CO2 into the air!

Today we sell soap as far away as South Korea. However, the majority of our accounts are still in the S.F. Bay area. We also occasionally table at local artisan fairs, and since last winter, we've been workshopping products to find what sells best at these. Now we've figured out a pretty good lineup to offer and are in the process of getting established at a couple weekly farmer's markets. The volume of soap sold at one market in one afternoon is often equal to what might sell in a small gift shop in several months, so a couple markets a week could dramatically shift our focus back local again.