What inspired you to start your business?
My mother and my father were extremely hard workers. My mother opened up her own breakfast place called Kay's Luncheonette in the 1970's. Completely women-owned back then was not something women did, but she did it and sold her own soap on the counter for gifts for the local neighborhood. My father was born in Greece, and moved here and enlisted. During World War II he became a Corporal stationed at Fort Benning, GA base. He furthered into photography had his own dark-room in the basement, he also worked for Schick company. After he retired he worked in the same Luncheonette as my mother, and I watched them make soap products together. Before my mother passed we promised that we would carry the torch and rebuild Manos with her recipes and desire to have natural, clean ingredients.
What challenges have you faced as a woman entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
We decided to reboot the company in 2015, but it was very challenging in the beginning to figure out the products we would carry. The scents, the designs, the styles; everything had to be redone so it speak for the more modern world. My son and I decided to tackle these issues one-by-one, with myself having the final say, along with trying things out and making sure we were giving the general public the best products my mother wanted us to carry out. She didn't believe in chemicals, preservatives or anything that wasn't natural; she was old fashion and we have the same mentally. If we deliver the best product to people and are very transparent, people will understand the value of quality.
What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?
My advice to give to other women entrepreneurs is to go slow and there is going a lot of trial and error in any business model. First, make sure you really perfect the product, this is more important than anything. It took us two years to get it how we wanted it. Secondly, as you build your product line or services line, really focus on 4-5 things you do really well. Normally, those things are what your passionate about, where you end up doing your best work. True creativity equals love, and love circle backs with true creativity; when you feel it inside and it moves you, it’s the right thing to do; if it doesn't, discard it.
What three traits define you?
The three traits that define myself and the company - the first traits would be communication and knowledge. Without those two mediums you can’t explore new ideas or make informed decisions on the correct information, so do your research. The second trait would be patience — we all want things immediately and with our new world, everyone wants the answers or their products overnight. I would recommend - really think a few days before making a decision, internalize it to see the other ideas someone is saying, and sometimes waiting can be a blessing in disguise you can only look back and see the pieces come together after you’re at the final stretch.
What women inspire you?
I am a fan of Ayn Rand, she started the Objectivist movement, and was a free thinker, always thinking outside the box, expressing her concept of human achievement. My mother, Kay and my grandmother, Anastasia — my mother was always cooking, baking and thinking outside the box with new ideas. She actually turned down opening up a Dunkin Donuts in lieu of wanting to start her own business. My grandmother was an avid traveler and a fan of the arts as well, always going back and forth to Greece and New York City, she would bring back new scents for my mother to try for her skincare line while she was running the Luncheonette.
How has being a WBENC-Certified WBE helped your business?
Like my mother and grandmother before me, we have always been trailblazers, trying new things whether making a good product, helping the local community or doing things that just seemed crazy, but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Being Women Owned and helping other women achieve their goals and dreams is very important to our mantra. We are strong advocates of women having voices, while being educated and respectful of their ideas they share with other women. Women Owned gives women a source to recognize each other and furthermore, help each other.
What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?
We always believed even from the beginning, that ingredients and transparency were very important. My mother used to say if it is not from the earth, then it belongs in the garbage. In the 80's and 90's, companies starting pushing chemical ingredients in products to make more revenue. Now, we are coming at an age where all these chemicals and toxins are being looked at and discarded in the beauty world. Also, we are now in the information world where people can look up ingredients and make a decision that they don’t want those in their hair, skin or makeup routine – this is great.
As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?
Every week, I make a track-list of things I want to accomplish. I recognized I cannot get to them all in a single day, but every day I cross some items off my list and its gives a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes, what keeps me up at night is thinking about new ideas or things we can introduce into a product, design or workflow.
What do you love about being a business owner?
Being a business owner always has its up and downs; there is never a straight road because as the road evolves, you have to change course. If you do it in the beginning, you have less headaches, if you do it in the middle/end, it makes it hard to turn the ship. Being a business owner with a second-generation family business, I enjoy helping the community, creating amazing products, and watching our employees create great things, along with mentoring them to new theories or ideas, to boost them, but also give them direction of the how/why so they can evolve into success women.
What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?
You need to look at what the market wants, along with creating products that speak to them. While also creating new products and trying to find a problem, then create the solution with those products - all while hoping it's going to work. The other hard part is marketing channels — we try all mediums and some work, some don't, and some you just have to do for awareness. But the key is to know your audience, then slowly connect yourself to them with your products and services.
How do you define success?
Success has many meanings to different people — some measure by revenue, some by impact on others, some by intelligence. I'm a believer, if you make/create a great product/service, have a connection to it, and market it correctly, then the results and successes speak for itself. Also, I believe in having a niche, so if you like getting into a field, what piece of that field excites you, moves you, drives you, focus on that. Eventually, everything else will come later. If you focus only on the bottom line all the time, you will lose every-time.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
To have patience in the process, along with trusting the process — having a plan with goals and task every day. The other factor is having a good team and support system around your ecosystem and work culture. As the days, weeks, months go onward, you'll start to see it all come together in the rearview. I'm a believer of the 4 P's - Product, Place, People and Promotion, it’s a marketing model, but it works in every business.
What’s your favorite career moment?
My favorite career moments are helping our local community when they need us the most — we will drop everything to be there to make sure if they need us in the form of a donation, product donation or help with their awareness we will be there toe-to-toe. For example, we sit on the City of Arvada Arts & Culture Commission, along the Arvada Events Commission, to help our local town persevere, keeping the tradition but adding the modern elements to keep us current. During COVID, when some of our non-profits in Colorado, ran out of supplies and soaps, we quickly made soap bars so those organizations can keep on moving forward without a hitch and we did those all for free.
If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
Possibly travel more to different parts of the world, this is what really sparks the creative flow and flare in all of us.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When we were growing up it was during the 50's and 60's era. I graduated high school in 1966, and we could not afford college at that time. So I started working for Clairol, and at that time 70% of women were coloring their hair. I enjoyed working with people always and love building relationships, which is what I'm able to do with our skincare company.
How do you unwind after a long workday?
Either I take a walk to clear my mind and reset, or I will watch a movie or television show to let my mind wander and escape through that medium. Then I read a book, and retire for the evening.
What do you like about your workspace?
That we 100% own our own business, and we are able to continue my mothers and grandmothers passion and goals for the future generations. We love our employees and are extremely loyal to them, as we are always growing and evolving - all of us.
Fill in the blank:
When I face a challenge, I… take a moment to assess the situation, then either brainstorm some solutions or work with the team to create a solution.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… to take more chances and opportunities.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… coffee.
By this time next year, I will be… evolving more of our product line, and helping other people achieve their goals.
To get my creative juices flowing, I… deep dive into a task, problem or new product to find other solutions or variables.
manos soap co.
Manos Soap, a uniquely popular skin care and beauty soap company, was inspired by travels to the Greek Isles. Manos Soap Co. creates uniquely small batches of skin care products using only natural, nutrient-dense ingredients which are free from sulfate, paraben, phthalate, gluten and palm oils.