Artist of the Week - Pip & Lola's
Edited for content and clarity by Shannon Parris
Hello, and welcome back to Artist of the Week! We’re excited to introduce you to Samantha and Bruce Story-Camp from Pip & Lola's Everything Homemade. Find them at their storefront, 3614 Main Street, Munhall PA 15120, or online at www.pipandlola.com.
Shannon Parris: Good morning! Please introduce yourselves. Feel free to share any background about your personal life, family, work outside of making, etc.
Samantha and Bruce Story-Camp: Our names are Samantha and Bruce Story-Camp. We've been together eight years. We met at Macbeth callbacks for a local theater in Tacoma, Washington. We have been producing things together since the day we started dating, from theatrical performances, a web series, and of course soap.
Samantha moved to the Seattle area in 2006, while Bruce had moved there in 1990. We moved back to Pittsburgh just shy of 3 years ago. We are both still very active in theater and film activities. Samantha is the production manager of the Silver Theater Project based here in Pittsburgh.
We have eight kids, two cats, a dog, and, of course, the 9th child is our business.
SP: Next, tell me about your business.
S&B: Okay, basically we produce vegan and vegetarian barely scented soaps.
We have two major soap lines: The first one is our 100% natural line, which features all essential oils, food additives, and natural botanicals. These include hand and body, shampoo, facial, and shave bars.
The second one is the "Soap Goddess Loves Shakespeare" line, which is our more colorful, fragrance oil (yet still lightly scented) soap line of sister soaps. All the soaps in this line are named after Shakespearean characters.
Combined, we have just over 200 varieties of soap. It's honestly rather ridiculous, but since we have a storefront it makes sense to have such a large line.
SP: Where does the name for your business come from?
S&B: The company is named after our two youngest children. Pip and Lola are their nicknames.
Honestly naming a store Samantha and Bruce just didn't have the same ring to it.
SP: How long have you been making soap?
S&B: 12 years now. Samantha started after she purchased an eBook from a friend of hers as a way of being supportive. From there, it just kind of spiraled horribly out of control.
SP: And how long have you been selling it?
S&B: Seven years now, as of this week. Our storefront is actually the third incarnation of the business as a brick-and-mortar. The first two were in Tacoma, Washington.
SP: What is your creative process like? How do you overcome creative blocks?
S&B: A lot of our soap concepts come from suggestions. But the Shakespeare line comes from so many people asking us to do fragrance oil based soaps, but Samantha wanted it to feel good to her. So it made sense to combine two things that she loves, soap and Shakespeare.
Between the two of us, we share the creative process. Bruce is all about the research and what certain inclusions do within the soap, and Samantha is able to create the soaps from the inclusions that Bruce suggests. Between the two of us, we assume that we have about a fully functioning brain.
SP: So, how long have you been vending with I Made It! Market?
S&B: About one and a half years.
SP: What was your journey to your first IMI event? How did you find the community?
S&B: Our first activity with maker community in Pittsburgh was a large craft market two years ago. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, having so many handmade vendors in one location with such a well-established crowd coming through to shop. The community itself seems to be very supportive of each other and encouraging.
Just after that event, we were on people's radar and got accepted into the IMI community. We had actually applied to at least three of them beforehand. However, we were new to the area and relatively unknown. It was one of the hazards of moving cross-country with the business. Even though the business was multiple years old, over here we were still new.
SP: Do you remember what your first IMI event was?
S&B: It was the Neighborhood Flea (I Made It! Market’s sister event) back when it started up again last year.
SP: Having a retail store, what role does I Made It! Market play in your business?
S&B: IMI has been huge for us. In addition to providing well-attended locations to sell at, it has been a great marketing adventure as well. We have been able to get a large amount of product recognition and repeat customers who have come to our storefront after finding us at the IMI markets.
SP: What is your favorite thing about being a part of the I Made It! Market community?
S&B: Again, it is the level of supportiveness between all of the vendors and the IMI staff. It is much different from the standard craft fair community, where there always seems to be a heavy level of competitiveness.
We can be at any of the IMI markets, where there might be five other soap vendors, and feel that we are all able to work together to make the best market for all of us. Everyone's product is different enough that we are more than happy to send people who are looking for something slightly different than what we make to the appropriate person.
Part of our market setup process is to go around and locate where the other soapers are. Then we can say hello and make sure we know who is there that day so we know where to direct people.
SP: If you could go back in time and give maker or craft show advice to yourself, when and what would it be?
S&B: Work on creating a visually interesting, yet organized, display. It took a while to get it where we were happy with it. Getting past a straight flat display was huge.
SP: Okay one last question - what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever overheard or funniest interaction you've ever had at a show?
S&B: Best customer response (received twice from two separate customers): "I have to tell you... I love your soaps because they don't irritate my girly bits."
Seriously, that was said to us twice, pretty much word-for-word identical. We even had the quote put on some of our business cards, prior to switching to our store slogan, "Think of us while you are wet and naked."
SP: Is there anything else the world needs to know about Pip and Lola's?
S&B: We have actually filmed and released the first season of a web series based loosely on our lives and our company, complete with a rival soap Mafia. You know, like we all have. All six episodes can be found on both our Facebook page and YouTube. Season 2 is in the works as we speak. It's a good thing we take ourselves so seriously.
The name of the web series is "The Pittsburgh Soapranos."
If you’d like to get your hands on some “girly bits” friendly (also “manly bits” friendly, I’m sure) soap, check out www.pipandlola.com - all orders online over $25 are automatically getting 10% off and for the month of March, and all orders over $40 are also getting a free soap rack.