Rooted in community: How Kelly Polanco stands out at local events
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
One of the best places to showcase your small business is at a local craft fair or event. You get a chance to connect with your community, demonstrate your product in real life and give customers a look at the person behind the business.
Kelly Polanco, owner of Rooted Body Co., is one small business owner who thrives at local events. She sells her all-natural, hand-crafted soaps, salves, lotions and candles at farmers’ markets, pop-up shops and more. We talked to Kelly to learn more about her background, her business and how she sets herself up for success at local events.
A purposeful pursuit
Like many small business owners, Kelly’s business was born out of a hobby — and necessity. She cites her own skin issues, as well as her son’s skin issues, as driving forces for Rooted Body Co. ‘I’ve always been intrigued by holistic wellness…I was always seeking alternative soaps, anything that was made from scratch. One day, I just decided to play around with some ingredients and make something.’
After doing some research and watching tutorials online, Kelly started churning out natural soaps and sharing them with friends and family. ‘I was always excited for somebody to try it. At that point I was like, “Okay, I’m on to something here. I can do this”.’ She cites December 2019 as the month her passion project shifted from hobby to business. That’s when Kelly opened a Shopify account and set up a website.
Kelly worked with an artist to create her logo design. You can work with an expert to create your own logo, too — find one at 99designs by Vistaprint.
Going all in
Rooted Body Co. started as a side hustle. ‘I’m an optician, but I’ve always tried to maintain some side hustle of something I like doing on the side. When this particular hobby turned into a business, I let go of all the other side hustles I had and just focused on my artisanal products because they were solid. I was like, “Wow, this is it right here”.’
There’s nothing quite like running your own business — and Kelly can attest to that. ‘It’s just a good feeling…especially when people love what you’re producing and they’re coming back for more. It really feels nice to be able to help people through my product.’
Owning a business is definitely a rollercoaster, though. Kelly says that the hardest part of being a small business owner is wearing so many hats and staying on top of everything…especially the tasks she doesn’t enjoy doing as much. ‘If it’s not creating and actually making the product and taking nice pictures of it, then it’s more of a burden. But certainly, it needs attention. I try to tackle as many things as I can.’
Kelly recently made the leap to cutting back at her day job so she has more time to scale Rooted Body Co. She also cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a blessing in disguise — because her full-time workplace was closed for 5 weeks, she had time to tap into her creative juices and improve her business, even finalising her logo design. ‘I asked myself, “How can I take advantage of this time to actually push the business forward?” It really helped put things into perspective and where I wanted to go, the direction I wanted to go with the business and my life in general. During that time, I was able to get so much done that really helped push Rooted Body forward.’
‘One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve gotten has been to be myself in my most pure and raw form.’
Setting up shop
Local markets are where the majority of Kelly’s business comes from — and market selling was something she was interested in from the very beginning. ‘I’ve always had fun visiting local markets and I like to support artisans who are dedicated to creating and sharing their handmade products.’
She loves the opportunity to meet with potential customers face-to-face. ‘They get to meet me and see what it’s all about. I feel very comfortable talking and dealing with people…it’s certainly one of my stronger areas. And I realise it’s good for my business because people really seem to like meeting the person behind it all.’
Since she got started, she’s put a lot of effort into making her stall as appealing as possible. ‘The set-up has certainly improved. It’s prettier, it’s evolved. Now, I feel like people can’t just walk past it — they have to stop and look, and the smell pulls them in.’
Kelly also sells online, often to customers who first interact with her product at the market. ‘The same people will follow through [online]. These are people I’ve never met before that I meet at these markets, and then I see orders coming in from them on the site, which is amazing.’
Kelly’s marketing must-haves
Business cards are the first marketing item Kelly ever purchased for Rooted Body Co. ‘When I’m at markets, I have them laid out at the table. I keep them in my purse so that when I’m out and about, I give them to people and tell them a little bit about what I do. And when I package my product to ship to customers, I throw a business card in the box as well.’ She includes all of her social handles on one side of her business card to encourage customers to check out her Instagram page or visit her website.
At markets, Kelly uses banners to deck out her stall. ‘I have one as a backdrop, and I have one that I put at the front of the table. Both just have my logo and say “Rooted Body Co.”. In the future, Kelly plans to use more promotional items, like flyers, notepads, mugs and hats, in her marketing ventures.
Instead of branded packaging, Kelly adds her branding to eco-friendly brown paper and bags with stickers and labels. She also decorates her packaging with dried flowers, and drops single stickers into boxed orders. ‘I use brown paper and recycled raffia ribbon, and I adorn my packaging with dried flowers and drop stickers in the box. The packaging that I have…that’s what draws people in. It’s just how appealing it looks.’
She also uses social media, particularly Instagram, to give customers a behind-the-scenes look at Rooted Body Co. and tell her followers what market to find her at. She posts photos of new products as well, noting that a lot of her business (85%!) comes from Instagram clicks.
Looking to the future
Kelly has lots of goals, big and small, for Rooted Body Co. ‘Long-term, my goal is for this business to sustain itself. Where products aren’t out of stock and availability to my product is always accessible online. Or, I can get to the point where I can scale up and move from my home to a workspace or commercial kitchen with a few employees, making products so I can free myself up and do more of the things I enjoy.’
She recognises that hiring employees will be necessary in achieving that goal. ‘I have a 16-year-old son, which is super helpful — he makes many batches of soap with me. But I certainly need help with website management, social media and bookkeeping.’
A shorter-term goal for this market season is to consistently be able to book a space — Kelly aims to target 3-4 markets per month. ‘I want to be a little bit more aggressive and seek these marketplaces and not just wait for them to reach out to me.’
‘Do it if you really love it. Go for it regardless of the hurdles and the struggles. Just give it a shot — you won’t know unless you try.’