MBJ: Memphis startup embarks on sudsy three-state expansion
A Memphis-based retailer that has found quick success in the Mid-South is in the midst of a two-month, three-market expansion that will lead to storefronts in Birmingham, Tupelo and Castle Rock, Colorado.
The locations will be No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 for Buff City Soap, which opened in Bartlett in 2013 — as Bartlett Soap Co. — and also operates an Olive Branch location.
Buff City co-owner Brad Kellum said the company has sold $250,000 worth of soap in 2017, with hopes to sell about $1.6 million by the end of the year — which is almost double the company’s 2016 sales — between the five locations and the company’s website.
Kellum, who owns the company with his wife Jen, credits its success to the soap’s quality, which has led to a repeat customer rate of 90 percent.
“When people use our product, we normally have them. We usually have a customer for life,” he said.
Though it may seem like an odd choice for a new location, Kellum said he was drawn to Colorado because of the West’s dry air and the state’s recent economic success.
Kellum said he expanded to Birmingham to try to boost online sales in the South, and he said Tupelo was an obvious expansion opportunity because a boutique has done very well with his products.
But, its not the expansion that Kellum is most proud of, he said. It’s the number of people — 27 — who he’s been able to employ and pay an average of about $15 per hour.
Kellum, 47, started making soap in his garage in 2013, his second year of law school at Nashville School of Law.
Once his neighbors started buying it in abundance, he said he knew he was onto something.
The current expansion proves he was right.