By Meghan Jenkins
Shannon Vielma, the owner and maker of Wake the Dead Scrubs, and I had a great conversation recently about her products, her business, and how she started out. It was a lot of fun to get to know Shannon, and now you can, too:
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Meghan: When did you begin making skin and hair care products?
Shannon Vielma, Wake the Dead Scrubs: I started making face and body products for my family in 2015. My mom and daughter both struggle with skin conditions (psoriasis and eczema) so they found it difficult to use drugstore bath-and-body items. I wanted them to have access to the same fun scents and products without the breakouts, flares, and rashes. Then they suggested I share my products on Etsy for others to enjoy. Over time I used my education and creativity to expand the collection. In 2018, with the help of a few of my favorite cosmetologists/stylists I started to attempt to “dupe” [duplicate] popular salon hair care products. In time we found formulas that really worked. Now my products are stocked in several salons nationwide.
Meghan: Which product did you create first?
Shannon: Coffee Scrubs. My business started as “Wake the Dead Coffee Scrubs.” My first four products were a coffee body scrub, coffee face mask, coffee lip scrub, and mini heart-shaped coffee soaps.
Meghan: Why do your products actually WORK? Speaking from my experience, they really, really do.
Shannon: A lot of the time when I browse the ingredients of items sold at Ulta and Sephora, I notice there’s no logical reason behind the outrageous price tag. So many companies use cheap fillers to dilute the truly beneficial ingredients. I want to give my customers the absolute best at an affordable price!
Meghan: Where do you create and put together your items?
Shannon: I have a 960-square-foot workspace built into our home.
A little over half of this space is set up with a production area that includes a space for:
•packaging used for our products,
•a prep station with several mixers,
•a soap and candle pour/cure table,
•a jarring/packaging station.
The other half of the area is for the business end of our work and it includes:
•locked industrial storage units for ready to ship product inventory,
•several shelves of shop orders/invoices lined up to be fulfilled,
•my office area (desks, printers, silhouette machine and cutting machines),
•a ship station with all the necessary shipping supplies to carefully pack and label orders.
Meghan: How do you organize your day? What is a typical week like for you?
Shannon: I have a pretty strict schedule of daily tasks, but my hours vary depending on my responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom. I create and ship products four days a week. I designate two days each week to manage our social media, wholesale contracts, inventory, supply orders, and accounting/office tasks for the shop. I always try to give myself one day off to spend with the family.
Meghan: What are your fave items in the Wake The Dead line?
Shannon: Asking what my favorite items in my shop are, is like asking which of my babies I love more. It’s impossible to choose.
They’re all very special to me, but my daily vanity and shower items that I cannot live without are:
•Zombie Antidote Facial Moisturizer.
•Caffeinated Under Eye Serum.
•Citrus Pore Cleansing Astringent.
•Rose Water Toner.
•Hair Repair Serum.
•Cooling Tea Tree Clay Mask.
•Bath+Body Oils (Lemongrass “Uplift+Unwind,” at the moment).
•A variety of 3-5 different whipped soaps/scrubs and shave soaps at any given time.
My favorite shop scent is easily our “Blue Hawaiian” fragrance, because I’m a sucker for fruity, sweet, tropical scents.
Meghan: How did you come up with the name for your company?
Shannon: Well, as I mentioned I started off making coffee scrubs. So “Wake the Dead Coffee Scrubs” was a play on the idea that the smell of my scrubs could “wake the dead” (hence the “Zombabe” logo and branding). Later, when we expanded, I dropped the “Coffee Scrubs” and trademarked “Wake the Dead Scrubs” on its own.
Meghan: Which products are your bestsellers?
Shannon: About one-third of my orders come through with the “Zombie Antidote” in them. After four years in our collection, it’s still our bestselling item month after month. Our face masks are our next bestselling items. Just about every order has a four-piece mini-mask sampler or at least one full-sized mask in it! I’m very proud of our face mask variety. I really like to try to make a little something for everyone!
Meghan: This is all you? Do you have help?
Shannon: Before Covid-19 I had the help of packing assistants, but all of my products are always made and handled solely by me. I have a strict clean-room type expectation for my prep station and no one is allowed to be in that area but me. My family and I have worked in the dental and medical fields, so I have a very high set of standards for cleanliness.
Our social media accounts (Wake the Dead Scrubs on Facebook and Wake the Dead Scrubs on Instagram) are monitored by a small group of ladies who started out as customers and eventually asked if they could volunteer their time to help me out in exchange for discounts.
I also have a group of eleven diverse testers that include men, women, and teens. Their ages range from 18-54. I make sure to test on sensitive, dry, combo, and oily skin types. I also test on two skin conditions, rosacea and psoriasis. Our testers come from different ethnic backgrounds and age groups so we can get the best feedback possible before we release a new formulation.
My husband and I recently opened a second shop, The Crystal Coffin, and he helps with a great deal of the work behind that store as well. My mom and daughter are very good helpers when it comes to stocking our wholesale supplies and making jewelry for the sister store.
Meghan: How has the pandemic of 2020 affected you and your business?
Shannon: Unfortunately, we were unable to have our packing assistants work through the pandemic because I am immunodeficient myself and I can’t risk my health or the health of our customers by having outside company in our home. The workload has been a lot heavier without help, but I am still managing to get our orders filled and shipped within our normal turnaround time. Business slowed a bit because many families are being laid off and financially burdened with defaulted bills. It’s a very sad time for small businesses and families struggling to survive the impact of this pandemic.
If I can just remind your readers: Remember to help out when and where you can! Shop small. Be a good neighbor. Donate to families in need … do whatever you can do to make this time a little brighter!
Meghan: What advice can you offer to anyone with aspirations of creating their own products?
Shannon: Get a solid education (never stop learning), never give up on yourself, treat every customer like friends and family, and expect a lot of sleepless nights and overwhelming breakdowns. LOL. This is not an easy job, but if you like a challenge, you can do it! Oh, and stick to a schedule, because if you don’t hold yourself accountable, there’s no one to take the fall but YOU. It’s a huge responsibility.
Meghan: Future ideas for Wake the Dead? New products or product lines?
Shannon: I rely on my customers to keep an open communication line with me about what products they want to see from my shop. We have a suggestion thread in our Facebook group (“Wake the Dead Scrubs“) that I work from monthly.
I want to bring our subscription boxes back in the future when my customers can get back into a monthly routine of pampering themselves. In the current pandemic state, I don’t feel comfortable with asking customers to commit to a monthly subscription, but I know my customers and I look forward to “The Zombabe Box” coming back when the economy takes a turn for the better.
Meghan: What inspires you?
Shannon: My kids. They’re always my best cheerleaders. They love our products and even help come up with ideas for our seasonal products. I never want to let them down.
Meghan: Tell me about your interest in gems and stones. I’m way into them and think it is so neat you place them in bath salts and different products.
Shannon: I’ve been a crystal collector since I was twelve. I practice crystal healing and herbal/spiritual cleansing in my everyday life. Our second store is a metaphysical shop dedicated to enlightening our followers and opening up their homes to spiritual practices of all kinds. Our bath-and-body items with crystal toppers are a very special fusion of both of my shops, they really speak to who I am in my personal life.
Meghan: Were there any product ideas that didn’t make it?
Shannon: YES! My testers turn away products all the time. Trial and error is a very important part of what keeps our reviews positive and my customers happy. I never release a product that doesn’t have the approval of the majority of my testers. Not all items are beneficial for every skin type, but with that in mind, I work hard to filter out the products that aren’t top notch. The most recent product that didn’t make it into the shop was our Vegan CBD Milk Bath. It was only approved by three out of eleven testers. We’re working on a second test batch after the fall and Halloween collections drop, but they may not pass the scrutiny of our testers until early 2021.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.