When Diana Laursen learned that Hazelwood Soap Co. had a chance to give away 700 product items to the nation’s most powerful people in broadcast journalism, she had a gut feeling it would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I just knew we had to do it,” she said. “To have my products in front of people like Barbara Walters and Katie Couric, I’m just taking a plunge.”
Laursen learned Wednesday her family business that produces a variety of shea butter soaps, scrubs and lotions had been selected to provide a gift item to each of the 700 attendees at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards to be held Sept. 27 in New York City.
That gave her less than a week to ramp up production, put together an attractive sample package and ship it to New York.
Then came a big dilemma — what product items should she choose?
“I’m a little bit psycho with stuff like that. I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime, so I decided to send not one product, but four,” she said.
Thanks to a close working relationship with her packaging distributors, Laursen was able to have sample-size bottles and labels shipped immediately so she could include her French clay mask, almond body wash, shea butter sugar scrub and shea butter lip balm in a small, attractive box.
“They were wonderful,” she said of the distributors. “I am a huge budgeter and I didn’t have the money to pay them upfront. They said we’d work it out later. You are only as good as your distributors and how nice you are to people.”
A colossal task
For those who are rusty on their math, the decision to ship four items instead of one meant that Laursen needed to make, bottle, label and package 2,800 items.
All of Hazelwood Soap Co.’s products are made in small batches in the back of the retail store at 452 Hazelwood Ave. to ensure quality control. Laursen said it is this attention to detail, along with the good recipes developed by her John, who is a chemist, that have helped the business grow through the years.
Word of the opportunity and the challenge spread like a wildfire through the Hazelwood business community and Laursen’s friends. Soon there were more volunteers than room to have everyone work. On Sunday, the Laursen family went to “shop church,” where every family member, including 4-year old Teagan, worshipped as they worked. Others volunteered to lend a helping hand.
“It isn’t just me going to the Emmys. We are representing all of North Carolina and all those who we do business with,” she said. “The way I look at it, a lot of people spend a lot to hire people to get this opportunity to bring their family’s business to the next level. This company just found us and I have no idea how. This might not develop into anything, but I just knew we had to do it.”
For others who have asked how they can help, Laursen has suggested they stock up on Hazelwood Soap Co. products to help defray the upfront costs of providing the gift items. She has started a drawing for a gift basket for all those who buy products between now and when the Emmys awards are given out.
Val Wilson with Off the Wall gifts is one of the persons responsible for giving Hazelwood Soap Co. its break.
Off the Wall gifts seeks out unique gift items from emerging companies to put together gift bags for all the honorees and guests at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy awards programs. These include not only the prime-time Emmys, but other categories such as daytime programming, sports, and news/documentaries.
This is the company’s second year of providing the gift bags that contain items from 30 companies across the continent that make unique products.
“We got our start because someone gave us a chance,” Wilson said, “so we decided to contact smaller companies nationwide and go for the Oprah effect — put their products in front of those in the television business and hopefully they’ll get the same boost we did.”
Hazelwood Soap Co. hit the radar screen as a potential gift provider when a research assistant came across its web site.
“Personal body products are a popular item,” Wilson said, “ and I liked the look and feel of this company. The timing seemed to be perfect. I liked the web site and the responsiveness of Diana.”
Those donating gift items can include business promotional items so that recipients who like the product can easily order more, either for themselves or as gifts to others.
Wilson said the opportunity has helped other companies that have participated. For instance, a national chain is looking at one company that provided cookies last year, and other companies have reported boosts in Internet sales, a huge marketing force in today’s world.
“If it wasn’t for the Internet, I would never have heard of her,” Wilson said of Laursen and her business.
The opportunity was almost serendipitous. Laursen had made plans to run in a New York marathon event for the 9/11 victims and the race date dovetailed with the Emmy awards, which will allow her to help assemble the Off The Wall gift bags later this week.
Despite the expense and short turn-around time, Laursen is convinced this is a chance of a lifetime.
“We literally heard about this 24 hours ago,” Laursen said on Thursday, “but we can totally get it done. At first I thought it was a hoax, but once I researched it, I learned these are real people, very genuine and seemed to have same philosophy as we have. You never know when your big break will come. This might not develop into anything, I just know we have to do it.”