Local manufacturer utilizes Export Marketing Plan to reach new heights
Molly’s Suds of Pinellas County
On Christmas Eve 2005, Monica Leonard, owner of Molly’s Suds, suffered a tragic loss when her daughter Molly was delivered stillborn.
“At the time I was a pediatric nurse, so I knew a lot about the body,” Leonard said. “I just needed to know, what went wrong. So, I went into research mode to find out what could have happened and why.”
Her research led her to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, on chemicals found in newborns. This study reported that they found industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood that were known carcinogens and contained toxic compounds that were harmful to human organs.
“Our skin is our largest organ and those chemicals penetrate the skin and they are passed to our babies,” she said. “It was my responsibility, now that I was armed with this information, to do something about it.”
Immediately, she decided to replace all of what she deemed toxic household cleaners and personal care products from her home, with natural, safer solutions. She and her husband found natural replacements for personal care items they needed, but couldn’t find a truly safe laundry detergent alternative.
This inspired her to partner with a manufacturer in Oregon to formulate Molly’s Suds very first laundry detergent product. Molly’s Suds uses only human safe earth and plant-derived ingredients and is Certified Cruelty-Free by Leaping Bunny, and Certified Vegan.
“If you buy something from Molly’s Suds, it’s not only safe for people, it’s also safe for the planet,” she said. “We really pride ourselves on full disclosure and ingredient integrity. We know the suppliers and we know the testing that’s been done on each ingredient. Then we do further tests on the formula as it is as a whole.”
After attending a natural products expo in 2017, she discovered that there were local resources that could help jumpstart her business.
“We really are a Florida local company,” she said. “We manufacture in Florida with a few local manufacturing partners. Most of our packaging and product supplies come from Florida.”
Not only did Molly’s Suds find local manufacturing resources, but the company also turned to the Florida SBDC at the University of South Florida and Enterprise Florida for help with managing all of her business and exporting needs.
“There was so much we had to do,” Leonard said. “For example, we had to do a business marketing plan. We needed to know what countries are out there that would be a good match for our products. Because you don’t want to invest the time, the money and the efforts thinking that it’s going to be great in another country, only to come to find out that they don’t buy powdered detergent.”
International trade specialist Selma Canas, of the Florida SBDC at USF, has also helped Leonard secure a federal grant, guide her through Gold Key matchmaking, secure an international trademark attorney and help develop multiple websites to cater to various country language barriers and needs.
They’re not stopping there. After 10 years of being in business, Molly’s Suds is now in the first phase of Florida SBDC at USF’s Growth Acceleration service. This service takes a deep dive into a company’s financial health and operations.
“We are so thankful for the Florida SBDC,” she said. “The team has been amazing and extremely helpful. They never make us feel like we’re a bother. They’re always willing to give us the resources that we need. Which is so important, because at the end of the day, if we grow, it helps the whole community.”