Artisanal and highly efficient: How this entrepreneur made that combination work

Even when products are handmade, operational efficiency, computerization and automation make a huge impact

5 minutes read

Client photo of Sarah Laroche from Bain Selve

Sarah Laroche, Founder and CEO, SELV.RITUEL

Sarah Laroche’s body care company, SELV.RITUEL, was just shy of two-years-old in January 2021 when she learned that she had been chosen to pitch to Dans l’œil du dragon, a television show. The show’s taping was less than three months away.

“I had just gone through a busy fall season at SELV to meet the holiday demand and was still feeling my way around. My branding wasn’t pretty,” says Laroche.

She had to get organized and automate certain tasks. Most importantly, she had to do it quickly.

In a flash, she decided to leave photography, a profession she had been practising for more than 20 years (after starting out as a stylist). She would now focus all her energy on her business. She had strong connections in the marketing industry and convinced the agency she had been with to rapidly create her graphic identity.

“I had been thinking about it for a long time, so I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted,” she says. “I surrounded myself with the best people and got all the material the day before the shoot.”

The show aired on May 24, 2021. Four days later, SELV.RITUEL had sold $115,000 worth of products. The frenzy would not let up; the company now had to get all its orders out.

My team and I work very hard, but I want us to all have a good quality of life—make time to just do nothing. We finish at 5 p.m. and we don’t work on weekends. To make that happen, we have to be very efficient.

Reorganizing the company’s production

Laroche started creating her bath salts in 2019 in her Montreal home kitchen using a blender. While being a home-based artisan seemed like an advantage at first, SELV.RITUEL was unable to meet the growing demand without finding ways to increase her output. Like many new entrepreneurs, she did almost everything herself.

“Her recipes were all in her head or written in emails, so we had to standardize the manufacturing process for each product and make recipe cards for employees to manufacture them,” says Edouard Joron, an operational efficiency and management consultant with BDC Advisory Services.

Joron worked with the entrepreneur to map all the processes to manufacture every product in order to document how each one is created and to standardize every step.

Process mapping not only helped rapidly identify process improvements, it also helped Sarah hire 11 people over the course of a few months. She created an entire human resources management system with the help of her advisor.

The blender was also replaced with a concrete mixer. “That kind of change saw SELV.RITUEL’s production capacity explode,” says Joron.

variety of selve bath products

Rethinking her space

Because SELV.RITUEL was growing, it had to move to a larger location. “We really had to organize the space so that all materials and equipment had their proper place,” says Joron. “Organizing in this way prevented a lot of unnecessary trips. It also made it much easier to take inventory because we now knew where everything was.”

The storage area now has a dedicated place for raw materials, goods in production and those ready for delivery.

This reorganization enabled the company to make all the products needed to fill its orders and produce enough stock to cover approximately two months of sales. It has allowed the company to respond more quickly to demand.

Computerizing and automating

SELV.RITUEL has also started to use management software to keep track of its stock. “We still count our items by hand and then enter the results into the software,” says Laroche. “We want to start barcoding them to automate the way we track all incoming and outgoing items soon.”

“The goal is to keep inventory management to a minimum,” says Joron.

SELV.RITUEL’s staff can now focus their skills on more strategic tasks. “For me, organizational efficiency is making all the difference in my company’s growth,” said Laroche. “My team and I work very hard, but I want us all to have a good quality of life—make time to just do nothing. We finish at 5 p.m. and we never work on weekends. To make this happen, we have to be very efficient.”

Sarah Laroche of Bain Selve showing a product to customers

Seeking support

Now that SELV.RITUEL has become increasingly organized, decisions like these seem obvious, but there were times when Laroche had more questions than answers. “Edouard saved my life many times over. He helped me make the best decisions and if he hadn’t been there to help me get organized, I would never have made it,” says Laroche.

“It’s normal that when someone starts a business for the first time, they feel a little lost, especially when success comes quickly,” says Joron. “Sarah needs to be able to consult with a network of professionals and other entrepreneurs to discuss the issues that are concerning her.”

Even though SELV.RITUEL’s growth has increased since the beginning of 2021, the team continues to dream big. “We’re aiming for a global presence, and it’s not just about the money,” says Laroche. “It's about all the opportunities that are out there thanks to these resources.”