Getting to Know Us - Jen & Andy, Owners

Getting to Know Us - Jen & Andy, Owners

Employee Spotlight - Jen & Andy

We can dream people into anything we want them to be. We can divine attributes that are positive, negative, or simply a fanciful concoction of imagination. On our blog, we’ve been introducing you to the amazing humans that make up the Mountain Madness family. We don’t want you to wonder about us, we want you to honestly know us. The focus of the spotlight this month is Jennifer and Andy Morsell, the founder, owners, and the wonderful reason we’re all here.    

Over twenty years ago, in frigid North Pole, Alaska, (no, she’s not an elf) Jen started making soap. She has always been crafty and spends her hobby time sewing, gardening, or cooking. Trying her hand at soap making started as another crafty adventure, but something about it immediately captivated her. The science, creativity, and challenge of soap making was like no magic she had ever dabbled in. Late in the evening, when her three babies were tucked in, she would retreat to the kitchen for soap making experiments. She tried different recipes, mixed unique scent blends, and played with fun decorations; the possibilities were endless. Eventually Jen started sharing her soaps with friends and family. When people saw how beautiful the soaps were, how soft it left their skin, and how long the bars lasted, a fever started. She began selling at the Tanana Valley Farmers Market which introduced her soaps to a bigger audience and created a demand. The more soap she made the more she sold. With time Jen made other products too, lip balm, lotion bars, and body butter. Quickly, her days were filled with making products, selling at local markets, being a mom, and maintaining a full-time job; life was hectic.   

 A few years into her soap making adventure, Jen met and fell in love with Andy. Eventually they married and blended their families into a new life and moved to Coeur d'Alene. Andy supported Jen’s passion for making soap and soon found himself helping her in the shop. His skills as a computer engineer and his ability to fix and build most anything (a.k.a Handy Andy) make him an outstanding asset. Now, it’s been twenty-one years since that first bar of soap was made. Both the company and Jen and Andy have come a long way. The lessons they continue to learn from working in the trenches of business ownership are profound. They both agree their most important assets are enthusiastic employees and honest communication. The soap company continues to grow because of the passion, organization, and dedication to hard work that the entire team exemplifies.  

It’s important to Jen and Andy to share their story because being supportive to other business owners and their community is an important pillar to their mission both personally and professionally. I sat down with Jen and Andy and asked them a few questions I thought would help you get to know them better.

Andy

What do you love most about owning your own business?

I love being the master of my own destiny while at the same time being able to help others.  Providing employment opportunities, being involved in our community, and giving to those who are less fortunate are ways that help keep my heart full.

What skills do you use most frequently in the day to day running of the business?

It is a bit cliché, but the ability to multi-task is important as a business owner. Kindness and patience are also very important when working with employees and the public.

Name some attributes you think are necessary for running your own business? Maintaining an even keel and being flexible are critical. Things will go sideways (especially in a COVID and supply-chain challenged world) so you need to always be thinking several steps ahead. Also, having a competitive spirit while balancing that with kindness are very beneficial to achieving business goals.

What is the most challenging aspect of business ownership?

The fact that we live in such a dynamic world requires constant assessment and change. This can be very challenging when you are trying to keep everyone happy.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the individual successes of our five children (we are a blended family) as they have transitioned into adulthood. That they all are such great humans tells me that we raised them well and knowing that our personal values have had such a positive influence on them really gives me warm fuzzies.

What are your superpowers?

Patience, kindness and viewing all humans as equals.

What is your favorite part of the day?

I enjoy my late afternoon and early evening unwind time. I often spend that time being outside doing one of my favorite things, mountain biking, which is very meditative for me.

What question are you most frequently asked about owning your own business?

We started as a small, grassroots family company doing farmers markets and craft shows and worked extremely hard to build our business and customer base. We are often asked by new entrepreneurs for advice on how they can take their business to the next level, and we are happy to share our experiences and what we’ve learned as we have grown with them.

What advice do you have for people who are starting their own business?

Do not act entitled and expect anything to be handed to you. Be passionate about what you do, put in the grind and you will reap the reward.

 Jen

What do you love most about owning your own business?

I love having the ability to create my own schedule.  I love making decisions that positively impact our work family and community.

What skills do you use most frequently in the day to day running of the business?

Communication.  I can’t say this enough.

Name some attributes you think are necessary for running your own business?

Paying attention to every detail.  Although collective creativity helps us with product development when running a business, it isn’t just about the products you make, it is the end result.

What is the most challenging aspect of business ownership?

Knowing that you are making decisions that not only impact you but 20 families and their livelihoods.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the grind.  I’m proud that I have spent the last 21 years, sticking with the high and low times to make our business what it is now and what it will become in the future.  I am also proud of the relationships we’ve built along the way.

What are your superpowers?

I think my superpower is empathy.  I can really, really feel. 

What is your favorite part of the day?

Early mornings when the sun is rising.  It’s a fresh start for new ideas and energy. 

What question are you most frequently asked about owning your own business?

Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask how we successfully established a business.

What advice do you have for people who are starting their own business?

Take time to do the hard work and make sure ego isn’t playing a role in your decisions.  It isn’t easy, you will sacrifice something, not forever but for a while (time, travel, and finances to name a few). Know what you want your business to be (mission statement) and remind yourself daily of why you are doing what you do.  Revisit and reevaluate your purpose so you stay focused and motivated.