Island Blu Studio has been a bath and body company for 3 exciting months. Trust me, we have loved every minute of it. However, our passion for our products and customers started years ago under a slightly different name. Some of you may remember us as Suny Island Blu. And if you do, thanks for sticking with us! For those of you who don’t, let me take you back to the summer of 2012 where our journey really began.
In June of 2012, Suny (my mom) was laid off from her accounting position with the American Red Cross due to budget cuts across the company. If you know my mom personally, then you understand just how free-spirited she is. There was no way she was going to work for someone else again.
It wasn’t until she stared at her overflowing shelves of bath products that she realized the potential for a business. As someone who is a true beach bum, Suny was always reaching for the tropical scented bath products, specifically anything coconut. Unfortunately, most companies only sell tropical scents during the summer months. Suny couldn’t be the only person in the world who needs year-round tropical scents, right?
And so the idea for Suny Island Blu was born. My mom and I (Caitlyn) held a yard sale in our small neighborhood in southern Indiana in the hopes of obtaining start-up money for a soap business. I, at the ripe old age of 13, was roped into the business and soap world.
With $200 in start-up money, we started an Etsy shop of bright, tropical scented soap. We had no business knowledge, photography skills, or SEO capabilities to start, but we certainly didn’t lack the drive. Suny learned absolutely everything she could about all aspects of Etsy, soap-making, and running a business through late nights of research, webinars, and books. When I say she is the heart and soul of this company, I mean it.
Being in school and marching band at the time, my free time was limited, but I spent it all helping my mom with the business. Sometimes I was making soap, other times I would be labeling bottles. As the business grew, I got to take on extra responsibilities like packaging orders, designing products, and testing scents.
Each year, Suny Island Blu doubled in profits and customer base. We had made a name for ourselves in the soap industry, with features in Handmade Magazine, a large social media following, and our products sold in storefronts across the country.
In 2016, four years after opening, my mom’s husband was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and given two years to live. At this point, our family had grown to 7 including my sister and me, and 3 little boys. The news was unexpected and devastating.
But Suny Island Blu, which became the sole income of our family, continued to push through. In the fall of 2016, I moved to Indianapolis, IN to attend college. My mom was left to run the business, care for her husband, and watch three young boys.
At that point, the love for the business, products, and customers was just not enough to keep it running. In early 2018, Suny Island Blu shut its doors. Suny just couldn’t juggle caring for her family and husband full time while working on the business alone. All of our equipment was sold off to other soapers and our remaining products were discounted simply to get rid of stock. The decision to close was not made lightly, but it sadly had to be made.
A few months later, my stepdad passed soundly in our home. It was the middle of my junior year in college.
Flash forward to the summer of 2019, I graduated with a Bachelor's in English and a Certificate in PR. My mom had since moved her now 4 young boys to a small home in Louisville, KY. After debating on my next move post-graduation, I settled on a job just 20 minutes away from my family. I packed up my cat and settled into my new apartment in Louisville, frequently coming to visit my mom and brothers whenever possible.
My job was fine; my cat was fed, I was getting promotions and pay-raises every 3 months, and I generally enjoyed myself. But there was just something missing. After helping to run your own business for years, working for someone else was simply not something I enjoyed. Like my mom, I craved the independence that came from owning a business. And to be honest, I really missed our products.
In the Spring of 2020, I got a text from my mom asking if I missed the business. Of course, I did. After late-night brainstorming sessions over tacos and margaritas (that’s where the best ideas come from), we decided to do something a little crazy and start Island Blu Studio. This time, Suny and I would be partners, co-owners, founders, and boss babes.
After two years out of the game, we had to re-learn a lot of the industry. But we were determined to come back stronger than before. This time, we were armored with the knowledge gained from Suny Island Blu, a few college degrees, and 4 sets of little helping hands.
My mom and I are rebuilding our business once again from the ground up. The name is a little different, but the products are the same recipes you know and love. After years of formulating bath products that really work, Suny refused to give up her recipes to anyone, even after we had closed. And maybe that was the universe’s way of telling her that we would be coming back.
As a company and family, we have faced a lot of hurdles. But we kicked ass to make our products the best they can be for our customers. Now Suny and I are ready for whatever the soap industry throws our way.
We are excited about the future of Island Blu Studio and hope that you are too. Thank you for continuing to believe in us.