As a young child, Kimberly Clayton Thigpen, possessed the entrepreneurial spirit. She and a childhood friend spent afternoons in the yard crafting homemade earrings and necklaces out of tree bark. They would round off the edges and drill holes in the center, eventually selling them to neighbors.
As a young mother, Thigpen spent her early adult years working in the security that corporate America often provides. That is until 2009 when her husbands eczema prompted her to come up with a solution for his frequent flareups. Thigpen recalls the experience vividly saying, “The first time I made soap, I absolutely fell in love with it.” His need for relief from the skin ailment quickly turned into a passion Thigpen now affectionally calls, The Bath Place.
The first three years, Thigpen only made soap for family and friends free of charge. After being encouraged to sell her product, Thigpen ventured into selling her soaps on the weekends at various events and markets as well as building an online clientele. During that time, she expanded her line to include products such as bath salts, lotions, scrubs, lip balms, candles and bath bombs which are all hand crafted & made with “simple good for you ingredients.” In 2012, Thigpen left Corporate America, opened her first store and hasn’t looked back since.
The biggest challenge she faced once The Bath Place opened was “capturing foot traffic. within the community. Her store is located in the Douglas Block in the historic African-American business district of Downtown Rocky Mount, NC. For years, citizens in the area often spent their money in larger cities throughout the state. Thus, it took some time for the community to venture back downtown and patronize the newly revitalized area. Luckily, with a little bit of time, patience and word of mouth, Thigpen beams as she proudly states that she now has “a very loyal customer base” throughout the local community.
Since its opening, The Bath Place has been named Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month and Year. Probably most impressive is the fact that since August of 2014, Thigpen’s products have been sold on the shelves of five North Carolina Whole Foods locations with hopes of expanding to the other seven in the near future. Thigpen recounts, “It wasn’t until I started actively pursuing it that it actually began to happen. I went into the store in the soap section and there was a blank place on the shelf. I took a picture of it and I said oh theres room.” A year and a half later, after visits to various in-store buyers, what started out as a bullet point on her business plan and a placeholder on her vision board had become a reality.
When asked, What has given or will give her the greatest since of accomplishment, Thigpen didn’t say opening her next location, reaching a particular revenue goal or anything self-serving. Her response, “There are a lot of things that I’ve felt good about but what I really want to do is to be able to create jobs in this area. People really want to work.” Being able to “enrich the community” by creating a “permanent living wage” is most important on Thigpen’s to do list.
Her advice to current and future entrepreneurs, “If there’s something that makes you happy and that you feel peaceful about. There’s greater value in that than immediate money. And its not without sacrifice. But if you’re doing what makes you happy, you’ll be peaceful while you’re getting it.” As for the business owners who rarely get a chance to breathe because they are so busy working the dream, Thigpens says “Take yourself out of the worker role and into the ownership role. Don’t be so busy working in the business that you forget to work on the business.”
205 NE Main Street
Rocky Mount, NC 27801