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Bath Devotees Have a Leader in Kogut

Either you're a bath person or you're not. There's really no in between.

NEW YORK — Either you’re a bath person or you’re not. There’s really no in between.

It’s this strong personal cleansing preference that Karen Kogut, a devout bath-taker, believes will push her new Web site, Bathsplendor.com, to success with the bathing crowd.

“It was so clear to me,” she said of her vision last October to create a Web site devoted to offering bath products. “I love taking baths. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I make a business out of it?'”

Bathsplendor.com was launched July 15 and offers more than 400 bath items from 20 brands such as Lady Primrose’s, Thymes, Farmaesthetics and Davies Gate. The site also offers candles, CDs and men’s bath items by Anthony Logistics.

In just three weeks, Kogut has processed nearly 30 sales, and has received almost 2,000 visits as a result of a mass e-mailing to 250 friends, family and former colleagues. Bestsellers so far are fruit-flavored items from Hot Roxy, Jane Inc. and Me Bath. Kogut estimates that first-year sales of Bathsplendor.com could near $150,000. So far, her average sale is $66, up from her original estimate of $50.

The self-described “huge resource-finding person” spent a month following her vision for starting Bathsplendor.com creating a milestone chart with lists of all the things she needed to do to launch her Web site.

“That kept me on track,” she said. Among her homework assignments were attending a search engine conference and meeting with business consultants and small business organizations. She also spent six weeks on the Internet and in the library looking at market trends and demographics.

Her findings showed how hot the spa, wellness, aromatherapy and natural and organics arenas are. She anticipates most of her customers won’t have kids, will be college educated and earn more than $40,000 a year.

A six-week stint at a local Lush beauty store helped her learn traffic patterns, too.

“I worked 40 hours a week with college students!” said Kogut, who is 47.

To make the site navigable, Bathsplendor.com offers four sections so users can choose how to shop, either by skin type, fragrance, brand or product type. Prices range from $3.50 for a nylon puff to $178 for a gift set from Lady Primrose’s, which includes a crystal tray and powder brush. Prior to the launch of Bathsplendor.com, Kogut spent 12 years in the retail business, working with department stores such as Sanger-Harris (now Foley’s). She tapped into her creative side when she left retail to earn a degree in interior design. She later joined The Four Seasons Hotel chain, where she helped create interiors for its Cairo property, among others.

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The Austin, Tex., native has set up shop at home, which is now in Chicago, and she is surrounded by bath products morning, noon and night. In line with her attention to detail, Kogut custom wraps each order in reusable purple polkadot fabric, purple bubble wrap, purple paper shreds and a purple shipping box.

“Part of your experience is when you receive the box,” Kogut explained.

All of the brands Kogut offers are American-made and are items she loves. But she won’t stock items by companies that slack in the customer service department.

“If they sent me [samples] in cheap brown paper, I am not using them,” Kogut said, adding that she’s turned more than one bath company away due to their less-than-stellar presentation and customer service.