When Emilie Davidson Hoyt started Lather Inc., she was the company's sole employee, working out of her apartment. Three years later, Davidson Hoyt, 27, is selling her line of bath and beauty products on the Internet, by mail and out of a Lather store on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. She plans to open a second store this year in the Hollywood & Highland development. Staff reporter Claudia Peschiutta talked with Davidson Hoyt about the challenges of running a small company.

"I've always had a passion for this for soaps and aroma therapy. I used to have migraines as a child, horrible migraines, and simultaneously, my father was a traveling businessman and would bring back soaps from different hotels.

"I had a favorite soap. I can't tell you that it cured my headaches but it gave me comfort and made me feel close to my dad. From that moment on, I just loved soaps.

"I never really thought I could make a career out of it. I wrote a business plan and eventually got private capital, (but) nobody would lease me a space. I had to go against Kenneth Cole for that (Pasadena) spot and it was horrible. I just had to dive in and just hope.

"I would have to meet with all these men and I would have to answer all these questions.

"It's expensive but, luckily, I said, 'Well, I think that we can do this.'

"We opened the doors on Oct. 30, 1999. It went well, it really did.

"It was hard (at first). There were a lot of mistakes. (An employee and I) worked at a warehouse. We didn't have air conditioning. We shared a desk, one desk for two people.

"Starting this past holiday season was our first profit. We weren't doing badly before. We were basically breaking even, but to actually break a profit line is super-fun.

"The hardest thing is managing employees. I started off way too nice. Negotiating and learning how to get good deals, I still struggle with that. It's hard for me to be tough.

"I have learned to be brutally honest and straightforward at all times.

"I always wanted to have more stores, but after the first one was difficult to come by, I didn't know how soon I could do it. (Then) we got a proposal from Hollywood & Highland.

"It's a nice store and it's a nice development and they are being very supportive to Lather.

"The lease is not signed, but I have the lease."

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