The Soapmaker’s Sweet Spot

What kind of soapmaker are you?  Do you plan out your offerings far in advance?  Do you spend time developing intricate designs and precise colors?  Or, do you make soap as the spirit moves you?  Do you prefer soap with simpler colors and patterns, either because you’re not the fancy kind or to speed production?

 

A more important question to consider is whether it’s important or not to plan far ahead, to make artistically designed soaps, to be a free spirit or to keep it simple.

 

The answer, of course is, it depends–on a number of factors.

 

For some of soapmakers, simply making soap is the satisfaction, be it fancy or simple, unusually shaped or rectangle, scented or not, it doesn’t matter.  The magic of combining the alkali and oils and getting lovely soap is a reward unto itself.  For others, the design part of making soap is a large part of the attraction.  Artistic souls are moved by the possibilities of making patterns in striking color combinations and it keeps them going.

 

As for planning, well, planners know whom they are and free-spirits know whom they are!  For some, planning is painful and stifles creativity, so they make what they want when the spirit moves them.  Others find that careful planning  is the only way to get soap made and made well.

 

So then, should we all be striving for the same outcome?  Absolutely not!

 

If you’re selling soap, you realize that all things about your nature must be tempered by business demands.  It’s a simple fact that you cannot run a successful business without a good degree of planning, regardless of whether you enjoy it or not.  You also realize that you need to produce soap as quickly and as efficiently as possible in order to maximize time and thus, profits.  This realization usually forces us to streamline our creativity into something that we can do easily and can reasonably replicate.  Hobbyists, on the other hand, you have the freedom to spend as much time as you like to develop your skills and put your artistic abilities to work.

 

Even so, I hope that each soapmaker finds his or her “sweet spot.”  Gorgeous or utilitarian, rectangular or round, full of additives or not, well-planned or by-the-seat-of-your-pants, all have a place and a purpose.  Finding your purpose and working with your personality is the key to success, however you define it.  The Saponifier’s goal is to open you up to the possibilities to help you on your way.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles & wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

 

PS – Subscribers, watch your inbox today for the 15th anniversary issue!  If you’re not a subscriber, quick!  You have a little time to make sure you get in on the fun:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

We Can’t Wait!

We’re so excited about this upcoming issue of the Saponifier!  Due to be released on July 1st, it is our 15th anniversary edition.  To celebrate, we wanted this one to be beautiful, fun and full of design ideas for making cold process soap.  We affectionately call it, “DesignMania.”  Some of the best in the biz are showing off their design tutorials, along with plenty of photos so that you can learn these techniques to try on your own.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

 

What?  You’re not a subscriber?  You can fix that, you know!  Readers worldwide subscribe to the Saponifier since it’s a digital publication–no shipping to worry about.  You have your magazine right at your fingertips with just a download.  Couldn’t be easier.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, follow this link:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

As always, we also feature helpful columnists who teach you, inform you and otherwise help you as a soapmaker, bath & body maker and candle maker.  Melinda Coss is teaching us about balancing design with business, and Marla Bosworth instructs us on writing a business plan.  Yours Truly regaled you with a review of the amazing HSCG conference in Raleigh, NC.  But we also have two new writers.  Sue Finley, our Potpourri column writer and Debbie Sturdevant, our resident herbal expert, who will be sharing with us through her column,  Herbal Wisdom.  Sue is writing about inspiration in soap design and Debbie is revisiting an old favorite, Calendula.  She’s even included a couple of her favorite recipes!

 

Share the fun with us on July 1st.  You know you want to!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – Soap designs just beg for a contest.  Stay tuned.  :-)

Oh, Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer!

Proms are taking place–graduation ceremonies, too.  The school year is near or at its end and those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are almost upon us in the Northern Hemisphere.  Soon, we’ll be sleeping in, taking picnics and lying in our hammocks with a cold beverage at our sides.

 

I can hear you now.  “Lazy?  I don’t think so!”  I know and I agree.  Still, you must admit that it sounded good for awhile, didn’t it?  Ever since I became an adult I wondered who was enjoying those lazy, hazy days, because it wasn’t me!  Crazy yes; lazy and hazy, not so much.  In fact, this time of year is probably second only to Christmas holiday season for many of us, especially if we are gearing up for or already selling at  summer festivals.  We’re more likely making product at a hectic pace than we are lying in a hammock. (Naturally, you will want to take some time to soak in the newest edition of the Saponifier, and read up on everything moisturizing!)

 

Even so, it’s exciting to get ready for the summer sales season (say that three times fast), whether you have a brick-and-mortar shop in a resort town, you sell at the many festivals taking place or you wholesale to stores.  You have the opportunity to critique yourself this season, as well.  Are you focusing on your business plan?  Is your product line popular and pared to the best products?  Is your display as attractive as it should be?  Are you charging appropriately for your costs?  If you find yourself perfectly on target, it’s time for a pat on the back and a nudge to keep on going.  If not, watch for what you need to change and get your plan in place.

 

I don’t think I can give you any tips that will promise you that lazy summer, but if it’s going to be crazy, it might as well be a good and profitable crazy!

 

Welcome to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

 

Until next time, may your days be full of bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

The Mom Market

It’s no surprise that since Mother’s Day is upon us, that my mind is on mothers.  Mothers come in all sizes and shapes.  They come in all types of personalities, as well.  Some are new, others are more experienced.  And yes, some are better at their jobs than others.  By and large, however, they love their children deeply and unconditionally.  They are their greatest source of satisfaction and joy, and admittedly, confusion and concern.  It comes with the territory.

 

How many of us owe our core businesses to moms?  I don’t mean by what our own moms taught us, although that is a good thing to acknowledge and appreciate, but our target market.  If most of your customers are women, you may very well be marketing to mothers, and you’re likely wooing them by offering their favorite scents, colors and the products they use most.  If this is true for you, how do you market to them?  How do you find them and how do you keep them as customers?  We know that moms are busy, so we need fresh ideas and tactics to reach their attention quickly and effectively.  Of course, your product selection and appearance are paramount to catching their attention.  Beyond that, what do you consider important?  Deciding which kind of mom you’re catering to will help guide you.  If you offer vegan products, you’re looking for a certain kind of mom–a “granola” mom who appreciates and seeks your offerings.  Others may be looking for organic moms or fashionista moms or moms in search of younger looking skin.  For every type of mom, a soap, bath and body or candle maker exists.  You just have to choose your kind of mom, develop your product line around her, and help her to find you.  Once she does, provide a quality product and service, and you’ll have a long-term customer.

 

Indeed, one of the things I like best about my job is knowing that I am supplying a mom with something to make her day more pleasant and a product that she feels good about using.  I like thinking that my products make her feel pampered and pretty or well taken care of.

 

What about  you?  What kind of mom do you market to?  What makes it worth the effort to you?

 

If you’re a hobbyist, you aren’t worried about marketing, but you probably make products to please others in your lives, such as relatives and teachers.  Whom do you create for?

 

Don’t forget to treat your mom on Sunday if you’re blessed to have her!  If you are a mom, let your family spoil you a little bit and take the day off.  Happy Mothers’ Day!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – if you’re attending the HSCG Conference next week, I’d love to meet you!

March/April 2013 in Review

“Life is so much more complicated these days what with all the new technology to keep up with,” my mother recently stated.  And truth be known, she doesn’t keep up.  Still, she was voicing what many of us feel from time to time, that learning new technology seems complicated and we wonder if it really saves time, money or effort.

In reading Cindy Noble’s article, Digital Library Essentials, in the March-April 2013 edition of the Saponifier, it’s easy to see that going digital can save time, money and effort.  We have so many more resources at our fingertips now, and even digital books are also less expensive than traditional books, not to mention the fact that they won’t fill bookshelf after bookshelf in our homes!  I remember not all that long ago having to make a point of going to the library to look things up that I wanted to know about.  If I wanted to buy a book, I had to either make a trip to a bookstore or send for a catalog, pick out my books, and send the order form and check back in and then wait for a couple of weeks for the books to arrive.  Yes, we are saving time and money when we use our technology efficiently.  Incidentally, Cindy suggestions for books to help you along in your business are outstanding.  If you haven’t read her article yet, you’ll want to.

Are you contemplating selling out of the country?  Tamara Dourney’sUnderstanding ISO Compliance is a must-read to help you get your business ready for new horizons and markets.  Of course, in order to sell, we also need good product photos.  You could hire a professional, and that isn’t a bad idea, but may be out of your current budget.  Tamara’s, Product Photography Revisited will inspire you to improve your photography.

If you’re selling products, you need to know about POS.  You don’t think you have one?  You do!  Quite simply, POS stands for, “point of sale,” and refers to the way you take funds from a customer, whether a cash box at the farmer’s market or a credit card.  Of course, it’s credit cards that have us scratching our heads, wondering if we can afford  to accept them or afford not to accept them and then which one to choose.  It’s a difficult maze, for sure, but Beth Byrne will make it easier for you if you read, POS and the Chandler.  She attempts to take some of the mystery out of determining which credit card company to use.

Should I Quit My Day Job?  Not only the title of Melinda Coss’ article, but a common question for entrepreneurs, it is puzzling to many of us who seek to make our businesses a full-time venture.  We can never be reminded enough of the importance of good, realistic planning in making a successful business.  Be sure to read Melinda’s article and take her advice to heart.

We are living in a time where natural is the buzz word.  If you offer natural products, your customers will be determining–with varying degrees of discernment, just how truthful your statements about your goods are.  If you purchase natural products or ingredients yourself, you are asking the same thing.  Helping you to do that is Tammy Lane in, Sifting Through the Hype.

If you’re a business owner, then you are likely thinking often about how you can get your margins up and your costs down.  To give you some practical advice on increasing your margins without necessarily increasing your prices, Marla Bosworth gives us, Work Smarter, Not Harder–Are Your Margins High Enough?  

Lest you think this issue is only about business, take a look at the fine articles that  Katherine Forrest, Victoria Donaldson and Elizabeth Sockol provided for our reading pleasure.  Katherine shares tips for making beeswax candles, while Victoria teaches us how to make a basic soap mold in just fifteen minutes.  Elizabeth informs us about the common Safflower.  How much do you know about it?  If you’ve read the article, we think you know quite a bit.

Last but certainly not least, pour over the photos in our Readers Showcase Gallery.  Every issues offers a feast for the eyes and inspiration from our subscribers.  Thanks to Fisika, Nancy Reid of Nature’s Soap and Mountain Farm’s soap.  If you’re looking for soap events, be sure to check out our Events page.

What?  You’re not yet a subscriber?  You can fix that!  Just click on this link:  https://saponifier.wufoo.com/forms/subscribe-or-renew/

 

Finally, if you have comments or questions, please feel free to comment here or to ask questions on our Twitter or Facebook pages.  We’d love to hear from you.

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Too Much Opportunity; Is it Possible?

Many of our readers sell their soap, bath and body and candle creations. Quite a few of those who don’t are thinking about doing so, while some are former sellers.

 

Looking back in time, it seems as if selling used to be easier “back in the day” than it is now. A merchant either set up shop in a building, which was often part of the family’s home or he sold via catalogs. Nowadays, we not only have those options, but we also have websites and all sorts of social media. We have the opportunity to put our product out there for a greater number of potential customers to see and see them more often. We develop websites, get Facebook fan pages, get Twitter accounts and join selling sites such as Etsy and Artfire. Each of these choices hold the possibility of providing the seller a cash stream.

This must be a great thing, right? Is it really easier than the old days? Certainly, we see advantages to all this exposure, not the least of which is cost. We can post pictures and information on Facebook all day long without its costing a cent. We can put links to our Facebook comments or add new ones on Twitter for the same low price. Etsy and Artfire, etc., cost money to use, but this cost is much more reasonable than renting a storefront, so their popularity has boomed. Even a website is possible on the cheap if we have the skill or are willing to learn how to make one.

 

So, what’s the possible downside of all the options we have? Perhaps it’s that we have too many. With all of our choices, we can become bogged down. The time spent researching our options, preparing websites, pages, maintaining them and so on, eats up much of our days, and sellers are in danger of spreading themselves too thin.

 

I don’t have any glib answers to the modern day dilemma of too much opportunity, but I do have some common sense advice. Nothing has or ever will replace goal setting and planning. Know your mark and aim for it daily, reviewing as often as necessary. Do the necessary research for new opportunities, objectively deciding whether or not they will help you meet your goals or not. If not, keep walking.

 

How do you keep your head out of the mire and on track? Give us your best advice.

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier Magazine

Are you a Producer or a Processor?

Our personalities vary greatly from one of us to the other, and they extend themselves to our soap, body products and candles.  Even so, it seems to me that we are one of two types:  Producers or Processors.  

 

Producers get their enjoyment out of producing their product.   They do not feel the need to try each ingredient under the sun, nor every product that can be made.  They find a formula and stick with it.  If it’s good, it’s good enough.  Their satisfaction comes in getting that large order out the door, and they don’t mind doing it over and over again.

 

Processors, on the other hand, get their joy and satisfaction from the R&D (research and development) part of the experience.  They are constantly tweaking formulas and trying new things.  If they hear about a new product, they want to try it, and only money and lack of space keep them from buying everything they see.    They live for the experience of creating.

 

 It’s not hard to see then, what challenges face each  type of artisan.  The Producer finds it easier to narrow down products and scents to a manageable number and disciplines herself to stick with the plan.  The daily production tasks are an agreeable challenge that she takes great joy in.  Nevertheless, the Producer may rush into manufacturing a product without thoroughly testing how it performs or knowing whether it is a product her customers will prefer.

 

Conversely, the Processor may take a long time to get a product to market or standardizing his formula, but once he does, it will be a fantastic, well thought-out product.  The Processor is also likely to find time constraints a challenge, and he may get bored of producing the same products over and over until the entire business becomes  more of a grind and less of a joy.

 

Does this mean that one or the other is not suited for business?  Not at all.  Where this insight helps us is in learning to cope with our shortcomings and in capitalizing on our strengths.

 

If you are a Producer, realize that you will get things done, but may need to force  yourself  to curb your enthusiasm to finish and sit down and analyze your formulas, encourage your own creativity and make a plan to test out products.

 

If  you are a Processor, be sure to plan your schedule and business goals with checkpoints so that you don’t get lost in your work.  Give yourself some leeway for creating something different so that you don’t become bored.  Even varying your production schedule may help keep you satisfied.

 

If you get help, choose someone who has skills and a temperament contrary to yours.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but it will keep you on your toes. How much help you need depends upon each person and the situation; however, being honest with yourself about our needs will lead to greater success and satisfaction.

 

Can you identify yourself in these descriptions?  How do you cope and use your personality to best advantage?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Soap: Something to Brag About

Hand sanitizer, soap, anti-bacterial cleanser, which one cleans best? Do you ever feel that your soap might be a little too easy on germs or do potential customers go elsewhere because you don’t offer a soap with an anti-bacterial?

 

Good news! In a recent study sponsored by ABC news, all of the above products were tested as to efficacy, and regular soap ranked right up there with hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap. In fact, soap ranked better than alcohol-based sanitizer. Furthermore, since the FDA has come out advising consumers not to use anti-bacterial soap because it assists in creating microbes that are increasingly immune to agents used to kill them, soapmakers truly have a product to gloat about. Now we have evidence.

 

Notice, however, that soap does not kill microbes, but rinses them off the skin and down the drain. The cleansing action of soap is sufficient cleansing. Please do not claim that your soap kills germs! This classes your product as a drug and is therefore subject to the FDA’s drug regulations. Other countries have regulations in place governing their products, as well.

 

To see the whole story, follow this link: http://news.yahoo.com/video/abc-hand-sanitizers-soaps-put-080000846.html

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Candle Musing

I love a winter’s evening when it’s cozy inside and I have a candle or tart burning, a sharp contrast to the wind and snow outside my window.

 The scent, whichever one I’ve chosen, is delightful. Whether it reminds me of my mother’s baking, a sophisticated perfume or even a floral that reminds me that spring will come, the aroma evokes a positive feeling.  And who doesn’t love the mesmerizing glow of fire?  I admit nevertheless, that my candle burning is mostly relegated to votives and tarts.  This leads me to wonder if I am part of the majority or whether my candle desires are just simple compared to others’.

 

I do see container candles frequently, and at craft shows I enjoy those amazing candles that look like dessert.  You know, the candles that look like apple pie or pie ala mode or even banana splits.  They fill booths with their delicious splendor and aromatic attributes that cause one’s mouth to water.  And yet, I burn votives.

 

Speaking of scent,  I remember several years ago, being told that candles could not be made with essential oils; but more recently, I’ve seen many essential oil candles.  Apparently, it is possible, although I’m certain that not all essential oils perform well in candles.

 

Candlemakers, it’s time to join the conversation.  What kinds of candles do you make?  If you sell them, which types are most popular?  Are essential oil candles and tarts a popular choice?

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

                                                   William Shakespeare,
Romeo and Juliet

What’s in a name?  If we take the fictional Juliet at her word, we might think, “not much.”  The reality, however, is much different.  Yes, your rose scented candle or soap smells the same no matter which moniker you attach to it;  but, in marketing the scent, you might want to take it a step further and create a name for your rose scent that evokes the imagination in a way that plain, old “rose” cannot.  For example, Dewy Rose, Ramblin’ Rose or Rose Cascade, say something more, something that triggers the imagination to become fully engaged with the scent.  By mere mention, the customer pictures roses at dawn before the dew dries off, or a strong-scented wild rose happily tumbling through the field with its wide open, simple flowers, or even a heavily blooming climbing rose bush, delighting both the eyes and the nose as it appears to flow down its peak.

If your scent lacks a strong single, natural note, you have even more room to play.  Close your eyes and  take a little sniff.  Let your mind wander and explore as it searches for a description of what you are smelling.  Does it remind you of a certain time of day or place?  Do you recall the scent somewhere in your past?  Do you see colors?  Are you transported to another season?  What kind of person do you feel would be attracted to this scent?  Any of these will provide you with material for choosing a name.

Conversely, perhaps this scent is indicative of a time period or a particular culture.  Do a little research and be open to names that pop out as you read.  Medieval Castle or Savannah Breeze may be your newest scent name.

Of course, clever naming isn’t relegated to scent, but to product, as well.  You’ll want to be clear in your name what your product is, but you do have some poetic leeway for making the name unique and appealing.  Why sell lip balm in a pot when you can sell lip butter?  Lotion is great, but body cream may be more attractive to certain customers.

You might even go totally off convention and choose a name that you have made up.  As long as it’s simple enough and pronounceable, it may be just the thing to get customers talking.  It worked for George Eastman and Kodak; it may work for you!

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth, for the Saponifier

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