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:


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

Seizing, Ricing and Accelerating; Soapmakers in Crisis

Seizing, ricing and accelerating.  If you’re not a soapmaker or are a beginner, you’re confused.  If  you are a soapmaker, you’re probably recalling your nightmares. . . um. . . experiences, with each.  Few soapmakers survive their years without encountering any or all of them, causing instant crisis mode behaviors.  All three phenomena are caused by fragrance, and are caused by either fragrance or essential oils, but are most common with spice and floral scents.


Here’s the scoop:


Seizing:  aptly named, seizing takes place after adding fragrance to the soap.  It suddenly turns from a lovely, traced liquid to a hard block of Incredible Hulk-like material.  It seizes up and refuses to budge, hence the alternate term, “Soap on a Stick.”  Yes, I am exaggerating, but when it happens to you, it doesn’t seem that way.  Can anything be done to save the batch?  The best course of action seems to be adding cold water and stirring like crazy.  Pummel it into the mold as soon as possible.  After an episode like this, you will look as though you have just wrestled an alligator.  Consider this a win.


Ricing:  This sweet little phenomenon is a little better than seizing.  Upon adding fragrance oil, the mixture creates little rice-like bits in the mixture.  Unless you’re aiming for an attractive rice pattern, you’ll want to know how to counteract this one.  If you are surprised by the ricing, as in you had no prior knowledge of the possibility, stick blend like a mad person until you can mold your soap.  It may work.  If you know ahead of time that this fragrance will rice, then hold out a small amount of your soaping oils, warm them, and add the fragrance to these oils before adding to the soap.  Do not use a water discount with a fragrance that rices.


Accelerating:  Like a teenaged boy with the family car for the first time alone, upon adding an accelerating fragrance, the soap will speed up trace as if you floored the gas pedal, meaning you may have pudding or even mashed potatoes within seconds.  This makes fancy coloring, swirls, and anything artistic almost impossible.  Again, it is caused by fragrance.  You may find that adding cold water helps when it happens, but mostly, you just want to get that puppy into the mold.  Yes, you may add color, but taking a long time to make many colors and fancy designs that require pourable soap is out of the question.  This is when I personally resort to the “Glop Swirl,” slapping spoonfuls of soap into the mold.  This should only be done in a safe spot where no one or no thing will be hurt by flying, unsaponified soap.  Try the ricing remedies and be ready to work fast when you know a scent accelerates.


Soapmaking, not for the faint of heart!  If you have other remedies, please share them with us.


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


Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Is it Natural?

“Is it natural?”  If you make soap or body products, you’ve probably been asked this question numerous times.  How do you answer?  


This question is much more difficult than people often realize.  The average consumer is used to seeing the term, “natural,” several times each day, and seldom knows how to determine whether the product is truly natural or not.  In fact, they most often take it for granted that the natural product they’re buying is indeed, natural.


Those of us in the industry take a harder look at the issue, but may come away as confused as the average consumer.


Why is this?  It’s a simple answer to a difficult concept.  We have in the USA, no formal, uniform definition for the term, “natural,” where it applies to soap and body products.  Therefore, companies are in full compliance with FDA regulations when they call their products natural, no matter what is in them.  Yes, you read that right.  You may be appalled at what you suppose to be an oversight of government, but actually defining natural is harder than it appears on the surface.  Sure, we all think we know what natural is.  We may be hard-pressed to define it, but we have a “know it when we see it” idea of natural–except that it’s not that simple.


For instance, seeing dimethicone on an ingredient label, most of us would agree that it isn’t a natural ingredient.  Nevertheless, it began as a silica and is mixed with oxygen, carbon and hydrogen to get dimethicone.  If it is made from natural ingredients (albeit not plant-based), is it natural?


Let’s take a look at di-propylene glycol.  It began as crude oil, which is natural, but through many processes, becomes a clear, odorless liquid which is listed as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) and is used by the food industry?  Is it natural?


 You  might use cornstarch or its more processed cousin, modified corn starch or modified tapioca starch.  Some consider cornstarch to be natural, but not modified cornstarch; however, good old cornstarch is a processed product.  Are either of them natural?


How about fractionated coconut oil?  Some consider it natural, while others do not, citing the processing necessary to separate the long chain fatty acids from the short ones.  What’s your opinion?


Some believe that even essential oils are not natural, due to the efforts involved to distill or otherwise obtain the essence of the plant.


Confused?  The subject is confusing, for sure. Given the complexities, which I believe shall prove to be more common as science and cosmetics develop, discerning natural will only become more difficult.


It is true that a few organizations for natural products do exist and that they have set down standards to which their members adhere, but the organizations are entirely voluntary and hold no power of regulation.  You may even find, if you were search them out and read their standards, that you may or may not agree with them.

So, what is natural?  I think I’ll leave that to you to decide!


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


Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Creating Your Signature Soap

Creating your own soap formulas; does the very thought appall you or does it excite you?  Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “I do that all the time.”  or “Been there, done that.  I worked and tweaked and found my own formula a long time ago.”  


If you identify with the former, read on.  If it’s the latter, well, read on to see if  you agree.


My opinion is that every soapmaker should eventually develop her own formula(s).  It’s fine to start out with a well-designed, simple formula, but somewhere along the line, she should become curious about other oils and percentages and manipulating them to create a signature soap that she loves.  Yes, some of us get a bit carried away with this concept and never stop tweaking, but that’s another story for another day.


I’ve known soapmakers who enjoy the experimentation part more than any other component of soapmaking.  I’ve also known a few who found a recipe in a magazine twenty years ago and have used that formula since and that one only.  I suppose that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s a good formula, but you’ll be a more knowledgeable soaper if you step out of your comfort zone and learn more about various oils and methods by doing some research and experimentation.


If you’re a brand new soapmaker, by all means, get a good formula, follow the directions, and make soap (after after putting your formula through a lye calculator).  If your first batch turns out well, it will encourage you to keep going.


Once you become more familiar with making soap, study various oils to learn more about what they have to offer soap.  Some oils produce lather, some harden the bar and others are skin conditioning.  A balanced bar will include good percentage of each.  From there, you’ll probably look for formulas for specialty soaps, such as facial bars and mechanics soap.  That’s where knowing your oils will come in handy and will save you valuable time and supplies in formulating those bars.


After some time and trials, you’ll consider yourself a knowledgeable soapmaker.  You’ll realize how little you knew at the beginning, and even though your soap was good then, you’re just so much smarter now!


Have you created your own formulas yet?  Are you fearful of doing so, or have you enjoyed the process?  Share with us what you’ve learned.


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


Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

How Will Your Personality Type Affect Your Business?

It’s January.  A new year is upon us, full of hope for the future.  It’s time to let go of any failures, mistakes or bad attitudes of 2012 and spend 2013 pursuing our dreams.


It sounds good, doesn’t it?  We can let go of time wasted, attempts that we aborted and opportunities we let slip through our fingers.  Depending upon how you tend to look upon the world, it may or may not be true.  So, how does your personality affect your business?


If you’re a glass half full person, you’re probably charging your way down January’s road with glee and with the proverbial stars in your eyes.  You quickly forget problems of the past year or are able to chalk them up to experience as you make new plans to rule the soap/candle/bath & body world.  We’ll call you Olga the Optimist.


On the other hand, if you’re a glass half empty type, you may be feeling a bit depressed, unable to let go of  how this last year wasn’t what you wanted.  You realize all too well your faults–you’re too shy, not motivated enough, a poor sales person, your products aren’t quite as beautiful as the next person’s, you hate bookkeeping; they all haunt every potential plan.   You’re destined to repeat 2013, no matter how well others think you did.  We’ll call you Paula the Pessimist.


If you’re a realist, thinking about how the glass is both half full and half empty, you know that things can be very, very good or very, very bad, or anywhere in between.  You tend to set realistic goals and make contingency plans.  You don’t reach for the sky, but you’re not hiding in a corner, either.  You know that hard work and perseverance will get you to a certain place.  Your moniker is Roy the Realist.


People think that Olga the Optimist will go far, and indeed, it’s often true.  She is able to let go of past mistakes and continue on.  Nevertheless, her enthusiasm at times gets in the way of good sense, and her ability to forget compounds her mistakes because she doesn’t always learn from them.


Paula the Pessimist I liken to Eeyore, the donkey of Winnie the Pooh fame.  Eeyore types always remember the bad and never think things will work out well.  On the plus side, they see the pitfalls ahead and are very good at planning, often with some coaxing from a more optimistic person.


It would seem that being like Roy is best because he or she is, well, realistic.  However, this type of person usually doesn’t reach as far as the optimist would and is in danger of not accomplishing all the he could in his endeavors.  Not that there is anything wrong with being realistic, but a little dreaming is good, too.


You know what comes next–which one are you?  More importantly, is there any help for the negative parts of our personalities?


My answer is yes, of course!  Knowing yourself, the good parts as well as the not-so-good parts, is key to success.  You can teach yourself to hold back, to push forward, or to overcome other obstacles you face.  You can partner up with someone as a mentor who will compliment your personality and help where you are lacking.  You do possess what it takes to dream and make your dreams come true.


It’s January.  Go get ‘em!


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


Beth  for the Saponifier.

It’s Scentsational!

Have you been too busy with after-holiday chores to sit down with your newest edition of the Saponifier?  Well, do as I did.  Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down for a bit to rest and rejuvenate for 2013.  


This issue (January/February 2013) is a particularly enjoyable one because it’s all about scent, and few topics interest soap and candle junkies as scent does.  From the lovely cover photograph that sets the tone to Aaron Polczynski’s advice on selling more of your wonderful, scented creations in, Tips for Soap Sales at any Venue, to a cupcake tutorial (and don’t we love the smell of cupcakes?) authored by Loyce Henderson, you’ll be treated with a great read.  Of course, since you’re this far in, you’d might as well also read, Tammy Lane’s, Holidays You’re Going to Love.  It will help you plan ideas for producing and uniquely marketing all of those wonderful items you can give or sell  this new year.


If you’re building a line of scents and are looking for advice, be sure to read, Creating a Scentsational Line by Beth Byrne.  She interviewed Jo Lasky, who is a treasure trove for all things scent and most generously shared some of her knowledge with us!


If you’re a soap history buff, you’ll devour Melinda Coss’, Savoir Faire, where she describes the history of soapmaking in France, as well as explaining the current situation that soapmakers face there.


What scent could be more wonderful than the scent of herbs?  If you’re hankering to begin an herb garden this year, let Wayne Gorman help in his article, Herb Gardening 101.  


Isn’t this the perfect time for trying new formulations in body butters?  Marla Bosworth treats us to formulas and instructions for, Winter Comfort:  Slip Into Rich Cocoa and Vanilla Body Butters.  Mmm. . . I can smell them already!  This is also the best time of year, at least in my hemisphere, for enjoying candles.  You’ll find Lyschel Bersch’s Testing for Wick Size in Candles to be informative and helpful.


When it comes to narrowing down a scent line, you’ll enjoy Victoria Donaldson’s survey of friends and  family in, Because it Smells Good!  Armed with the most popular scents of our 2012 Raves for Faves article, Victoria describes how various individuals decided upon their favorites and why.


Other than making all of the goodies, what could be a better way to spend a little time than reading about them?


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


Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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