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

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.

What Does 2013 Look Like to You?

 

Hanukkah is over and Christmas is almost here!  By now, if you celebrate, you’re probably checking your lists and making last-minute purchases or creations, decorating your home or attending the season’s festivities.  In all your doing, don’t forget something very important to your business.  You may be thinking, “I know.  I need to get my tax receipts ready,” or,  ”I need to notify my customers that I am taking a vacation,” or even, “I just have a few orders to fill.”  They’re all important, for sure, but not what I’m talking about today.

 

The most important activity you will undertake for your business is a review of 2012 and planning for 2013.  Start with reviewing your business plan.  Does it need revision, or do you simply need to review it so as not to lose sight of your goals?  Next, take a look at  your activities for this past year.  What worked and what didn’t?  What propelled you toward your goals and what made you stray?  Did you find that you fulfilled your plans or did you fail to make them?

 

If, for instance, you find that the small craft shows you did were a financial loss, ask  yourself why.  It may be that this is not the venue for you or that your customers are not there–at least not at the ones you were at.  It may be that your booth needs an overhaul or that you need to work on your sales skills.

 

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to secure wholesale accounts, but have been afraid to take that step.  Now is the time to research the subject so that when you approach a business owner, you will do it with the knowledge and confidence of a seasoned professional, thus providing an attractive product that makes it hard to refuse.

 

You may want to get serious about business by developing a website, a Facebook presence and joining a professional organization.  You’ll need to research, plan and work, which will take time and resources, so good planning is critical.

 

Have you missed the boat once again on holiday products because you didn’t start them early enough?  This is where planning comes in!  Think about how much time you’ll need to get a product ready to roll out and write in on a calender.

 

Of course, planning is essential even to hobby soapers/chandlers.  Doing so will increase your productivity and decrease your last-minute stress, and who doesn’t value that?

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and advice, but be careful whom you ask.  The help of professionals such as accountants and lawyers will be invaluable, as will your customers’ and even others in your field or other small business owners.  Be careful of naysayers, however, who will dissuade you without having the basis to do so or those who haven’t the background to advise you in crucial matters.  Gather up your research, opinions and advice and make your informed decisions.

 

Seriously considering all of these factors will serve you well as you embark on the new year.  Granted, it’s actually a little late if  you haven’t begun already, but better a little late than not at all!

 

What does 2013 look like to you?

 

Wishing happy holidays to all,

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Eureka!

As I was decorating our Christmas tree, I thought about how I’d chosen ribbon, bulbs and other decorations to suit my tastes and my chosen color theme.  To be sure, our tree is no “designer tree,” as I hang any ornament that is given to us or that I make or purchase just because.  I do,  however, try to keep some semblance of order by using like elements that create a tree that looks coordinated, yet pleases my family and me.  Nevertheless, not everybody’s tree is like mine.  Some are country primitive, others are Victorian, and yet others are modern.  Some are even made out of peacock feathers!  I thought back to our family tree as a child and how one year after my whole life of the usual real tree with a motley assortment of decorations and tinsel, my parents bought an artificial tree and Mom decorated it with silk balls and little elves.  She was quite pleased with the looks of her tree and it suited her, although I would have preferred using our old ornaments and the ornaments that had previously belonged to my grandfather.

 

What does this have to do with soap, candles and bath and body,  you ask?  It’s individuality!  We use our creativity and individuality every time we make a batch of soap, candles, shower scrub, whipped body butter, or anything else we do.  Yes, we may carefully copy someone’s else’s formula and directions the first time, but we usually have to try out many variations and tweak them before we hit upon the One That We Love.  Doing the Happy Dance, we feel as if we’ve just reached the peak of Mt. Everest.  We’ve arrived, yes we have.  And that’s the way it should be.  We should go through a learning period; we should have to try different ideas; we should have to tweak.  That’s what makes us unique and our products, proprietary, because we’ve put our heart and soul into their formulation.  Our products don’t look like or perform exactly like someone else’s.

 

Of course, it doesn’t end there.  We still must find out what our customers think.  We have to package and we have to market before we can reap all of the benefits of product development.  Nevertheless, the most satisfaction we get is likely to be that moment when we test our own formulations and find that we’ve created something truly wonderful.  Eureka!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Eight Ways to Sell Your Products

This is the time of year when most of us sell the greatest volume of soap, body products and candles of the entire year.  Moreover, most of us want to capitalize on that and sell the most we possibly can.  We also have many choices for selling our goods.

Farmers markets are popular among vendors and offer several advantages.  They are generally inexpensive and attract a good source of customers who appreciate the natural goodness of soap, candles and body products. They can be an ideal place to begin.

Craft shows run the gamut from inexpensive to expensive, customers who fit your niche to those who don’t; well run and attended to, well, the opposite, they are popular choice for the beginner and experienced, alike.

A number of those in cottage industries sell via consignment shops, where others won’t consider them.  Renting shelf space is sometimes an option, as well, and may be a good option.  A storefront allows the owner to do whatever she desires, but takes capital, inventory and business sense to succeed.

If one is willing to put the effort into a website, she stands to expand her business to virtually anyone, anywhere.  The same is true with internet handcrafted sites such as Etsy and Artfire.  All require, however, fees for listing or selling or monthly costs, as well as the added job of shipping goods.

Finally, some choose wholesale, although it’s usually a choice of those more experienced in selling of course, for several reasons. The requirement to produce in large batches, the tight deadlines in getting product ready, and the ability to negotiate contracts require a skill that most who are new to selling, lack.

How do we like our options, and how do we decide which ones to pursue?  To be honest, it’s often simply a matter of which opportunities fall into our laps.  We use the trial-and-error method until we find those that best fit our products and our needs.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can take some time to find our groove–the choice that works best for us, individually.  Others of us determine our niche and goals and realize from inception of the business which selling venues will best help us reach our business goals.

Which methods do you prefer, and how did you get to where you are?  What is one piece of advice you would give to the hobbyist who is working on turning her hobby into a business?

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

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Wanted: Emulsion Junkies

I admit to being crazy about emulsions, especially as they pertain to soap, lotions and creams.

 

A scientist I am not.  I was never fond of chemistry until I embarked on this soap and stuff adventure a number of years ago.  I actually remember my first lotion emulsion.  Following the directions in The Herbal Home Spa, by Greta Breedlove, I warmed my water with a little borax and in another pan, warmed my oils and beeswax.  I slowly poured the water phase into the oils phase and voila!  I had lotion.  I went on to experiment with other emulsifiers such as lecithin.  Soon, I discovered e-wax and was really on my way in having obtained a stable emulsion.  I experimented with various oils and water amounts and later, with BTMS and other emulsifiers.  It was fun.  To be truthful, I can’t say my mistakes were fun.  The time I forgot the borax that was to accompany my beeswax and I ended up with a separated mess was not fun, but I did learn a valuable lesson about a borax/beeswax emulsion.

 

Later on, I got up the nerve to make cold process soap and again, was fascinated with emulsions.  That combining sodium hydroxide and oils could produce a hard bar of soap was fascinating and I couldn’t get enough.  I still can’t!  When that separating oil and water becomes one at trace, I get a little thrill of wonder and success.  Although I don’t do it often, hot process is just another variation of that process that amazes me with its results.

 

I am writing this because I just know that I am in no way unique.  You likely share a similar story or we would have no need for the Saponifier.  We have our individual differences–you may have begun with soap and then moved to lotions, or you may make only lotion or soap; nevertheless, if you enjoy making one, you’re an emulsion junkie just like me.

 

So, how about it?  Do you declare yourself an emulsion junkie?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Molds: Not Just a Tool, but a Passion!

Soap molds.  They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  Some need to be lined; others don’t.  You’ll find fancy molds and plain jane log or slab molds built with scrap wood in just a few hours.  Molds aren’t just a tool, but a passion!

 

We soapmakers love our molds.  For some of us, a walk through the grocery or hardware store is more of a mold-finding expedition than it is securing food for our families or tackling our next diy project.  Every empty container is eyed as a potential soap mold.  We even have our families trained to save containers that appear to be suitable for soap.  This was especially true for me as a beginner making melt and pour soaps.  I used empty juice cans, plastic packaging and bottoms of soda bottles, to name a few.  In doing so, I also learned what didn’t work.  The plastic packaging had to hold up to hot soap being poured into it and a rigid plastic would be next to impossible to remove soap from.  Yes, every soapmaking session was an adventure in resourcefulness and creativity, and it was fun.

 

This kind of behavior isn’t conducive to production soapmaking, yet many of even the most seasoned soapmakers engage in the practice at least once in awhile.  And why not?  It keeps us on our toes and renews our creativity.  It might even lead to the Next Big Thing in our product lineup!  If you think about it, we might not have round soaps had it not been for some clever person  in the hardware store who took a gander at pvc piping, or upon emptying his cylindrical can of potato chips wondered, “Hmm. . . can this be used for soap?”  What’s even better is how soapers share their discoveries so that all might benefit from both their successes and their failures.

 

What about you?  What is the most unique container you’ve ever used for soap?

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Five Ways to Survive the Silly Season

The Silly Season is upon us.  

 

Silly Season, in case you don’t know, is roughly that period of time between November and Christmas when many businesses do the bulk of their sales.  Add that to the busyness that most of us find ourselves immersed in with friends and family obligations and other activities, and you have a Silly Season, indeed.  Even hobbyists find themselves in a similar situation with their desire to create lovely gifts for all of those fortunate people on their lists.

 

We all need to cope with this season and create ways to make our way through and come out the other side, victorious, having neither damaged theirs or their families’ health and sanity, so ideas to get the discussion going follow:

 

1.     Plan ahead.  Take a bit of time to sit down with your calendar and plan what you can do between now and the date you want to cease production by.  Take into consideration your other obligations and your health and sanity.  Even those among us who find planning to be sheer agony can benefit.  You might not write, “Nov. 4, make Peppermint Soap,” but you might make a list of what you want to make and think about how much time it will take you to accomplish it and then decide how much fits into your timeframe.   If  you need supplies, order now.  Don’t put yourself in the position of stressing over whether your order will arrive in time for you to make the products your customer wants.  Allowing two weeks for shipping to you is a good idea at this time of year.

 

2.     Bring in holiday help.  Every retail store that is busy during the holidays does it.  It may be worth the cost in order to have the product your customer wants.  If you’re lucky enough to have good friends and family who will help, don’t be a hero.  Let them!  Reward them, of course, but take any good help you can get.

 

3.     Encourage your customers to order early.  Don’t expect that they will automatically take into account your busy schedule or the fact that you have limited supplies.  Instead, head those last-minute shoppers off by making it attractive to order early.  Offer a coupon for a November purchase, feature weekly sales in November, or promise a freebie with their order, anything that will compel them to order now rather than later.

 

4.     Limit your offerings.  I know, I know, you want to offer every holiday scent candle or soap shape that you and your customers like, but resist the temptation.  Instead, offer just a few holiday products.  It’s less confusing for your customers and for you, and keep in mind how much easier it is to make three large batches of scents/colors than it is to make thirteen.  Even for regular stock, you might consider cutting back to your most popular products and scents for the season.  If you find that you don’t have time to keep up with your regular line, don’t bother to offer holiday products. It’s better to end up with twenty lavender candles after December 25th than to end up with twenty Balsam Fir candles that are in low demand the rest of the year.

 

5.     Set a “last date to order” date and a “last day to purchase” date, along with any other rules that will make the season tolerable.  Set specific times of the day for phone orders, a cut-off date for special orders and gift baskets, or an “in stock products only” date that will work for you.  Don’t find yourself stressing and losing sleep for a bar of soap!

 

If we think about it, we can brainstorm a multitude of ideas to keep us on track and sane through the holiday season.  I’m not suggesting that we can make the next two months stress-free, but I am suggesting that we exercise some control over the season and not let it defeat us by looking realistically at our individual situations and planning how we will deal with them to only do what we can reasonably do and by finding ways, big and small, to make our goals attainable.

 

What do you do?  How do you manage Silly Season?  We’d love to hear your ideas.  Let’s help each other get through 2012!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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