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

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

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

Four Ideas for Super Sales!

You’ve sold your lovely soaps (and/or candles and bath and body wares) to friends and family.  Perhaps you’ve branched out to farmers markets and craft shows.  You may, however, have found them incompatible with your schedule and personality, or you may simply want to expand your business.  Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about wholesale, and many in our industry have created a thriving business doing just that.   But, what else is there?

 

Thanks to the new, Sept/Oct. 2012, issue of the Saponifier, you have more sales avenues to consider, some of which you may have never given thought to before!  Erica Pence explains the concept of direct sales, and further expounds upon the two types.  If you’ve read her article, Configuring a Direct Sales Company, you now have a good idea and may even be in the preliminary stages of planning your own strategy.  If not, well, get cracking!

 

Remember Tupperware?  Pampered Chef?  Start your own home party plan for your business after reading Beth Byrne’s interview with Becky Gentile and Lucia Felty, who share their structures for home parties.  In the article, Tips for Super Sales With Home Parties, you’ll learn their secrets for creating a successful home party plan that will  make your hostess feel like a queen, your guests ravenous for your products, and you, a happy seller.  Have you been contemplating your own party plan?  We’d love to hear about it.

 

Cindy Noble, in Safety in Numbers:  Planning a Multi-Vendor Trunk Show, instructs us on sponsoring your own show, where you choose the vendors, the date and the location.  With this concise, yet informative guide, you’ll be off and planning your holiday show!   What is the date of your show?

 

If what you’ve been doing has become rather stale, or if expansion is on your mind, answers are right at your fingertips–and just in time for the holidays!

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

Artisan Giving

Most of us are gearing up for the holiday season.  We’ve planned our production schedules and are working to get our holiday products ready for the throngs of buyers who demand our wares (in our dreams, anyway).   With all of our planning, sourcing supplies and making product, we might be forgetting something.  Of course, it may already be part of your plans. What is it?  It’s giving.  Giving back can be an enriching experience and something we should all be considering.

 

The idea of giving or giving back is more prevalent during the holiday season than at any other time for most of us, so it’s a timely subject of discussion, even though it isn’t limited to that small space of time between Thanksgiving and December 26th (for our Boxing Day observers).

 

Do you give regularly during the holiday season or at some other time?  Do you give of yourself?  Perhaps you make one big annual donation or several smaller donations throughout the year.  Maybe you teach your craft to others or volunteer in some other capacity.

 

I know that we small business owners are terribly busy and often running on a shoestring budget, so that giving is sometimes the last thing we worry about.  Other times, we are stopped because we don’t know the best way to give, desiring that our gifts be used to their best possible use.  I know I’ve struggled with both.  I donated to a national organization that collects soap and sends it to third world nations, but then I learned that it costs more to collect, prepare, and ship the soap than it would cost to pay someone in the country to make it.  I have not substantiated this, but it made sense.  I decided then, to make my donations more local because it would be the most efficient use of my product.

 

I’ve read about a few other soapmakers traveling to countries to teach women to make soap and sincerely applaud them for their efforts to bring our craft to people who need it.  Some reach out to people in their own communities, as well.  Others donate money to the favorite charities.

 

What about you?  Do you agree or disagree with sending donations to national organizations?  How do you make a difference in your community or your world with your craft, whether it be soap, bath and body products or candles?  We’d love to know what you do.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

How do You Prefer Your Education?

Education.  Do you think of stuffy classrooms where you struggled to stay awake, or was your experience a positive one of engaging discussion and good test results?  Do you prefer a formal or an informal mode of education?  And why am I talking about education at all on the Saponifier blog?

 

If you hadn’t noticed, the new issue is all about education, in particular, educating ourselves about soapmaking, candlemaking, and related topics–herbs, chemistry, art and design, and so on.  If we sell product, we can throw in accounting and marketing.  Fortunately, we can continue educating ourselves, whether we physically go back to school, we learn online, or we learn  informally through books and other research.

 

Tamara Dourney filled us in on some exciting methods of formal education, by way of online learning in her article, Open Source Scientist.  If your opinion of this modern way of being educated is negative, think again.  Many opportunities for study at recognized institutions are available, and they continue to evolve and develop, making it easier for artisans to increase their knowledge of subjects important to their crafts.  Tamara also wrote about various potential career paths that are related to our crafts in,  Career Day:  Five Options for Continuing Education.

 

If you prefer doing your own research on a specific topic, Erica Pence’s, Natural Resources and her second article, Candle Resources, both filled with good books for learning soap and candle making, essential oils, herbs, botanicals and other body care products.  Your knowledge base is sure to greatly increase by studying them.

 

If you find yourself wishing to take a class, be sure to read Marla Bosworth’s, 10 Tips for Selecting the Right Soap and Skincare Classes to Match Your Needs.  Heeding her comments may mean the difference between a wonderful class you’ll think was worth every penny and one that was a waste of time and money.

 

In this issue, you’ll even find an educational herb monograph on the lovely Glacier Lily, more commonly called, Dog-Toothed Violet or Trout Lily in my neck of the woods.  I had no idea of the food and medicinal uses for this early spring treasure!

 

Whether you are a staunch believer in conventional education and desire to pursue a degree or you are looking for something less formal, but no less educational, you’ll find ideas in the above articles.  Tell us how YOU like to learn.

 

Until next time,

Happy bubbles & wax adventures.

Beth Byrne

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