To Scent or Not to Scent, That is the Question

The question of scent is uppermost in the mind of anyone who makes soap, candles or bath and body products. Which scents should I use? Should I make products with seasonal scents? Should I use only natural scents or should I use lab made scents? How much do I use? Should I use scent at all? Yes, these scent questions concern each one of us.

 

We should use the scents that those we create products for desire, whether they are ourselves, our friends and family or our customers, right? It is easier said than done, however as the human nose is just so picky. Hmm. . . that may have been a poor choice of words, but I digress.

 

Some insist on no scent at all, while most others have distinct preferences–the patchouli haters, the floral haters, you know what I mean. Certainly, no universally loved scent exists; but get a head start by noting the ten best selling scents in the Raves For Faves article found in our next issue coming out on November 1.

 

Beyond that, try limited editions and small batches to judge how they appeal to your customers or friends and family before diving into anything, because making ten pounds of soap in a scent nobody likes is not a good idea.

 

If you question whether you should scent your products at all or not, it may be a good niche. A business that creates non-scented products for the niche market who is sensitive to or dislikes scent fills an important segment of the market. And think of how much room they have on their shelves without all of those oils! But again, I digress.

 

Natural scent vs. lab made scent is another choice that we each make, and the answer is determined by your market, whether it is you and your friends or your customers. Remain true to your mission and consider those who will be using your product.

 

What to do about seasonal scents? This is a tough one because we often like these special scents, yet we need to know if they will pay off. Ask your customers if you can, or dip your toe in the waters to test them. In any case, do not be persuaded by the gorgeous photos you find on social media to create batches and batches of seasonal products until you’ve proven they will indeed be to your customers like truffles to pigs.

 

We’ll talk proper usage rates in our next blog post.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – The Raves for Faves issue is released on November 1st. If you have not yet subscribed or need to renew, simply follow this link: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

Bath or Shower?

Bath or shower? Which do you prefer? What about your customer base or friends and family?

 

Personally, I love a relaxing bath with herbs, milk, fizzy and other goodies, but the truth is that I rarely take one. I suspect that these days where most of us are rushing here and there or spending our days just trying to keep up with one task after another, bathing just seems like a time-consuming indulgence that we cannot afford.  That being said, my suppositions may not be true for your audience, and finding out is your job.

 

If you’re already considering scent and color, but forgetting about your customers’ preferences when it comes to showers vs. baths, you may be creating products that they don’t really use rather than creating the goodies they’re clamoring for.  Of course, it’s less crucial to concern yourself if you’re a hobbyist; yet the knowledge comes in handy at gift-giving time, when you give a gift they’ll really use!

 

So, how do you find out what your customers want? Ask!  Most will be very forthcoming about their preferences. Ask casually when conversing, form a focus group, conduct a survey or find your own unique way of getting information.

 

Of course, taking a little extra time for yourself is a good idea as is encouraging your customers and friends to do the same, but it’s easier to sell something they already know they want than to convince them they want what you’re selling.

 

 

PS: The upcoming issue of the Saponifier features cosmetics, all sorts of them! Not a subscriber? You can fix that: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

 Also, are you working on replicating the designs found in our Design Mania issue?  Take photos because our contest is coming! Details in the July 1st issue.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Oils, What’s Not to Like?

Oils. Who loves oils more than those who make soap and body products?

 

Many of us try as many oils as we can get our hands on (or afford), eagerly reading the fatty acid profiles and attributes of each oil while planning which products would be the best use of our precious oils.

 

To be honest, previous to soapmaking and bath and body, I never paid much attention to oil. I’d use it in cooking, but I never wanted it on my skin. Once I began my journey in producing skin products however, I saw oils in a totally different light. Oil was good. It was pure and was beneficial. It nourished my skin and helped me to heal. It had vitamins! Oil was in nearly every product I created, from soap to salves to lotion and more. What’s not to like?

 

And yet, the subject of oils causes a great deal of consternation among soap and bath and body makers. Which oils should I use? Which oils are good for soap or lotion or shampoo or liquid soap? Indeed, there is so much to learn that I feel as if I have only scratched the surface. I think I have a grasp on the breadth of oils available to me and then I hear of another one I never knew existed. Isn’t the continual opportunity to learn what makes this job or hobby so much fun? By the way, for the purposes of this discussion, my use of the term, “oils,” pertains to fats, as well.

 

Consider CP/HP soapmaking, for example. We have a hundred oils we might use, but we need to narrow our choices down to a manageable few. So, what do we choose? For a long time now, I’ve been convinced that if we were to choose our soapmaking oils and fats according to their fatty acid profiles and properties, we’d choose much differently than we often do and would value certain oils more than others because our opinions had no base in cost.

 

Nevertheless, we are usually restricted by price and availability, which may seem like a bad thing, but it isn’t. There is no shame in using inexpensive oils that are easily available. In fact, many would argue that using expensive luxury oils in soap is a waste of money since it’s washed off almost as soon as it’s applied. Others insist that certain oils, albeit pricey, give their soap a luxurious performance that cannot be matched with “everyday” oils.

 

I tend to side with the former, believing that some humble, commonly found oils are actually excellent oils, providing us with lovely soaps to bathe with.  What about you? Do you enjoy using more common, less expensive oils, or are you a person who appreciates oils more when they’re rare and expensive?

 

Either way, it’s a discussion that ends with, oils. . . what’s not to like? Want to learn more? Subscribe to the Saponifier!
 

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

 

Beth for the Saponifier

Learning the Hard Way

Have you been enjoying your January/February 2014 issue of the Saponifier? Safety and GMP aren’t always the most popular of topics, but I do believe that they are vitally important to the growth and survival of our industry. Many of us only think of safety in regards to soapmaking, and to be sure, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are dangerous caustics that we need to respect. Nevertheless, it behooves us to be aware of safety precautions in regards to bath and body manufacturing and candle making, as well. I applaud our writers for writing articles that we love to read, but are filled with important information.

 

I know that GMP, standing for, “good manufacturing practice” is another area of concern for those with businesses making soap and bath and body products, so we appreciate Marie Gale’s article, “An Introduction to Good Manufacturing Processes,” introducing us to the topic if we aren’t already familiar.

 

I hope this issue has caused you to review your safety and GMP processes! Share with us what you have learned.

 

If you are as yet not a subscriber of the Saponifier, you can rectify that!  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

This next story is related to GMP, and my failure to properly institute a process. I recently made a five color, swirled soap. I printed out my formula, prepared my surfaces and molds, measured out my ingredients and mixed my colorants. I proceeded to make my soap and was so pleased with the colors and design. I placed my soap in my properly pre-heated oven for a CPOP (cold process/oven process) batch and congratulated myself on a spectacular session. A short time later, I noticed my carefully measured essential oil still sitting on the counter. My elation turned to despair. It was too late to add the essential oil and even if it weren’t, mixing in the oil would mix all five colors together, producing a soap only a mother of said soap could love. As a result, I have a very pretty batch of soap with no scent.

 

Who hasn’t forgotten their scent at least once? Nevertheless, I learned an important lesson. Had I had my GMP properly in place, I would have a procedure posted that included the exact step of adding my essential or fragrance oil at the right time and thus, would not have missed it. I confess to being too complacent since I print out my formula each time, thinking it’s almost as good. I now know that almost isn’t good enough.

 

Have you begun instituting GMP in your business? Share with us your experiences thus far.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Hope That Works

Hope.  What do you think of?  Generally, we think of it as fulfilling a desire of some kind.  For instance, I hope you had a great holiday season, that you made the amount of money you projected, that you enjoyed the season and that you remained sane.  I hope you didn’t gain weight.

 

I was reminded, however, of a more archaic definition:  trust and confidence.  I find that I like that definition even better.  We have a trust and confidence in something coming to pass, whether it be in our businesses, our relationships, our bodies, spirituality or any number of facets of our lives.  Rather than a pleasant, but ineffective kind of “best wishes” hope, we have trust in the future.  I call it, “hope that works.”

 

I then ponder what it takes to produce confidence in the future.  Is it merely an idea of what we’d like see come to pass?  “I’d like to sell more product in 2014.”  How far will that get us?  Like most of our New Year’s Resolutions, they’re nice ideas, but not enough to move us, especially not for the long haul that 2014 will prove to be.

 

Therefore, rather than uttering general hopes, let us make them concrete and attainable.  Instead of, “I’d like to sell more product in 2014,” set a goal and a plan for getting there.  How much soap would you like to sell?  How will you accomplish it? What do you need to do to get ready?  Don’t forget to set realistic dates for each activity to keep yourself moving!

 

It’s more work than a wish, but it’s hope that works.

 

Don’t forget to put a Saponifier subscription on your to-do list for 2014.  You have just a few hours left to subscribe for a 25% discount:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

November/December in Review

As I perused Facebook this evening, Marla Bosworth’s article from our current issue (Nov./Dec. 13)  rang in my ears.  Yes, I was spending too much time there and I hadn’t accomplished all of my day’s goals.  What about you?  Did you find her piece to be eye-opening and a good reminder?  Granted, Facebook is a wonderful medium and a great business tool for many of us, but too much of anything loses its wonderfulness (is that a word?) and simply becomes a distraction and a time-gobbler.  Of course, Facebook isn’t alone, but it is the most widely used form of social media.  So, how do you apportion your time?  Share with us your tips for making best use of Facebook without getting lost in it.

 

Off the Facebook soapbox and on to the holidays.  Did you not love Suzanne Finley’s poem,  “A Poem of Holiday Favorites?”  I was amused and delighted.  Any of us making product for sale or for gifts this time of year are sure to relate.

 

I hope you enjoyed the Castile soap article written by our newest columnist, Marina Tadiello.  Castile’s place in history is as fascinating as is this one-oil soap, itself!  I loved gazing at the photos supplied by Castile soapmakers.  Do you like Castile soap?  Do you make it?

 

Where would we be without the clever and knowledgeable Kevin Dunn, who educated us in a most fascinating way in his article, “Phun With Ph?”  I’m wishing that my junior and senior high school teachers had been as fun (or phun) as Kevin is.

 

Deb Sturdevant’s sharing her life and memories of her favorite herbs was a respite from my day and a reminder to count my favorite herbal memories and where they have taken me over the years.  Karen Mallinger’s monographs on bayberry and cloves were a fascinating read for anyone who enjoys herbs and would like to learn more.  I really wanted to find bayberries and extract the wax.  Perhaps someday, I will.  For now though, I have lots of cloves to experiment with.  What are your favorite herbs and why?

 

Of course, everyone’s favorite November/December issue article, “Raves for Faves” was eagerly anticipated.  I love finding out what everyone else is doing, and apparently, so do you.  How do you stack up among your fellow artisans?

 

I must mention that I always enjoy the writings of Melinda Coss, esoteric ramblings or not.  Although she knows more than I ever will about soapmaking and the business thereof, she is so down-to-earth and easy to read that I look forward to seeing her name.

 

Looking for some new ideas for the holidays?  Diane Pither-Patterson is your girl.  Her article on creating candles by upcycling pieces you find was timely in that upcycling is a trend we shouldn’t ignore and during the holidays is a great time to introduce something like this.

 

What?  You don’t subscribe, but you’re dying to read this issue?  No problem.  http://saponifier.com/current-issue/ will provide you with the information that you need.  Join the family!

 

Please note the ads of our fantastic business partners and consider purchasing from them.  They provide us with the best of everything.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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

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

Are You Business Savvy?

Have you been reading the new issue of the Saponifier?

I’m sure you’ll agree that our writers have outdone themselves this issue, especially if you own a business.

Niche?  Target audience?  What do these terms mean to you and your business success?  Read Marla Bosworth’s, Identifying Your Niche and Target Audience,” to find out!  If you don’t have one, you need to get one.  Marla warns us that instead of trying to be everything to everyone, we need to find a niche market to concentrate on.  But don’t forget to peruse the article, or you’ll miss out on some very helpful information.

If you want to keep it local, read Cindy Noble’s informative article, Backyard Marketing.  Find out how to put together a business prospectus, how to find the right demographics for your product, and how to get ready to market your business.  Additionally, get ideas on where and how to find good advertising sources so that your market can find you.  Cindy tells us that although the focus these days is on globalization and international markets, we can still find a foundation at home.

Did you attend the HSMG Conference in May?  If you did, read Beth Byrne’s review, Miami Bubbles with Soapmakers, to relive the excitement and energy.  If you didn’t attend, read it anyway to see what you missed!   Read who came to speak, who came to learn, vendor-sponsors who support us, and much more. You might even find yourself in a photo!

Happy reading!