Parties and Sales, Do They Go Together?

Soapmakers and chandlers fall into many different categories when it comes to finding homes for their products.  

 

Some are hobbyists who make soap for their own enjoyment and to give to friends and family.  Others sell at a moderate level, attending craft shows or selling via word-of-mouth advertising.  Still others have production space and sell wholesale.  Some even have brick and mortar locations where they produce and sell their goods.  Of course, a few sell using alternative methods, some more common than others.  Are you selling or do you want to sell your products?

 

Good research and preparation is essential to the success of any business.  You not only need to know your products inside and out, but you must become knowledgeable about business practices.  Simply loving to make soap or candles isn’t enough. You must decide how to structure your business and how to operate effectively to reliably produce your creations and make a profit, taking into account your talents, lifestyle, and resources.

 

In choosing a business model, it’s important to carefully and truthfully analyze your strengths and obstacles.  For instance, if you work weekends, but your local farmer’s market is on Saturday, it’s not an option for you unless you can find a way around your obstacle.   Although a brick-and-mortar store may appeal to you, if you are a caregiver, then it is not for you, at least not at the present.  If you can’t raise capital, then your plans are confined to what you can afford at the time.

 

What to do?  One concept that some soapers/chandlers employ is the home party plan.  It may ideal because you can produce out of your home or in a location less expensive than a retail location, you can plan parties around your schedule, and your initial overhead is lower than several other methods.  You tap your friends and family to get started, so no panic-inducing cold calls are necessary.

 

Interested?  Good, because the upcoming Saponifier issue is all about home parties.  Learn what they entail and how to get started. You may just find your business taking off!

 

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

It Takes all Kinds!

I was thinking recently about all the types of soapmakers and candlemakers out there.

 

Some like to keep things as basic and natural as possible.  In fact, if it were possible to make soap without lye, these individuals would do it.  These candlemakers use natural waxes as opposed to using paraffin wax.

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we know soapmakers who are concerned only with the process or the art of soapmaking and are willing to use whatever resources are at their disposal to make the soap they love.  The same is true for some chandlers whose main goal is either production or beauty.  It’s not that this group of crafters don’t care if their products are safe, they just believe that the legal ingredients they use are safe for their customers so they are free to use them as they desire.

 

Most of us, however, fall somewhere between the two extremes.  Some of us insist on organic carrier oils, but scent with fragrance oils. Others use only essential oils, but use synthetic or nature identical colorants.   Still others use no soy or no animal products or no palm oil.  Moreover, good share of cosmetic makers are searching for effective natural preservatives.

 

The choices are nearly limitless and may cause confusion for both newbies and the experienced alike.  What’s really natural or acceptable?  How much not-so-natural is acceptable?  If I make products without regard to their naturalness or acceptability to various groups, are my products inferior?  Add to that other concerns such as moral ones or sustainabililty and you have an entirely new set of questions.

 

With this vast array, we might believe that life would be much easier if we weren’t offered so many possibilities.  What does it gain us?  Quite a bit, actually.  First of all, it causes us to do research, the result being more knowledgeable artisans.  Secondly, it provides us with niche markets.  We can sell to vegans or vegetarians, to those looking for a more natural way of life, customers who avoid certain groups of ingredients or those who are seeking products they like the looks, scent, and performance of.  It really does take all kinds!

 

Where in this wide spectrum do you find yourself?

 

Until next time, may you happily wade in bubbles & 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

Candles, Herbs, and Economics — Three Ideas for 2012

How is January coming along for you?  Are you reaching for your 2012 goals?  Taking steps to keep your resolutions?

 

If one of  your resolutions was to add candles to your bath business, you no doubt found Erica Pence’s article of the same title very helpful.  Just gather together the ingredients she lists and create away!  Tell us if you’ve used Erica’s directions to be just the ticket to your first candle.  Once you add candles to your line, tell us if they have boosted sales for you.

 

Were you as encouraged as I was to read, Planning for the Best When Experiencing the Worst, by Alexander Sherman?  I found his advice regarding positioning our businesses to be front and center as the economy rebounds (however slowly) and his enthusiasm for the future to be quite contagious.  I hope the same was true for you.  What are you doing to be ready for the surge in sales?

 

For all of us budding herbalists, the herbal monographs are always informative.  Even with more familiar herbs, I learn something new.  Elizabeth Sockol’s, Spanish Dagger, better known to many of us as Yucca, is no exception.  I never tire at learning more about the various uses for any herb, whether cosmetic, culinary, or medicinal.  Yucca provides no shortage of uses, even though none of them are food-related.  It is likely that some of our readers have used the root to extract the saponins.  Have you?

 

Perhaps Ginger oil is your preference.  Did you get any new ideas from Cindy Noble’s monograph?  I confess to using it only for culinary and medicinal purposes, except for a drop in the bath of a sick person.  We’d love to hear how you use Ginger.

 

Finally, be sure to check out the photos supplied by Jonathan Savoie and Madeline Novak of  Old Factory Soap Company.  They are truly inspirational!

 

Yours in the joys of bubbles and wax,

 

Beth

 

 

 

 

Natural Scent Music, Hydrosols, and Projects for Chandlers

The Thanksgiving weekend is wrapping up as I write and I reflect on all that took place.  I had such a wonderful time with my family and our friend who spent the day with us.  I hope yours was equally as blessed.

 

On Saturday, I met up with a couple of soapmakers who hadn’t heard of the Saponifier before, so of course, I directed them to the site.  It made me think about how the past articles have helped me to become a better soapmaker and how much I have enjoyed being on staff.  Aren’t you glad you have the Saponifier?  If you know of a soapmaker or chandler who doesn’t read the Saponifier, show her or him the light!

 

Interested in natural scents and blends?  If you’ve read Erica Pence’s, Scenting Naturally, you’ve not only expanded on your knowledge base, but are likely composing beautiful scent symphonies to use in your products.  If you don’t know why I am using musical metaphors, you haven’t read the article yet!

 

Hydrosols, also known as hydrolats and distillates, are lesser known aromatherapy products, but certainly no less useful.  Sherri Reehil-Welser introduces them to us in The Healing Art of Hydrosols.  If you’ve been wondering about them and how to use them, I’m sure you are or will find the information you read invaluable as you seek to use them more.

 

What are you doing?  Go outside, gather a pile of pine cones and get busy making dipped cones!  What a lovely gift they’ll be to your fireplace-owning friends and family, and so easy to do.  If that’s not enough, Erica Pence also explains how to make Whipped Snow Cones and Snowballs in Winter Snow and Pine Cones – Making Whipped and Dipped Candles.  Have you made any of them yet?  Let us know how it was for  you.

 

Talk to us and let us know what you think about this issue.  We love to hear from our readers!

 

Best wishes for a happy holiday season,

 

Beth Byrne

Silly Season Suggestions

Silly Season is nearly upon us.  You’re either shaking your head up and down in the affirmative, or saying, “Huh?”

 

Let me explain.  Silly Season refers to the flurry of activity involved in selling your products to holiday buyers.  Most of them are shopping for Christmas, but also for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa–did I miss any holidays?

If this applies to you, I am guessing that you’ve already taken stock of what you want to produce and what you’ll need to purchase to produce it.  If you’re really on the ball, you’ve purchased your supplies already and are working hard to shore up your stock to make it through that crazy time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ideally, I like to make my  soap in the summer and then everything else–lotions, body butter, etc.,  in October.  I make m&p soap in seasonal molds and scents.

What about you?  Do you plan well ahead or do  you find yourself perennially rushing to keep up?  How do you decide what to make and how much?  Share your secrets with us!  We can learn much from each other.  And if you don’t sell, the same principles probably apply to your hobby and holiday giving, so don’t think you’re off the hook.  Tell us how you plan ahead and prepare for a more controlled holiday season.

Recycling and Social Media: What About You?

All those bits and ends of candles, you’d like to find a way to use them, but how?  Erica Pence comes to the rescue in Recycled Candles, explaining just how easy it is to remake those stubs into tea lights, votives and even decorative candles.  She even gives simple directions for making candles in pumpkins and other seasonal produce for a lovely holiday theme! Naturally, I purged my leftovers not long ago, but will save them again so I can give Erica’s advice a go.

Have you tried this yet?  Let us know how it went.

In this day and age, you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of Social Media.  Clearly, the buzz phrase of the decade, Social Media brings to mind probably at least a couple of types.  The question is, how well do you make use of it as a tool for marketing your business?  Is the entire topic an unknown that you’re afraid to explore?  Or is it a lake that you’ve dipped your toe in, but you’ve been afraid to jump?  Perhaps you feel as if you have jumped in, but belly-flopped.  Read, Five Steps to Social Media Success:  An Interview with Donna Maria Coles Johnson, written by Beth Byrne.  In it, dM as she likes to be called, outlines the major Social Media types, as well as a few not so major, and helps us to both understand them, their purpose, and how to use them effectively in our businesses.  Ever amazed by dM’s knowledge of the latest and greatest in marketing and technology, I just know you’ll find her thoughts helpful in your own efforts.

Have you implemented any of the strategies mentioned in the article?  Share with us how it’s working for you!

Until next time, happy bubbles!

What’s New in the Saponifier?

Summer is here, or nearly here!

We all know that as much as we love the sun and summer activities, it can be hard on our skin.  Want to know all about keeping your skin soft and sexy for summer fun?  Check out Sherri Reehil-Welser’s article where she talks about hydrosols and butters that will help keep your skin in great shape.  Recipes included!

Are you a melt & pour soaper, or do want to learn?  How about candles?  Erica Pence has written a how-to article on beautiful fancy soaps and candles that you’ll enjoy making.  You’ll amaze yourself at your talent!

Do you know what Business Valuation is?  Alexander Sherman sheds some light on the subject of determining the value of your business, and other pertinent points such as adding value to your business.  If you’re a business owner, you can’t afford not to read this one!

If you’re looking to add something that will give your products a special touch, consider making gift bags and pouches.  Rachel Wolf shows us how to make lovely lined bags and pouches that will set your products apart.

The Saponifier will be at the HSMG Conference!  Tamara Dourney and Beth Byrne are attending the conference, so be sure to find them and provide feedback on the magazine.  We’re offering prizes for some lucky attendees, too.

Soap & Candles, or Candles & Soap?

With our recent candle discussion, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

How many of our readers create both soap/bath & body and candles?  Which came first, the soap or the candles?   What led you from one to the other?  Which sells better?

Other than the historical precedence of a local candle/soap maker supplying the town with their goods, what ties the two crafts together?  Is it the fragrance, or something else?

Since soapmaking and candlemaking are two very distinct processes, we certainly cannot assume that one leads to the other on a knowledge-based level.  Knowing how to make soap, for example, does not uniquely qualify an individual to make make candles.  Nevertheless, something certainly entices many to expand their skill sets from one to the other.  Is it that mastering another craft that uses fragrances already owned  makes sense?   Is the motivation for learning a new skill the realization that  offering more  products in a certain scent to give prospective customers more to choose from?

Curious minds want to know!  Please share your story.

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