“Life is so much more complicated these days what with all the new technology to keep up with,” my mother recently stated. And truth be known, she doesn’t keep up. Still, she was voicing what many of us feel from time to time, that learning new technology seems complicated and we wonder if it really saves time, money or effort.
In reading Cindy Noble’s article, Digital Library Essentials, in the March-April 2013 edition of the Saponifier, it’s easy to see that going digital can save time, money and effort. We have so many more resources at our fingertips now, and even digital books are also less expensive than traditional books, not to mention the fact that they won’t fill bookshelf after bookshelf in our homes! I remember not all that long ago having to make a point of going to the library to look things up that I wanted to know about. If I wanted to buy a book, I had to either make a trip to a bookstore or send for a catalog, pick out my books, and send the order form and check back in and then wait for a couple of weeks for the books to arrive. Yes, we are saving time and money when we use our technology efficiently. Incidentally, Cindy suggestions for books to help you along in your business are outstanding. If you haven’t read her article yet, you’ll want to.
Are you contemplating selling out of the country? Tamara Dourney’s, Understanding ISO Compliance is a must-read to help you get your business ready for new horizons and markets. Of course, in order to sell, we also need good product photos. You could hire a professional, and that isn’t a bad idea, but may be out of your current budget. Tamara’s, Product Photography Revisited will inspire you to improve your photography.
If you’re selling products, you need to know about POS. You don’t think you have one? You do! Quite simply, POS stands for, “point of sale,” and refers to the way you take funds from a customer, whether a cash box at the farmer’s market or a credit card. Of course, it’s credit cards that have us scratching our heads, wondering if we can afford to accept them or afford not to accept them and then which one to choose. It’s a difficult maze, for sure, but Beth Byrne will make it easier for you if you read, POS and the Chandler. She attempts to take some of the mystery out of determining which credit card company to use.
Should I Quit My Day Job? Not only the title of Melinda Coss’ article, but a common question for entrepreneurs, it is puzzling to many of us who seek to make our businesses a full-time venture. We can never be reminded enough of the importance of good, realistic planning in making a successful business. Be sure to read Melinda’s article and take her advice to heart.
We are living in a time where natural is the buzz word. If you offer natural products, your customers will be determining–with varying degrees of discernment, just how truthful your statements about your goods are. If you purchase natural products or ingredients yourself, you are asking the same thing. Helping you to do that is Tammy Lane in, Sifting Through the Hype.
If you’re a business owner, then you are likely thinking often about how you can get your margins up and your costs down. To give you some practical advice on increasing your margins without necessarily increasing your prices, Marla Bosworth gives us, Work Smarter, Not Harder–Are Your Margins High Enough?
Lest you think this issue is only about business, take a look at the fine articles that Katherine Forrest, Victoria Donaldson and Elizabeth Sockol provided for our reading pleasure. Katherine shares tips for making beeswax candles, while Victoria teaches us how to make a basic soap mold in just fifteen minutes. Elizabeth informs us about the common Safflower. How much do you know about it? If you’ve read the article, we think you know quite a bit.
Last but certainly not least, pour over the photos in our Readers Showcase Gallery. Every issues offers a feast for the eyes and inspiration from our subscribers. Thanks to Fisika, Nancy Reid of Nature’s Soap and Mountain Farm’s soap. If you’re looking for soap events, be sure to check out our Events page.
What? You’re not yet a subscriber? You can fix that! Just click on this link: https://saponifier.wufoo.com/forms/subscribe-or-renew/
Finally, if you have comments or questions, please feel free to comment here or to ask questions on our Twitter or Facebook pages. We’d love to hear from you.
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
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
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
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
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.
Whew! The holidays have passed and we’ve survived to tell the tales. Welcome 2012!
If you’re like most of us, you’ve made resolutions or set goals for the year, and we hope the Jan./Feb. issue of the Saponifier is helping, at least where soap or candlemaking is concerned! We probably can’t help you lose twenty pounds, but we can give you some guidance in your hobby or business ventures.
I found Brandy Kayzakian-Rowe’s article, Looking Good in the New Year–Spotlight on Product Photography, to be fascinating and very informative. Her advice as to where to take photos, what kind of lighting to use and other hints, even her advice about hiring a photographer, will be taken to heart by any of us.
In addition, many of us are scrutinizing our products and the ingredients we use in 2012. We want the best for our businesses and our customers. We may also be concerned the economy and with sustainability. Whatever our goals are, we continually hone in on our target markets and the customer base we serve. All of these factors cause us to make decisions, some of them very hard to make. Marla Bosworth’s, Resolving to go Palm-Free in 2012: Will You Join Me? was at the same time, thought-provoking and compelling. Reading it side-by-side with Erika Pence’s, Going Natural, which was also well-written and compelling, will certainly challenge us all in deciding whether to use palm and its derivatives or not. As with most issues, good points are being made for either side and further thought and research are in order.
What about you? What kinds of decisions have you wrestled with for the coming year?
Yours in bubbles & wax,
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,
By now, I’m sure most of you have read your July/August 2011 issue cover-to-cover and packed with helpful articles and ideas to implement in your business.
Are you a maker of natural products? The term, “natural” is extremely popular right now, embodying products full of synthetic ingredients to those made with entirely earth-based ingredients. With the marketplace saturated with natural, how can you promote yours? Erica Pence details the difficulty of defining natural in her article, Promoting Your Natural Products,” as well as properly labeling your product so that it will stand out. You will gain confidence in marketing once you understand the ins and outs.
Interested in perfumery? Read, Perfume Oil Blending 101 – The Fragrant Body, by Sherri Reehil-Welser, to learn fragrance notes, blending mediums, and even a blend recipe for a “Daily Devotional” blend. Go ahead, try it.
If you have thus far resisted the temptation to make candles, beware that reading Erica Pence’s, Marbling: Torching, Hammering, and Painting Your Candles, may just change your mind! She explains the various techniques in detail, so if you’ve been thinking that your candles are a bit on the boring side, you can remedy things.
Are your marketing strategies less effective than you would like them to be? Perhaps you’re struggling with determining the best way to turn interest into dollars. Tamara Dourney explains the kind of demand that customers display will decide the type of marketing you choose in order to convert more “maybe” into “yes.”
Have you thought about or implemented any of the business actions outlined in this issue? Have you made the booth bunting? What do you think?
If you’re participating in or gearing up for fall craft shows, and want to set your booth apart from the competition, you’ll need something unique. To the rescue comes Rachel Wolf with Creating Your Own Booth Bunting. With just a little time, a bit of fabric, and a dose of creativity, you too, will create a bunting worthy of your product line.