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

It’s Scentsational!

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

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

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

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

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

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