Two Problems with Newbies

Have you ever heard or read something like this?  “I think a soap/candle/body products business would be a great idea, so I signed up for a show next month.  Please give me your best recipes.”  I have.


Equally disconcerting at an event:  “I make that product, too.  Where do you get your supplies from?  What is your best seller and how do you make it?”  I have been asked these questions.


I could go on, but you get the picture.  Is it a problem for people to ask?  Do you become offended?


Personally, I do try to keep things in perspective.  It’s likely that Newbie Ned doesn’t really understand what he’s asking.  He may think it’s as simple as answering the question, “Where do you shop for groceries?”  Those of us who have been in the business for awhile, however, know that nothing could be farther from the truth and we would do well to communicate that.


Molly Moocher may not get the concept of competition or research and development; so, when she asks where I get my supplies, ideas, and formulas, I try to keep that in mind.


Does that mean that I should feel compelled to answer their questions as forthrightly as they were asked?  Not a chance!  And it’s not that I am feeling selfish.  I have many reasons for thinking that spoonfeeding potential soap and candle makers is a poor idea, and here are two of them:


1.     Potential hazards to future customers are imminent in the situation where someone who doesn’t have a thorough understanding of their craft sells their goods.  Soap, body products and candles can hurt people when they are poorly made or when the maker doesn’t have a good understanding of what they’re creating.  Lye heavy soap damages the skin. Certain essential oils shouldn’t be used for skin care.  Candles with the wrong wick size can cause fires.


Those who have taken the laborious road of research and experimentation are more able to produce a good, safe product, and respecting that gives them a distinct edge over their inexperienced counterparts.  Skipping this process may have devastating consequences.


2.     Those whom see no problem in asking potential competitors questions whose honest answers would require the person answering to divulge proprietary information have little respect for the business or the person they’re asking.  We can hope the problem lies simply in naivety, but that is not always true.  Occasionally, they are simply ruthless.  Letting them run roughshod over you is not the answer.


Is it wrong then, to ask for help?  Not at all. Those who practice a craft have a wealth of experience to share, and I hope that they do.  However,  rookies should learn respect for the process and those who are experienced in it.  This alone goes a long way, both in their own development and in their relations with potential mentors.  It is, in fact, a fine line sometimes between asking for guidance and demanding, like petulant children, that others give us what we want, NOW.  Requesting guidelines or good books and websites to learn from shows an understanding of the rights of the other person to keep competitive information to themselves.  It also demonstrates personal ambition and motivation, a willingness to learn for one’s self.  That should be encouraged.


Not everything in life can be had handed to us without effort on that proverbial silver platter, and recognizing it is the sign of one who has true potential.  These are the people that most of us love to help.


How do you feel? Do you respond when you are asked questions by amateurs?  If you’re brand new, how do you ask for help?


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


Beth Byrne



5 Responses to “Two Problems with Newbies”
  1. angela says:

    Well said Beth!

  2. Renee' says:

    I agree, well said. I am a newbie. Actually, I am very new. I am also able to view this from both perspectives. In my fulltime career I develop learning materials and create other documents that are considered intellectual property. With that being said, I understand the time and effort that goes into the creation and refining of a product and would never ask questions of that nature. However, I must say it is difficult to learn everything on your own.

    Needless to say I have not reached out to anyone asking for help or mentoring because it feels intrusive to me. Much of what I am learning is though a lot of trial and error. Possibly more error but I that I learn from my mistakes. This is also why I do a lot of “trying” on my own. There are some things that can’t be taught plus I want to find my own style and technique that differentiates me from others. I also read articles and books. I even dusted off the oid chemistry books to try tofully understand the CP method.

    I guess my question is, what is an appropriate method for reaching out that is not offensive?

  3. SavonTalk says:

    I always encourage newbies to ask questions, as do many of my colleagues. Please don’t take my comments to mean that you must learn everything on your own. What I think most of us object to is those times when people ask for what they want in order to avoid their own research and experimentation.

    As I’m sure you can see, if you show that you respect what others have worked hard for and are willing to do plenty of legwork on your own, you’ll find many helpful mentors to assist you on your way.

  4. Courtney says:

    I think the proper time/place to ask is in a forum online. The question shouldn’t be geared toward one person or group so that way if they want to share it is 100% by their own doing.

  5. Julie says:

    I’m also a newbie. I just wanted to comment because your thoughts on the right way to learn are encouraging for me as I toil, cluelessly, in the kitchen, reading books and blogs like these and learning at [what feels like] a snail’s pace. I plan to start a business and fully understand the importance of trade secrets, which is all you have when your full ingredient list is right there on the product label. I learned in an IP workshop that a big reason why Coca-Cola has gone so far was by keeping the recipe a very tightly held trade secret rather than patenting it, which would have put it in the public domain… and would have been immediately ripped off once the patent ran out. So forums, workshops, and experienced crafters who are willing to help [without giving away personal trade secrets of course] are always much appreciated!

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