Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lessons Learned

It's amazing how quickly my business is evolving.  Being a business and marketing geek from way back, I had mapped out some possible outcomes when I decided to monetize my #soapmaking hobby. My guess was that I'd have a handful of sales per month in the first year or so, and would likely operate at a precipitous loss for the first year or two.  Hey, this isn't something that most people do to get rich!

I've been so absolutely astounded at how wrong I was! While I'm still operating at a loss at less than 60 days in, I can say that the loss is far less than anticipated, and my sales have been much higher than expected.  Because of the underestimated demand for my product (lovingly #handmade #soap), I find myself behind the proverbial eight ball a lot these days.  I've done one bazaar, and have two more lined up for early next year.  My soaps are already being sold in one shop, and I'm starting to look for more wholesale opportunities.

Sales have been way better than expected!

One thing I've learned is that I need to plan better for a higher level of production.  Since my soap takes four or more weeks to cure, there's a lot of advance planning and resource procurement that I definitely need to do a better job of streamlining.  For example, I ran out of lye the other day.  As anyone who makes soap knows, you just can't make soap without lye.  I ordered some more lye, thinking I could just run to my local source to pick up a pound or two of lye while I waited for my order to come in...only to find out that my local source is going out of business!  Yikes!  So I've been without lye for over a week now.

Not only did this conundrum highlight my need to anticipate supply needs better, it forced me to pivot.  I don't want to waste time waiting for the UPS guy to show up with my lye, so I've been working on some other products.  I found that I really enjoy making bath fizzies (aka bath bombs), and the instant gratification of having them done and ready to go to market within a day or two is a nice contrast to the four week cure time of my cold process soaps.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade...er...Citrus Splash bath fizzies, in this case.
I've also spent some time on Pinterest recently.  I'm going to be honest, and please don't throw me out of the suburban housewife club.  I kind of don't get Pinterest.  I mean, I understand what it is and what it does, but I just kind of don't get it.  It's like a bookmark bar, but with pictures?  I guess that functionality just isn't something that was missing in my life until now.  Nonetheless, I think that soaps, lotions, and bath fizzies can be really visually appealing, so I think Pinterest can be a good medium for showing off my favorite creations.

So, as I enjoy the holiday vacation with my husband and kidlets (and try to wait patiently for my darn lye to show up), I'll be making bath fizzies, and of course, testing them out.  It's for research, you see. The things we do in the name of science!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Going Retail

Exciting news!  My soaps are now available for sale at a lovely shop in Tacoma, WA called Shyne. Shyne has all sorts of handmade goodies from local artists including jewelry, candles, hats, and now my soap!  It's located in a complex called Freighthouse Square, that I think of as the Pike Place Market of Tacoma.

If you're in Tacoma and are dying for some handmade soap (or other gifts made by local artists), check them out!

Shyne at Freighthouse Square
2501 East D Street, Ste. 101
Tacoma, WA

With my soap for sale at Shyne, and with another craft show (or shows) coming up in February, I really need to up my #soapmaking production!  At this point I'm really focusing on reducing costs where I can and turning out a consistent, high-quality product (as anyone who makes #soap can tell you, it's practically soul-crushing when a batch doesn't turn out!).  Maybe if I've been really good this year, Santa Claus will bring me some new soaping equipment...

Here's what's on the drying rack right now:

  • Eucalyptus Spearmint
  • Forest Rain
  • Pink Champagne
  • Citrus Splash
  • Rosewood (Sandalwood Rose)
  • Lavender
  • Cranberry Fig & Orange
Happy Holidays, all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Soap Making and Selling (Plus a Question for YOU!)

I finished my first bazaar this weekend, and although foot traffic was sparse, I really feel like I learned a lot.  The soaps that I thought would fly off of my table weren't always the favorites, and the ones that I was lukewarm on were big hits.  I was somewhat surprised that I sold out of some snowman bath fizzies that I made specifically for the event.  I'll definitely need to get on making more bath fizzies!

Today I'm back to #soap making.  I had to resist the temptation to spend my recently earned profits on a sale from one of my suppliers on essential oils.  Fragrances are my downfall!  I'm somewhat committed (to myself, at least - that's one great thing about being the business owner/sole employee of your own business) to using the materials that I have on hand before another big supply order.  I just finished a batch of Citrus Splash soap that smells so good I could practically eat it.

Citrus Splash soap in the mold.  It smells delicious!

Next on the proverbial agenda is finding another craft fair.  I think I found one in February that would work out well, but I'd have to sell quite a bit just to break even after paying the vendor fee.  I'll also need to work on my inventory!  That leads me to my question for YOU.  I have some clove essential oil that I have no idea what to do with.  It's not my favorite scent (it reminds me of pumpkin pie, and my imagination just can't seem to get past that).  What do you think would be a good fragrance to blend with it?  Please, please, please reply in the comments.  I need some input, people!  I'm thinking about a spiced orange scent, with orange, clove, and perhaps cinnamon essential oils.  Any ideas would be so very appreciated.

My soaps take at least 4 weeks to cure.  The waiting is the hardest part!
Lastly, here's what I have curing right now in my office:  Oatmeal Honey, Coffee, Eucalyptus Spearmint, Forest Rain, Pink Champagne, and Lemongrass Green Tea.  Once I unmold the Citrus Splash, I'll add it to the posse. The waiting is truly the hardest part in #soapmaking!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Bazaar...

I'm doing my first bazaar on Saturday!  I've been working like crazy to package all of my soaps and solid lotion bars in preparation.  My family has been lathered, slathered, and cleansed while I test and re-test my soaps and lotions!  I have no idea what to expect, and I'm a little bit nervous.  Come see me!

Southgate Chapter #190 Order of the Eastern Star
Annual Christmas Bazaar

9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Southgate Masonic Hall
1004 SW 152nd. St., Burien, WA

I'm bringing as much soap as I can carry, along with my new solid lotion bars.  I'm also bringing along some jaunty little snowman bath fizzies that are a bazaar exclusive (they're not on my Etsy site).  

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!