What is your “Brand Story”?

May 19, 2016

The annual Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild’s conference officially started today.  It’s always a fun event.  This is my third conference now  (Raeligh, Tuscon, and Tampa).  The keynote speaker was Jerrod Sumner and he talked about Beyond the Label and Logo: Are Telling Your Best Story?

Normally “inspirational” type speeches aren’t my thing.  When we sat down I thought this would be another type speech.  It was, but it was much more than that too.  I walked away from the lecture pleased with what I’d taken away from it.

If you make or sell anything then you’ve probably heard the word “branding” come your way a time or two.  When I turned my hobby into a business I’d already been using the name “Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.”  I realized at the time that it wasn’t the most creative name, but when I suggested changing it everyone was like oh no! It’s fine.  This is how we know you! (The maybe 100 or so people I had following me at the time).  I didn’t fight it, or put up much of an argument for changing it.  1) I didn’t know what else to call my business.  2) I liked the name “Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.”  And I figured if I was ok with it, then I was going to go with it.  I had this idea for a logo at the time.  A very vague idea that I described to my best friend and said: “Hey could you create a cool logo for me.”

What she came up with was better than I could have even imagined.  I loved it.  I, to this day, love my logo.  It’s me.  People see my logo and the recognize me and my business.  I didn’t really think much beyond that when it came to branding, because I always felt I had done a decent job.  I knew there was more I could do, but overall I felt that branding wasn’t a priority at the top of my list.

Listing to the lecture today I took away so much more and realized that “branding” and your “logo” hold a hidden story. And that there’s a difference between your Brand Story and your Brand Identiy.

Branding is not a logo or your products.  Branding is a promise to your customers.  It’s a promise to deliver quality products, it’s a reputations, it’s a promise, it’s your story.

People buy products, but they join brands.

We were asked the following two questions:

  1. Why do you do what you do?
  2. What do you want to be known for?

Answering these two questions I realized wasn’t a simple one sentence answer.  And they’re actually questions I will explore in another post once I get home, because those two questions really are the heart of who I am as Jennifer’s Handmade Soap.

Make it matter to you before it matters to them.

We explored the idea of brand storytelling in the seminar.  It’s the first time I have ever heard that term, and I like it.  It’s really quite a cool way to think about who “you” are as a business.  Brand storytelling is what motivates me, and my customers that value my product  (and who tell everyone far and wide what they’re missing out on by not buying my soaps–thank you! You all are the best and put a smile on my face.).  It’s a relationship building tool, a look into who I am as a company, and the heart of who I am as a business.

Good stories give big voices to even the smallest brands.

We discussed many ways to tell your story.  Many which I do to some degree, but many more I can do or do more of.  My business has a voice.  It’s in my style of soaps.  My photos.  My blog/FB posts. My method of teaching.  How I interact with my customers.  It’s in all the little things and I hope that that voice shines through.  I want people to see how much I love what I do.  I want people to feel like they’re along for the ride on this crazy journey of mine.  And so, my challenge to myself this year is to strengthen my voice and the tell my branding story.  It was a good start the conference.  And I’m ready for more!

Using Diagonals in Soap Design

May 15, 2016

Using Diagonals in Soap Design

You see horizontal lines in soap designs, and you see vertical lines thanks to many suppliers now have these nifty vertical dividers!  What you don’t see a lot of though are diagonal lines used.  It’s really not that hard to do (maybe a bit more time consuming) and you can create a variety of looks by using diagonals in your soap.

This tutorial walks you through a simple two layer diagonal soap, but you can get as crazy as you want with the number of layers you use!

Additional Supplies

Loaf Mold
Colorants (2 different contrasting colors)
Jojoba Beads
Mini Sifter
Fragrance/Essential Oil

Step 1
We’re going to make a 2.5lb batch of soap.  You can use the following recipe or your own.


Oil(s) Selected 2.5lb Batch
Castor Oil 1.40 oz
Avocado Oil 1.40 oz
Coconut Oil (76 Degrees) 5.60 oz
Olive Oil 9.80 oz
Palm Oil 5.60 oz
Cocoa Butter 4.20 oz
4% Lye Amount 3.90 oz
Water 8.25 oz
Yields 41 oz

Prep your mold.  Find something that will allow you to tilt it as a 45 degree angle. I found that my box of wax paper works really well for this, but anything will do, just make sure the mold is steady and will hold in the angled position when you pour your soap.

Step 1

Step 2
Once your oils and lye have cooled go ahead and mix them to a very light trace.  Do not add any color or fragrance at this point.  Separate out half of the mixture into a glass measuring cup (1 lb 4oz).  Add your colorant.  I used white for my first color.  I then added purple 1 teaspoon of jojoba beads to the mixture.  1) It will give the soap a gentle exfoliant.  2) I love the added speckled look you get with the color beads in a white soap base.  After those are mixed together add your fragrance.  I typically use .7oz to mix with a pound and four ounces of soap, but follow the suppliers suggested usage rate for the fragrance you decide to use.

Step 2

Step 3
Pour your soap into the mold. It should create a clean diagonal and fill half your mold.  You’ll notice how I have a little too much soap and so some of my soap fills up more than half the mold (that’s just because I measured out 1 lb 6oz of soap and didn’t take out the extra 2oz…not the end of the world!)

Step 3

Step 4

Step 4
This is an optional step.  Depending on your design you might want to add a pencil line (or layer of mica) between the layers.  I typically don’t do it for just two colors, especially since the mica line tends to get lost in this design. For the sake of the tutorial I added it though.  When I really love to add mica lines is when I used multiple layers (3 or more) and I can use a contrasting mica color between the layers of the soap like I did in the Pomegranate Cider soap (pictured below).

Step 5


You can see how the brown mica layers between the different shades of orange make this soap pop and stand out even more!

Step 5
I’m going to let that set up for a bit before I do anything with the second part of my soap.  The fragrance I used moved fairly quickly so the soap set up and was ready for the second pour in about five minutes time.

Step 6
Mix you second colorant and about a teaspoon of jojoba beads into the remaining soap.  Then add your fragrance.

Step 6

Step 7
At this point your soap in the mold should be pretty set up and you should be able to rotate the mold so that you can change the angle to the opposite 45 degrees.  You’re going to pour the remaining mix into the mold.  Start by pouring it into the bottom and let it fill up over the diagonal side. This will help ensure that you don’t have any “punch throughs” and you keep that nice clean line.

STep 7

Step 8

And there you have it! Insulate it, then unmold and cut it 24 hours later. Put it on your cure rack and wait patiently (yeah, I know that’s hard) for 4-6 weeks.  And here you have the finished soap:

raspberry_porter (7)

Here are some different color variations and examples on using multiple diagonal layers to create different affects!


wisteria (8)

gardenia (7)

Inspirational Friday

May 13, 2016

If you were wondering how I’m doing this week then I think this quote adequately describes me. Heck let’s be honest, this describes me most weeks ha! I always have a million projects going on at any point in time.  At least I’m never bored!

2015-07-03 15.44.37

Inspirational Friday

April 29, 2016

As you know, I teach college English.  Most of my students are going into technical fields where they believe they won’t need to “write” and they come into class “disliking” the class (before we’ve even started!)

The first thing I do is get that attitude out of their heads.  I always tell them: If you think you’re going to suck at it, then you probably will.  But if you say “hey I’m going to work at this and take advantage of the fact that I have a teacher here willing to help me succeed, then maybe I can learn to be a better writer.”

It’s amazing (and gratifying to me) to see, over the years, how many students have come up to me and said: “Ms. Hofmann this was one of my favorite classes. I learn more than I ever thought I could and wrote the best essay I’ve ever written.”  It’s part of why I teach and why I won’t let negative attitudes in my classroom! I know all my students, with the right attitude, can succeed!

2015-07-06 06.45.19

Embedded Heart Tutorial

April 14, 2016

I first made this soap in 2012 and it’s been a favorite of my customers (and myself) ever sense.  It’s a pretty easy soap design (just takes a bit more time than a typical batch of soap to make).

For the sake of this tutorial we’ll do a 2.5 lb batch of soap.  You can scale this up to a 5lb or 10lb if you want.


Oil(s) Selected   –  2.5lb Batch
Castor Oil  – 1.40 oz
Avocado Oil  –  1.40 oz
Coconut Oil (76 Degrees) – 5.60 oz
Olive Oil  – 9.80 oz
Palm Oil  – 5.60 oz
Cocoa Butter –  4.20 oz
4% Lye Amount   –  3.90 oz
Water  – 8.25 oz
Yields –  41 oz

Additional Supplies

  • Heart Embed Mold
  • Loaf Mold
  • Colors (3)
  • Fragrance/Essential Oil


Since this design is using embeds it will be a two day process to make this batch of soap.  We first need to make the embeds, let them harden over the next 24 hrs, and then make a second batch of soap.

I get my heart molds from Bramble Berry, but any heart mold you have will work.  Each mold holds approximately 4.5oz of soap.

  • 2.5lb Batch – you’ll need 1 heart mold
  • 5lb Batch – you’ll need 2 heart molds
  • 10lb Batch – you’ll need 3 heart molds

For such a small amount of soap (4.5oz) I recommend just taking it from another batch of soap that you’re making.  Or, as I do, I plan out all the different embeds I want to use for a series of soaps and make a batch and separate it up to make the required embeds.  That allows me to get my embeds done all in one day.

I typically use white for my hearts and then two contrasting colors for the layers.  Because the heart is such a small amount of the overall soap in the finish bar I don’t usually add a fragrance to my heart.  This ensures that I also get a pure white heart because the fragrance can’t mess with the color.

Let your heart harden for 24 hours and then unmold.

1 embeds


Now we’ll begin the actual batch of soap.

Step 1

Make your batch of soap.  You make use the recipe above or your own recipe.  Once your oils are melted and cooled and your lye solution is ready mix them together to reach a light trace.

Step 2

Separate out 12oz of soap and set aside. This is going to be the top part of our soap.

Step 3

In the remaining mixture in your pot add the color you want to use for the base. Mix well.


Step 4

Add your fragrance to the base mixture.  Once it’s thorough incorporated pour the base into the mold.

Note: I add the fragrance to each portion separately.  I need the base to set up—to hold the heart embed—but I need the top to be fluid enough to pour over the base.  Some fragrances can speed up trace too. I want to avoid that for my top layer.  By waiting to add the fragrance it just ensures I have more time to create my design without problems.

Step 5

Once the base has harden up enough to hold the embed(s) gently place it in the mold/soap.

4 embed heart

5 embed

Step 6

Add the color to the top part of your soap. Once thoroughly mixed in add your fragrance.  Gently pour over the heart.  If you pour over the heart then the soap with spread out over the rest of the mold and you can minimize break throughs of the base layer and hence keep and nice clean line.

3 top layer mixing

6 pour top layer

Step 7 (Optional)

Add a mice swirl top.  Premix 1 teaspoon of mica with 1 tablespoon of carrier oil.  Using a dropper/pipette drizzle the mixture over the top of the soap.  Then using a toothpick of skewer makes circle/swirls through the mica lines. (Do not mist top with alcohol.  It was cause the swirls to run.)

8 mica top step 1

9mica top step 2

Note on Colors: I find contrasting colors for the heart and base/top work best, but you can do any sort of combination you desire.

These are some of my finished soap designs I’ve used with the Embedded Heart Technique.

Army Heart

pink heart

raspberry_vanilla (7)

Spiced_cranberry (9)

apple_orchard (11)

black amber lavender

cherry almond1

blackberry sage 1


Then you can take this technique and do a number of variations on it!


soap black currant pomegranate



Bamboo (10)

As you can see, I’ve had a lot of fun with this technique over the years!

Inspirational Friday

April 8, 2016

We should all live by this.  Instead of the dictionary defining problem as:

any question or matter involving doubt,uncertainty, or difficulty.

It should define it as:

an opportunity!

Do you agree? I think it would change the mentality of society and how they address and react to problems!

2015-10-01 12.43.09

Wisteria Boulevard

March 24, 2016

Last year when I made my cider soap I did a five layer alternating diagonal design for a 10 lb batch of soap.  It took FOREVER.  I loved the look and wanted to make it again, but I knew I had to do it on a smaller batch of soap.  So, here it is again with just four layers.

WISTERIA BLVD: classic floral fragrance comprises ultra-feminine notes of Wisteria, Rose, Violet and Ylang with undertones of precious woods and tender musks for a captivating and enchanting scent.

Top Notes: Melon, Peach, Coconut, Apple
Middle Notes: Ylang Ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Violet, Wisteria
Base Notes: Vanilla, Musk

I think it turned out really pretty.

wisteria (8)


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