Advice is Free

March 3, 2015

Turning my hobby into a full time business has been hard work–really hard work!  There are days I work 14-16 hours and I could work longer because there’s still plenty of work, but I unfortunately run out of steam.  It’s been a lot of trial and error.  There have been products that I was sure would be successful and don’t sell and ones I didn’t think would move and fly off the shelf.

The problem with introducing new products is it usually means a new expense.  Rarely do I have everything I need in stock to make the product.    That’s part of the business.  I’ve gotten much better at managing the new expenses and predicting costs I’ll need to invest.  I have a list of “products to try” a mile long. There’s so much I want to still learn to make and experiment with.  There’s only so much money and time to do that though on top of everything else I make.

On top of new products I’ve (along the way) dealt with creating a webpage, figuring out which markets/craft fairs were good/bad, actually attending and selling at those craft fairs, creating a wholesale line, growing my wholesale client base, creating (and maintaining) a newsletter, teaching and developing new soap classes, finding new/more venues to teaching my classes through, maintaining a blog, maintaining Facebook… Oh! And not on that list is just making all the products (over 75 different products) that sell that is the heart of my business.  You see the list goes on and on.  There are never enough hours in the day.  There is always something that doesn’t get done or gets pushed back a day, a week, a month…

This is enough to overwhelm anyone.  I’ve dealt with it though, and fairly well I think.  Along the way my parents (Dad especially), brother, even friends have offered their advice.  They do it to help me. I know that.  Most of the time they’d offer suggestions and they’d already be on my list of “to dos.”  I always got frustrated with them.  I would be like “there’s only one of me and I’m doing the best I can!”  It took me awhile to realize that their advice wasn’t criticism.  It was just that advice. They WANTED me to succeed.  They wanted to help me.  Their advice was their way of caring and trying to show their support for me.

Some of their advice I ignored because it was something that would create more work for me or force me outside my comfort zone.  I learned the hard way sometimes that I should have listened to their advice.  It might have been more work initially but it would have paid off later, whether through sales, increased visibility, attracting new customers, or making me stand out.  Some advice I’m now implementing.  It’s never too late.

That said some advice I don’t listen to.  Not because it’s not good or have merit, but I (just like you) know my business and I know somethings just aren’t a direction I want to go, or I would hate doing it (and that’s not the reason I started my own business!)

The lesson I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) though that I wanted to share is be open to advice.  It costs you nothing (but maybe some time) to listen to and think about someone else’s suggestions.  You don’t have to take the advice.  You can use it as inspiration for something else.  Or you can take it.  Just remember listen with an open mind.  It could be well worth it in the end.

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Creating Handouts

February 24, 2015

coverpageI teach soap classes (beginner, intermediate, advance, CP, MP, Milk Soap…just about everything).  I’ve been teaching now through local community ed programs and doing private lessons for over two years.  I used to teach a bath and body class where I taught the students how to make a scrub, balm, and body spray. I was never really happy with the class. I wanted it to be so much more.  I eventually stopped offering it.

Recently I started doing research for my own new line of scrubs.  I wanted to go beyond the basics.  I was compiling all this information for myself and I thought I should create a whole new set of handouts on bath products and teach a class again.  After two years my knowledge has grown significantly.  I’ve introduced a wide range of bath products to my line over this time and I’ve experimented constantly on tweaking recipes and trying out new ones to even creating my own products.

I started to create the handouts and they very quickly morphed into this massive project.  I didn’t just want to give students a handful of recipes.  I wanted to teach them how to formulate their own products!  Of course to do this you have  not only understand what the product does and why we make it, but the ingredients that make up those products.  And by understanding the ingredients you use, their properties, why they’re good for you, why you’d use some over others, they’d be equipped to make anything they wanted.

To teach that though is much more of an undertaking than to give students a handful of recipes and say ok here now you can make some new products.  Sure, they could, but they weren’t really going to learn anything that would help them tweak and alter and eventually create their own products.

Almost 80 hours later I’ve finished a first draft of my (25+ page) handouts.  That’s just part 1.  There is a part 2. There is also a detailed step by step instruction section I want to complete.  I’m a long ways from done, but I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  My 20 pages of notes are now coherent organized ramblings! And it’s super exciting to see it taking shape. I can’t wait to teach and offer this class in the future.  I’ve found a joy in making these products through understanding what I was doing and not just following someone else’s recipe and I hope I can pass that on to others.


Field of Flowers

February 21, 2015

I always have have an idea in mind for my finished soap when I start a batch.  Most of the time it doesn’t quite come out as I pictured it, but it’s close enough and it looks good.  This time I had this idea in my head and I was really, really skeptical that it would work, but I gave it a shot.

It worked.  I was so surprised that the soap came out just like I envisioned!

Field of Flowers

Field of Flowers

Step 1: Pipe the grass.

Step 2: Pipe the flowers.

Step 3: Add the white center, because the flowers just needed a little something more.

fields of flowers1

Cut Bars:

sweetpea

sweetpea1

 

sweetpea5

sweetpea7


New Tags: What’s your vote?

February 19, 2015

Trying to decide what tag to go with the the new cupcake soap tags.  What’s your pick?

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PS: I don’t know if this is my computer or WordPress or what but the colors are showing up more bold and slightly morphed.  Hopefully they look normal for you all.  WordPress is definitely showing them slightly “off” but you can get the idea of the design at least.


Brush Embroidery Technique: Painting your Soap Top

February 16, 2015

A while ago I saw a post with a soap that had created a brushed embroidery look top.  It was designed like a flower. I thought it was cool and wanted to try it.  Did some research online to see how it was done for cookie/cake decorating.  Gathered some pictures for inspiration and set about attempting to make my own.

I decided to make a black and white soap.  I knew I wanted something that contrasted so black and white seemed like the best choices.

tools

I didn’t put any fragrance in the white as I wanted to make sure it didn’t get too hard that I couldn’t brush it.  It ended up being too soft/liquid-y on me in the end ha.

What I learned: 1) I definitely need to work with the consistency on the next attempt.  You don’t want the soap too hard that a paint brush can’t spread it, but if it’s too soft you can’t get any definition.

2) Doing an intricate/small design on a batch that will be cut into bars is hard. I was trying to make the designs (flowers and hearts) small so that you see them or part of them on each bar.  It didn’t work.

brush top designs

3) You need very little soap to make it spread. I ended up have to remove a lot of soap build up from my brushes.  I kept creating dots that were too wide to spread.

4) Create little dots to spread out rather than one long line of soap.  It creates a prettier effect.

What I turned it into: You can see in the above picture the small designs weren’t working.  At that point I decided to just start covering the edges to see how it looked.  I found it was creating a REALLY cook textured top!  I decided to just cover over what I’d done and cover the whole top with brush strokes.

You can see that the bottom left hand corner has the nicest dot/brush strokes.  I need to work on that.  It’s really quite pretty and if the whole top had looked like it it would have been neat.

Final top: Here’s what it ended up like once I covered it all.

brush top1

And then I decided to try adding a hint of mica dusting.  I had a couple spots that got a little too much mica (oops).  Not the end of the world.  It’s kind of pretty. I want to see how it all looks when it’s cut.

brush top

The results: It’s actually quite pretty.  I like it enough that I’m going to continue to play with the technique.

brush top2

Attempt 2: I won’t even bother with pictures because it really doesn’t have anything that even looks like brush strokes. I couldn’t get the soap batter to thicken and I got impatient so I thought I’d try it as it was.  Bad idea.  You need your batter to be thick (the portion you’re going to “paint” on top of the soap.)  That revelation led to attempt 3.

Attempt 3: Here I was bored with one color so I tried to gradient the top (as I had did a gradient for the actually soap).  I let the soap I was going to brush get harder, but still not hard enough. I also realized that the past two batches my tops had still been rather soft and that was causing problems. I couldn’t get that brush definition (even with a thicker batter) because my paint brush kept poking through and pulling up the base soap’s batter.

brushtop1

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As you can see, it’s a pretty soap, but lacks the clear brush strokes that my first attempt had.

Attempt 4: I let the batch set up so that it had the thickness of my very first attempt (which just happened to be luck as I used a fragrance that moved quickly).  I also waited (and waited and waited) until the soap I needed to pipe was pretty darn thick.  It’s hard to be patient! I had to go off and do something else and come back to this soap almost an hour later before I could do the top.  It was worth waiting for everything to set up though! I was finally able to brush it.

gingertea5

gingertea2

One thing I realized is that if I go around the edge of the mold and work my way in I will end up having trouble getting the middle to have any sort of definition.  It’s definitely better and the bar look pretty overall.  After I finished this batch I thought about trying a cross stroke pattern.  I thought it might be easier and give me more of that brush look.  So, yup you guessed it that was attempt #5.

Attempt 5: This is the last one.  I’ve played around enough that I have a good idea what to do in any future attempts and at this point it’s just going to take practice to get it “perfect” (or at least to the point where I’m happy).  With that in mind I tried cross hatching this one to see how that turned out.

berrypunch3

berrypunch5

There are a lot of different options obviously.  It took me some time to figure things out.  I think from time to time using this as a change from my typical tops could be fun.  Now it’s time to move on to playing with a different technique!

 


Sketching Designs

January 18, 2015

I’m back at it!  Creative juices are flowing again! (Took them long enough to get going!)  I think I know what my 10 new Spring Line will be.  (I call them spring line cause they’ll be debuting around end of February and go through Mom’s day.  Then the Summer Line comes around the end of May).

There are still two I don’t know what to do with.  I still have time to figure it out.  Making the others and finishing up my standards restocks will keep me busy and give me time, but I’m excited that I have ideas again!  Sometimes it gets hard to not do the same thing all the time.

This is me at work:

sketch soaps


2015: A Look Forward

January 15, 2015

I met many of my goals in 2014.  So, now it’s time to make those 2015 goals.

  1. Double my profit.  This might be asking too much, who knows, but I’d rather challenge myself than just be content to do what I did last year.
  2. Work on my “attraction appeal.”  I know that seems a bit big and vague.  What do I mean?  Work on pulling new customers.  Work on standing out.  Work on making some new products that will draw in new customers.  Goal #2 goes hand in hand goal #1.  I’ve already begun working on goal #2.
  3. Maybe (finally) finalize my display set up?  I know that will never happen.  I think part of a changing display makes for something “new” for repeat clients, but I’m hoping to before the season really starts get my new display all pulled together to work with all my new products (and all fit in the car)!  I’m currently banging my head against walls as I continue to play around with options.
  4. Introduce a few new products.  I want to develop a body scrub/polish line, bubble bath, lip scrubs, shower tabs, and under eye butter.
  5. Make some improvements to my webpage (most which will be behind the scenes changes).
  6. Grow my online sales.
  7. Grow my wholesale sales.
  8. Expand where I teach classes and the variety.  I started this last year, and want to continue on the path this year.
  9. Save a percentage of every sale for a really BIG (potential) goal that is (potentially) years away.

That’s a fairly big list.  I’m sure there will be other things that come up and will get added to it, but these are my goals for 2015.

kicksart21

Half the battle is having a positive attitude! The other half working hard–something I’m very good at. I will not give up (but I might complain along the way :) …this is what best friends are for though.  They’re good at listening to your frustrations and just being there for you as you realize no matter how hard or rough something might seem that You CAN and you WILL!)

 


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