Goals for 2019

January 5, 2019

Now that we reviewed 2018, let’s look at what I hope to accomplish in 2019!

  1. Increase sales.  I’m not putting a number out there this year. I think I have reached a point in the business where it’s harder to increase sales, and I need to not be so down on myself if I don’t reach that number. I think it’s just good to have the goal to increase sales.
  2. On that account I need to come up with specific ways to increase sales and implement them.
  3. Increase online sales.  I have the new webpage.  Now I need to implement a number of ideas I have been playing around with to grow my online business.
  4. Continue to make sure I’m 100% GMP compliant.
  5. Evaluate my teaching schedule/classes/goals and come up with a plan for getting the most out of teaching.
  6. Continue to grow our local New England Chapter.  Have more meet ups.  Proctor test sessions.
  7. Complete (and pass) my Master Exam.  My deadline is April 7th to get all this done.  I can do this. I WILL do this.
  8. Take the new Cosmetic Certification Test.
  9. New Products: Traditional Shaving soap! I also want to learn how to make Liquid soap (not that I have plans currently to add it to my line).
  10. If time permits work on growing sales of my custom favor soaps.
  11. Finish redesigning all my labels. I started that in 2018 and I need to finish up the complete revamping of my label designs!
  12. Less is More! Apply this to my product line this year.  I want to evaluate the products I make and make some decisions on what I should discontinue.  What products are worth making and what aren’t?  And what should I cut out?
  13. Do some serious thinking about where I want the business to go and how to get to that point.
  14. Use FB to promote/sell items more. I have a large following and I need to not be afraid to try and “sell” my products.  Whether it’s featured items, subscription boxes, specialty pre-order items. I need to find a way to really use the potential social media offers.

So, 2019 let’s do this.

 


A Year in Review: 2018

January 4, 2019

A Year in Review: 2018

It’s that time where I revisit my goals for 2018 and see just how well I did (or didn’t do) in accomplishing them. Not every year is AMAZING.  I realize that, but it can still be a bit disappointing when you look back over a year and it just didn’t end up where you wanted.  This year had a lot going on and was by no means a “bad” year, I just didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped to.  Here are the goals I posted for 2018.  Let’s take a look at how well I accomplished them!

  1. Increase sales by 25%.  Yup, I’m dreaming big again!

This didn’t happened. There were a number of reasons for this.  I need to readdress a few things and revamp other things.  It’s something I really need to spend some time on and time is one thing I’ve been short of this year.  I know what I need to do. So, now I need to make time to do it.

  1. Increase online sales.  This is kind of a two part plan.  I’ve been working on growing my online sales, but in conjuncture with that I need to update my webpage.  I’ve been doing research on new site platforms and compiling a list of everything I want in my new webpage and I plan to start building that in January and hopefully launch the new site in February.  Change is good!

Well…I didn’t increase online sales, but I did actually accomplish some of these goals.  The BIG ticket item here was updating my webpage.  That DID happen. It was a lot of work, but it got done and (overall) I’m really happy with the new webpage. There are still little things I’m working on with it (I think that will always be the case), but the completely revamped webpage is a big achievement.

  1. Update/Change my current batch code system.  With moving and setting up a dedicated studio space I’m been trying to fully set up/update/comply with GMP standards and with that I’ve come up with a better/new way to do my batch code system.  My goal this year is to get it fully implemented.

I made more progress.  It’s not fully there yet, but overall I’ve got a good system in place and I’m happy with the progress I have made.

  1. Continue teaching and expand on where I teach, classes I teach, and do more Library Presentations.  I’d also like to try and figure out how to really launch a kids soap making program.  This is very dependent on my time, which is going to be occupied by many things this year.

This didn’t really happen. At least not the exploring new options/classes/kid classes.  I did teach a lot of classes this year (on par with the previous years), but I didn’t grow teaching in any way.

  1. Get our Local New England Chapter up and running.  This includes creating a mailing list so I can easily reach out to all our members.  Putting together and holding  a couple “get togethers” this year.  Proctoring a test session.  Three things to start and then I can build on that.

I did get it up and running and I did get one meeting to happen (with a proctored test session).  There was more I wanted to do, but my time was stretched too thin with me trying to take on too many tasks this year.  I will continue to work on building our local chapter.

  1. Revamp my bath bomb sizes, labels, and packaging.  (To be fair I started this the end of 2017, but I need to fully implement it now).

This was successfully done!

  1. Work on my Master Exam.  This includes getting my Research Project Proposal approved.  Doing the research I need for Part 4 of the exam.  And working in the studio experimenting and learning to make the soaps I need to for Part 1.  I have a lot of work that must get done this winter.  I cannot put it off.

Research project was approved and I spent six months working on that. In fact I’m almost done with the project. I just have to finish writing the rough draft and then do revisions and that is almost ready to submit.  This part of the project took a lot of work. I knew it would be time consuming, but I underestimated just how much work it would involve.

I did make progress on the other sections of the test too.  I have three months to complete it and I’m going to be working on it nonstop to get it all done before April of this year.

  1. New Products: I want to play around with bath bomb/bubble bath cupcakes. Whether they’d be introduced as a new product I don’t know, but it’s been on my list of items I want experiment with.

I did experiment and play around with bubble bath (bubble scoops). I decided bath comb cupcakes weren’t going to be a part of my product line and didn’t do those.  But I learned a lot from the experiments I did with bath bombs and bubble bath.

  1. If time permits work on growing sales of my custom favor soaps.

Time did not permit. *sigh*

  1. Less is More: I have a pretty complex set up.  For big winter shows it’s worth it.  But for 2018, especially over the summer I want to streamline my set up to just a 6′ table.  I have created lovely set ups with just one table.  It needs to be my goal for summer markets.  I spend a lot of time on set up/take down and I want to reduce my set up time to under 45 minutes this year.  The time I’ll save if I can do that would be like a two week vacation!

This was accomplished.  It was important to me to simplify things.  I’m glad I did it.

A look at the Highlights of the Year:

  • I participated in 110 markets (Helpers worked 22 of them).  Last year I did 106 events.
  • I taught 34 classes/presentations. (25 Last year)
  • I made just over 6000 bars of soap this year. (About 700 less than last year.)
  • Continued to do my 12 in 12 on my blog.
  • In total I made over 12,000 products this year. (As opposed to 16,000 last year, though this was mostly intentional as I tried to streamline this year).
  • I put together and completed a controlled testing of Meadowfoam oil.
  • Made progress on my Master Exam.
  • Proctored my first Test Session for the Guild Certification tests.
  • Hosted our first New England Local Chapter Meet Up.

2018: A Look Forward

January 4, 2018

Now that we reviewed 2017, let’s look at what I hope to accomplish in 2018!

  1. Increase sales by 25%.  Yup, I’m dreaming big again!
  2. Increase online sales.  This is kind of a two part plan.  I’ve been working on growing my online sales, but in conjuncture with that I need to update my webpage.  I’ve been doing research on new site platforms and compiling a list of everything I want in my new webpage and I plan to start building that in January and hopefully launch the new site in February.  Change is good!
  3. Update/Change my current batch code system.  With moving and setting up a dedicated studio space I’m been trying to fully set up/update/comply with GMP standards and with that I’ve come up with a better/new way to do my batch code system.  My goal this year is to get it fully implemented.
  4. Continue teaching and expand on where I teach, classes I teach, and do more Library Presentations.  I’d also like to try and figure out how to really launch a kids soap making program.  This is very dependent on my time, which is going to be occupied by many things this year.
  5. Get our Local New England Chapter up and running.  This includes creating a mailing list so I can easily reach out to all our members.  Putting together and holding  a couple “get togethers” this year.  Proctoring a test session.  Three things to start and then I can build on that.
  6. Revamp my bath bomb sizes, labels, and packaging.  (To be fair I started this the end of 2017, but I need to fully implement it now).
  7. Work on my Master Exam.  This includes getting my Research Project Proposal approved.  Doing the research I need for Part 4 of the exam.  And working in the studio experimenting and learning to make the soaps I need to for Part 1.  I have a lot of work that must get done this winter.  I cannot put it off.
  8. New Products: I want to play around with bath bomb/bubble bath cupcakes. Whether they’d be introduced as a new product I don’t know, but it’s been on my list of items I want experiment with.
  9. If time permits work on growing sales of my custom favor soaps.
  10. Less is More: I have a pretty complex set up.  For big winter shows it’s worth it.  But for 2018, especially over the summer I want to streamline my set up to just a 6′ table.  I have created lovely set ups with just one table.  It needs to be my goal for summer markets.  I spend a lot of time on set up/take down and I want to reduce my set up time to under 45 minutes this year.  The time I’ll save if I can do that would be like a two week vacation!
  11. There are a couple items I want to market to a specific audience.  I need to put together a proposal and contact companies and really see if there’s an interest.  This is a *wish list* item.  I have a lot to accomplish this year with the work I need to do for the Master’s Exam on top of just keeping up with the regular business stuff.  If I get to this great. If I don’t there is always next year.  I just have to set my priorities for the year.

There are a lot of BIG items on this list.  I’ve prioritized my list so I know what’s most important.  I’ll try and do it all!  It’s gonna be interesting to look back at this list come January 2019!  Here’s to making 2018 an amazing year!


A Year in Review: 2017

January 3, 2018

A Year in Review: 2017

In January I posed my goals for 2017.  Well it’s come time to review those goals and see how well I did with them.  I was so surprised going through this list.  Life this year led me down a path I wasn’t expecting, and some goals I manage to exceed (never thinking it possible) and some goals never ever got addressed!  Such is life.  Overall, it was a great year.

1. Increase my profit by 25%.  To do this I have to bring in more sales, which means I HAVE to have help…i.e. I have to have an employee.  I can make the product, but I need to sell more, to do so I need to do more events, which means double booking, which means I have to have someone to cover those events.

I accomplished this! If I’m being honest I didn’t think it would be possible (though I did take steps to make it possible, I still didn’t think it would actually happen!)

2. Higher a part-time employee. <– This looks calmly typed and doesn’t portray the excitement/fear/anxiousness/giddiness of how I really feel ha!

Accomplished!  It was a learning experience for both of us, but overall this was a great addition to my team.  We definitely learned what shows NOT to do, but then I’m learning that every year when I do my own shows.  It was sometimes a challenge to have two set ups stocked, but I got it figured out and was able to keep up with having stock for both of us.

3. Each year I’ve introduced new products (and removed those that weren’t selling). At this point I’ve about got my set up set.  I know what fits in my display, what I can travel well with from event to event, what holds up in the heat…you get the picture.  I really don’t have anything I want to introduce or anything that I feel is a good time to introduce with where I am.  So, I don’t have plans to have new products this year.

I didn’t introduce any new products, but I did create/introduce a number of new gift sets over the holidays.  They went over well and I’ll continue them next year.

4. However, on to point four, I do have plans to experiment with new products. Shaving soap, liquid soap, foaming bath whip, and cream soap.  Most of these are all things I need to know for the Master Exam and to further my soapy knowledge (for my own personal satisfaction).

Yeah…that didn’t happen. *SIGH*  In my defense I was so busy when just making and selling products…then I moved in June…and yeah.  You know what I’ll be doing this winter. No excuses!

5. Grow my online sales. This has been a long slow tedious process that I will continue to work on year after year!

This is probably where I made the biggest change this year.  I’m going to keep working on this. I have plans for this (hear more about it in my 2018 goals)!

6. Grow my sales for custom wedding/shower (baby & bridal) showers.  I did do more favors this year than last year, but I need to find ways to get them out there in front of the target customer. Part of that involves me getting out there and partnering up with local florists and caterers and seeing if they’ll be willing to work together with me.  Definitely a plan I need to spell out and set clear goals for myself.

This is one thing that got pushed to the back burner.  I did continue to do custom favors, I just didn’t do anything to help grow this side of my business.

7. Continue to grow my teaching classes.

I taught 20 classes, a couple private classes, did 5 library presentations.  This is basically a little less than what I did last year with intensive classes, but a big jump in presentations where I can reach more people and so we’ll call it a draw.  I love teaching. That is one thing I know!

8. Start forming the Local New England Soap Guild Chapter. As secretary, much of this will fall on my shoulders for getting it started and initiating everything.  It’ll be a challenge and I’ll have to make sure I schedule time for it, but I’m excited about it.

Let’s call this a draw.  There was some work done, but not nearly what I hoped to accomplish.  Again, busy busy year.  I simply ran out of time.  It’s at the top of my list though to really pull things together and get some ideas implemented.

9. Take (and pass) the Advance MP certification test…since I didn’t get it done last year.

Done. Thank goodness. I never have to look at another MP test now.  I’m done at advanced.  MP soap I can appreciate it, but it’s so not my thing.

10. Submit a class proposal for the 2018 Soap Conference. Nope, I’m not telling what the topic is yet. Ha!  And yes this is a different idea/class than the one I submitted two years ago, which wasn’t accepted.

I did! It wasn’t accepted, but that’s ok.  I put together a proposal I was really proud of and submitted it.

11. Sign up for the Master CP Soap Exam. And start really PREPPING and studying and learning all that I need to pass said exam.

I signed up in April. I’ve since accomplished nothing. Okay, not nothing, but close to nothing.  I will be buckling down this winter.  It will be the focus of everything I do this winter.

12. Continue to save a percentage of every sale for future plans.

I did this, just not to the extent I wanted.  Moving can really throw your plans out of wack!

A look at the Highlights of the Year:

  • I participated in 106 markets (Sarah did 16, parents 3, other friends covered 2, the rest were all me).  Last year I did 77 events.
  • Taught 20 classes and did 5 Library presentations.
  • Made my 5000th bar on September 19 (Last year I made just under 5000 for the year).
  • Made my 6000th bar on October 11
  • In total I made 6,723 bars of soap (if I count every bar/half bar/cupcake by # made and not what equates to the weight of a full bar then I made 7,273!)
  • Bought a house and moved in June!
  • The first item I made in my new studio was a batch of Spearmint & Eucalyptus Bath Bombs.
  • Started 12 in 12 on my blog.
  • Attended the Annual Soap Conference in Las Vegas
  • Increased online sales!
  • Started an Instagram Account (which I need to figure out how to get followers on it now).
  • Started the year off well with keeping up with my newsletter and then failed to keep up with it.  I plan to readdress how I do my newsletter in 2018.  Things have to change with that.
  • In total I made over 16,000 product this year.  If we do the math that roughly works out to me make 43 products every day of the year :D.
  • Participated in The Corner Spot where I got a trial run at a “store front”.  I learned a lot!
  • I failed at creating any new soap tutorials on my blog.

 


Fall Soaps: Part 2

October 5, 2017

And here are the rest of the soaps.  And now that these are posted I need to get to photographing and editing my winter soaps! Cause those have to go up on the webpage soon!  Ahhh, it never ends!

Cedarwood Vanilla

Cranberry Sweet

Pumpkin Egnogg

 

Pumpkin & Brown Sugar

Pomegranate Cider

Pink Splash


Fall Soaps: Part 1

October 3, 2017

Normally I list these out in separate posts for you, but I’m behind on everything this month (months really…moving has really thrown me for a loop this season). So, I’m posting all the Fall Soaps in two posts (some of these are still in stock and others I’m already sold out of–which I guess is a good problem to have).  All soaps can be found on my webpage! http://www.jennifersoap.com

Apple & Clover

Beau Brummel w/ Shredded Loofah

Rustic Woods & Rum

Irish Tweed Beer Soap

Lavender & Lime w/ Avocado

Maple Cream

Oakmoss w/ Avocado


August 12 in 12

August 31, 2017

E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D!  I’m so tired.  While I’m pretty much settled in from the move and finally getting caught up on making everything, I still feel like I’ve run four marathons back to back to back…  A lot has been going on.  It’s just that time of year where the craziness starts and it won’t slow down until Christmas comes.

August 4th: The Corner Spot 

The first two weeks of August I set up in a little pop-up (affectionately called “The Shed”).  This was part of a town initiative in Ashland to create a community space.  They created a park area, and the shed for local artisans and food to come in set up for a time and sell their products.  I had applied to be a part of this back in February when they sent out a call for proposals.  I figured it would be a good experience–especially if I wanted to one day have my own store front.  Here’s my set up. I’ll have a full post soon on more about my time there.

August 7th: Restocking 

One thing I was able to do while set up in Ashland was work.  It was nice to have a space to do stuff when the shop was slow.  I restocked on my Gifts for the Magically Inclined. Going to have to make more soaps! But hopefully I’m restocked for the moment.

August 8th: Soap Soap Soap!

I continued on my crazy soap making spree in August.  Here’s lilac in the mold.  I finally got (mostly) all my restocks made and my fall soaps done.  Now I can start thinking about making the winter soaps ha! It never ends.

August 9th: Baby Shower Favors

Baby Shower favors! I adore these.  The customer wanted an earthy green and it was so much fun to be able to do something just a little different than my normal colors!

 

August 1oth: Bath & Body Class

I had classes all week  while at the corner spot.  This was a teen Bath and Body class that day. It was lots of fun making product with the girls! Hopefully inspiring some young girls too!

 

August 11th: Custom Anchor Soaps

Aren’t these pretty! I love the simplicity of them and can’t wait to design the labels to go with them.

August 13th: Pranks

I house sat for my parents while they were gone in August.  And my dad (an Army guy) played a prank on his neighbor (an Air Force guy) while they were on vacation in July.  Well I walk out on the deck to water some flowers only to be startled by this lovely rat. Ha! Go Army! I was raised right ;).  I know who’s the best.

 

August 14th: Lip Balms

Oh my! If I never see another lip balm tube again. Ha!  It too me a week, but I restocked on all 16 flavors I offer.  Almost 1000 lip balms made. I’m hoping they’ll get me through the winter season, but I have a feeling I’ll be making lip balms again before the year is over.

 

August 15th: My Happy Place: The Dance Studio

Despite all the work and craziness I’ve made time to make it to ballet each week.  It’s my happy place–where I can just forget about all the worries for an hour and lose myself in dance.

August 17th: Transparent Soap!

I make a pink grapefruit soap with goat’s milk. I make my soaps go through gel phase. This soap went through an intensive gel phase! 24 hours after I made it-completely cooled and it has this glassy slightly transparent look. I’ll be interested to see if this changes as it cures! I’ve NEVER had a soap stay this transparent looking!  It’s super cool. You can see my finger behind the soap!

August 18th: Designing Custom Labels 

 

I had a couple custom orders this month. They’re so fun to do for me.  Remember the anchor soap for a few photos up…well I got to design labels for them. I was really happy with how they turned out. This was my initial sketch I started with before I put them into Photoshop.

 

August 21st: Mini Vacation Starts (Sort of) 

Every year I take the last two weeks of August off from shows (I cheated a bit this year I did schedule two weekend farmers markets…but the other 12 days are mine).  I need this time to 1) Work on Winter  Soaps and restocking products and 2) to recoup and relax! I am utterly exhausted by the time I get to the end of August and crazy show season is just about to start.  I need that break to get through the coming four months.  This year more so that normal! I have plans to do some work (what needs to get done) and then I’m doing some day trips, exploring my new town, and just enjoying life and some time off.

Oh…one last thing if you haven’t heard. I offically (finally) started an Instagram account! I know, I know it took me long enough. You can find me here: jennifer_soap


Instagram

August 22, 2017

Well I finally did it. I broke down and created an Instagram account!  My sister actually set it up for me and was posting stuff for me until I broke down and learned to use it.  There were many moments I wanted to throw my phone across the room.  There are still moments I get frustrated with it! But I am learning and figuring it out.

If you’re interested in checking it out/following me I can be found at: jennifer_soap

 


2017 Soap Conference

May 11, 2017

Another soap conference has come and gone!  I wasn’t supposed to be attending this one (I’m pretty much on an every other year schedule for conferences), but because of a generous friend and my parents I got to attend. A big heartfelt thank you to them!

I wanted to attend this conference for a couple reasons. First, we were introducing the new Expert Test (and revised levels for the the Basic, Advanced, Masters). I was a part of the committee that worked on revamping the tests.  Lots and lots of hours of work went into this.  I mean hours upon hours of all volunteered time.  It was a great experience and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.  I’m really proud of the work that the committee did and I think we have 4 solid tests that will help soap makers truly learn and grow as they complete them.

The second reason I wanted to be at the conference was because we started Local Chapter groups and I wanted to be able to meet with our little New England division and start to get ideas for what to do and how to move forward with this! It was great to meet local soap makers and Marilyn and I will be working on putting together “stuff” (I know that’s still vague :)) for our fellow New England Soapers!

The conference was held in Vegas this year.  It started off a little rough.  I found out my connecting flight was canceled when I landed in Kansas City. The rescheduling meant another connecting flight, a lot of waiting in the airport, and some stress about late planes and making connecting flights.  I just remained positive through it all. There wasn’t anything I could do or control about it other than my attitude.  I arrived in Vegas eventually.  Luckily the flight home went much smoother!

 

I passed my Advances MP Soap test (so glad that’s out of the way.  I didn’t really need MP…it’s not something I do as I’m totally a CP soap girl…but you know me…never satisfied with just being “basic” at everything so I needed to change that pin on my badge ;).

There were some great speakers and classes I really enjoyed.  My favorites had to be Anne-Marie Faiola’s Key Note Speech and Kerri Mixon’s talk on making lye from scratch.  I’m looking forward to reading Anne-Marie’s new book Live Your Best Day Ever.  Soap Queen was the blog that really truly got me going with soap making and taught me so so much back in 2009-2010 when I first started making soap.  I’ve wanted to meet Anne-Marie for years and I finally got the chance this conference!

It was a busy schedule!  My night’s were unexciting as I was in bed by 9PM most nights…but in all fairness I was up at 3am/4am almost every morning.  Stuck on Eastern Time ;).  I was glad I got to attend this year.  I went home with some new knowledge and some new plans to implement for my business.  Overall, I’d say it was a successful learning trip!  And you know if didn’t hurt that I got to talk about soap for three days straight and no one once told me to “shut up.” 😉

And some total randomness…we (a friend and I) were in the store getting some water when I walked pass these candy bars and burst out laughing.  So, I just had to share!


Teaching (and Me)

February 22, 2017

teach tell involve

This is a fundamental I live by when teaching.  My soap classes are all hands on.  They’re small classes because I have my students MAKE everything and I’m there to instruct and guide them.  Even with my college kids I still try to formulate all exercises and homeworks and even in class work so that they are involved and have to figure out ideas/concepts/whatnot rather than me just “preaching” to them on topics.  This is how I learn!

I love teaching.  It’s funny though, as a kid I never once wanted to be a teacher.  There are a number of reasons why that I can point to, reasons that I thought wouldn’t make me a good teacher.  Looking back now I can say that many of those reasons shaped me into the teacher I am today.  Funny how life works.

Anyway, my mom always thought I’d be come a teacher (I think she was thinking more grade school level, but still).  I never considered teaching until I became a TA in college and even then my motivation for becoming a TA were the extra credits I earned.  I did realize though through the experience that I enjoyed helping others learn.

A couple years after graduating I was approached by a college to teach an evening college class.  To my surprise I loved it.  What surprised me even more was I was good at it.  The first class I ever took on soap making (some of you might know my story) was not because I wanted to make soap, but because I was doing research for an article I was writing about the history of soap.  That class was a small all day intensive class.  There were just two of us.  We made everything ourselves and the teacher just guided us.  I can say without hesitation that if that class had been a lecture styled class I’d never have gone home and made soap after that.  I wouldn’t have had the confidence. That was back in 2009!

I have since that first class been a student of soap making–constantly learning.  I have a collection of soap books, I have binders and binders worth of notes, handouts, and recipes, I follow blogs, and YouTube videos.  There’s so much I don’t know, but I do have a pretty good knowledge base at this point.

I started teaching in 2013.  And while my handouts and how I run classes have grown over the years I still teach my class very much the same way I did my very first class: HANDS ON! There’s something extremely rewarding to see a student conquer a fear, or get excited over their first soap, or start to make connections on information they’ve previously read.  There’s one thing I will continue to always do and that’s teach. I will always help anyone who emails me with questions.  I remember when I had those questions and was eternally grateful for those that helped me out.  And I’m still learning too.  And I appreciate those who take time out of their day to help me with my questions.  It’s one thing I love about my soap community: for the most part people want you to succeed and are willing to share their knowledge.

Hopefully I’ve made a small difference in the soaping world with my teaching. 🙂