Free Is Not Free

March 14, 2017

Society in general has this notion that they are entitled to “free” things.  We ask for them; we get them; we expect them.  I’m not saying everyone is an awful person because of this, I’m simply pointing out that we, as a society, have been conditioned to expect, dare I even say, believe we deserve free “things.”

This has been something I’ve wanted to write about for a couple years now.  It’s a topic I never truly considered until I started my own business and suddenly I was accounting for every expense, and understanding exactly how much every item cost me to make.  I do not write this post as a rant or in an accusatory tone.  I’m simply sharing some ideas on how we perceive two words: Free and Gift.

Let’s look at some definitions:

Free (adj.): provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

Gift (n.): the act of giving.

As a side note: I looked up the word “free” in the dictionary and got 42 different definitions to the word! 42 different meanings!  The first 7 or so related to freedom (liberty) and the next few to freedom of choice.  There were many more definitions (there’s a lot of meanings to free), but in the middle of all of those definitions was the definition of “free” that I was talking about.  But think about that: 42 ways to interpret and use the word “free”.

Back on track now! How often have you seen: free shipping, by one get one free, spend “x” amount and get one free, free samples…

These things cost us nothing.  And if we look at a strict interpretation of the definition of free  we can argue that these are all indeed “free”.  They were provided to us without charge.  But I want to argue that these are gifts.  They were “given” to us (with nothing expected in return).  We use the word “free” very often when what we really are getting is a “gift”.

I realize this is a perception on how to view the terms and their use.  Yes, either word would work (and be correct) in most situations, but do you ever hear anything called a gift?  I know I rarely do.  I argue that we’ve been condition to use the word free.  We’ve been mentally conditioned to expect and view anything we receive free of charge as “free” as opposed to a “gift” and the word choice changes our perception on how we view these “items” we are given.

I argue that the true definition of free (in terms of cost) means it wouldn’t cost anyone anything.  It would be free to the retailer and the consumer.  There are very few things I’d argue that are truly free.  The air we breathe is free maybe. Most everything else cost someone something.

I am asked (more often than I like to admit) for “free samples.”  I get request along the lines of this: I have really sensitive skin and I want to make sure your soap doesn’t irritate me before I buy it can you send me a free bar of soap?  Or: Do you have any free sample (at shows).  Now, if I gave out soap every time I was asked some of these might truly lead to a future sale, but I know most are just people looking for something they don’t have to pay for.  My point is that people ask and expect me to give them soap.  They see nothing wrong this.  They don’t see that the free bar of soap they’re asking for might be what pays for one of my meals.  Think about that for a moment.  If we make that comparison would you ask me for a free meal?  Probably not, so why ask me for a free bar of soap?  This is especially true for small business owners.  Every little bit makes a difference for us.

A fellow graduate and classmate of mine wrote about this in 2015 too.  She’s an author and is constantly asked for a “free book” usually in exchange for a review.  She faces the same problem many of us face.  I’ve made it a policy of mine that if I get a free book (for whatever reason) if I like that book I make sure I BUY something else that author has written, because (as a writer myself) I know the time and effort that went into that book and I want to support that author. I want him/her to keep writing. This “expecting” free stuff happens across the spectrum from soap to books to so many other products (even services).

I include samples with every order.  I don’t call them free samples. I say enjoy the gift. Because those samples cost me.  When I give them (which I do so happily) I am giving you a gift.  It’s a little “thank you” for your support. I appreciate it. And I want you to know that!  But every sample I give costs me in materials and time (making/packaging/labeling).

I’m guilty of using the term “free shipping”.  But trust me it’s not free.  Shipping is expensive and it hurts to eat that cost, but I do it because I’ve evaluated my business and my customers and I deemed it worth the costs on my end.  (Again, it’s a form of saying thank you to my customers).  I’m sure that this holds true for many other companies out there whenever they offer free shipping too.  Someone is paying for that shipping!  It’s not “free” when it comes down to it.

I realize that this doesn’t always hold true.  And that many (large) companies can get their costs down to a fraction of small businesses and that they can charge twice as much (with consumers willing paying it) as the small business owner for an item.  And so marking down an item or doing a buy one get one free promotion still means they come out ahead.  But there are more and more small businesses in our society today competing for your support.  This means they have to (to some degree) be competitive, offer incentives, and gain your loyalty.  And when they do that by offering free shipping or a free product please appreciate it!  Because they’re doing it for you :).  They’re saying thank you for your continued support!

What I wish we could do we replace the word free with gift.  I know I won’t change a movement (word) so ingrained in society, but maybe I can make some people think twice when they hear the word free.  Maybe other small business owners can change with me.  Maybe we can make a small difference.  Maybe then people will stop and go, that’s really not free, it is a gift.  I appreciate that.

Free is not free.  It costs someone something.  Please remember that the next time you see the words “free” on something.

 

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Tallow Recipe Formulating: Part 2

March 7, 2017

Testing Time!  I sent out 8 batches to long time users of my soap to test.  Note: These soaps were made in October 2016 and sent to testers.  With most of the results in here’s what I found.

I asked them the following questions:

Conditions of Use: Hard/Soft Water?  Do you wash with soap on skin or use a washcloth/poof?

As you used: (they used a ranking system)

  1. How long did the bar last?
  2. How did the bar lather?
  3. Did you like the “feel” of the soap?
  4. What did you like about the bar?
  5. What did you dislike about the bar?
  6. Did you have a preference/favorite?
  7. Rank the bars from favorite to least favorite.
  8. Do you have any other comments you wish to add?

Results: So, I get results that go from one end of the spectrum to the other. I’m used to this. Part of why I ask people their skin type/water type/how the wash is because that can greatly shape why someone likes or dislikes a soap and it helps me hone in on what the results really are saying.

Overall, no one really DISLIKED any of them, but people definitely had preferences.

Bar #5 was probably the least favorite for everyone with the exception of one tester who love it.  This doesn’t surprise me.  It was the bar with 70% tallow.  I got a lot of: “it lasted a long time, but the lather wasn’t great.”  And also, “too much of a squeaky clean feeling”.  It was definitely my LEAST favorite.

Tallow makes a great hard bar, but it lacks the ability to add lather and isn’t the most conditioning of fats.  I tried a 70% tallow bar because when I was doing my initial research there were a number of people who said they used up to 70% and I just couldn’t wrap my head around that much tallow being a nice bar so I decided to try one for myself.

Bar #2 and Bar #3 weren’t disliked or loved, but just weren’t favorites.  Both of these recipes used 50% tallow.  People with oily skin actually liked this bar better than those with normal to dry skin.  I wasn’t impressed with the lather.  In part that was because I cut down on the amount of coconut oil I used to accommodate the additional tallow.

Bar #1 and Bar #4 just about ended up in a tie.  Either way they were the top two finishers for most of my testers.  Bar #1 used 19.4% tallow and was my standard recipe with a straight sub of tallow for palm.  Most liked the lather, the feel on the skin, and the feel after showering.  All around it was generally liked.

Bar #4 was 25% tallow.  And I think that might be a magic number for me with using tallow in a recipe.  The one down side is this bar seemed to go a little faster.  I had people test travel size bars (I tested a full size). To me the full size bar lasted about as long as my standard bar.  Travel bars are smaller and thinner.  I actually think the reason that this bar went a little quicker was because I kept using it (longer than an of the other bars) each time I showered. I just LOVED the feel of it on my skin (as did many of my testers).

End thoughts: I went into this thinking Bar #1 would be my favorite. I LOVE my current recipe and that bar was just a straight sub of palm for tallow.  I didn’t make any other changes.  I was sure nothing else would stand up to that bar.  And while I did like Bar #1 (19.4% tallow) my favorite was Bar #4 (25% tallow).

Ultimately from this experiment I would recommend a usage rate between 20 and 25% of tallow in a recipe.

Thank you to all my testers!  I appreciate your help.

 


Tallow Recipe Formulating: Part 1

March 6, 2017

I have wanted to make tallow soap since I first read about animal fats in soap.  I wish I could remember the book I read about them in (it was one of the many I devoured when I first started making soap and was requesting every soap book my library had.)

When I started making soap to sell I’d formulated a recipe that was free of animal products and was a really nice bar. I love it.  My customers love it and at this point I wouldn’t change it, but I have still had this burning desire to play with tallow and formulate a new recipe…maybe an additional or specialty line of soaps one day.  Either way I knew I’d love using them and my family and friends would too.

I set to work creating different recipes.  The first one I did was a straight up sub of palm oil for beef tallow (run through a lye calculator of course).  Then from there I started playing. I had six different recipes by the time I got done.  And I realized some were a little too similar and so I managed to narrow it down to three recipes (so I was left with four total).

The biggest differences in these recipes was mainly the percentage of tallow I used.  I’d done a lot of reading and research and come up with a wide range of percentages to use in a recipe: from 25% up to 75% (in fact I think one person even told me they use 80%).  That’s a huge range and so I decided to do testing.  At first I didn’t go above 50% in my four test batches, but I decided a couple weeks later that I would do one more test batch with 70% tallow, mostly because I was really curious how a bar with 70% tallow would turn out.

Recipe 1:  19.4% Tallow

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This recipe was kind of my control recipe in the sense it was the exact same as my normal bars, but I subbed tallow for palm oil.  I wanted to see if there were any differences people picked up.

Recipe 2: 50% Tallow / 20% Olive

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Recipe 3: 50% Tallow / 15% Olive

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Recipe 4: 25% Tallow

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Recipe 5: 70% Tallow

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All recipes used a water discount of about 15%.

Initial reports from the five recipes is that each created a fairly hard bar (to the touch after a four week cure time), though Recipe 5 was definitely the hardest (even after just 48 hours!  Seeing that it was made with 70% tallow I wasn’t surprised with those results.


Brine Soap a.k.a Soleseife

September 5, 2016

On my list to make has been brine soap.  What is that you ask?  Brine soap or Soleselfie (German and pronounced: zo-luh-zigh-fuh) is soap made with salt, but instead of adding the salt at trace you mix the salt in with your lye-water solution and let the salt dissolve.  You end up with a super hard bar like a salt bar, but not the super scratchy bar of a typical salt bar.

A few things you have to remember:  Salt takes more water to dissolve than lye and so the amount of salt you use can only be 25% (max) of your water.  And you have to take in to consideration that the lye requires at least a 1:1 ratio of water to dissolve.  You’re not using nearly as much salt as you would in a traditional salt bar, but the results are still pretty awesome.

EXAMPLE:

Say my recipe calls for 10 oz of water and 3 oz of lye.  I need at least 3 oz of water to dissolve my lye. That leaves me with 7 oz of water. I take 25% of that and that’s how much salt I can use if I want it all to dissolve.  You can’t take 25% from the 10 oz.

I’ve seen soapers use traditional salt bar recipes (majority of recipe is coconut oil) for brine soap and I’ve seen them use standard recipes with multiple oils.  I think my preference is towards the latter.  I have to cut my soap sooner, and the lather is much smaller (but creamier), but I really like the end result.

A few months ago I made a seaweed and brine facial bar. I used mostly dead sea salt (it’s all I had on hand). I KNEW it would make a soft soap, but it was a small batch and I wanted to play and so I did it.

It took days before I could unmold the soap it was so soft (almost crumbly).  And when I did unmold it the bars ashed over (thickly).  But I put it on my dry rack and forgot about it for a couple months.  Then one day I went to check it and the soap was rock hard (just like a salt bar). I was pleasantly surprised.  I started using the soap and I loved it.  It didn’t build a big lather—I used my standard facial recipe and not a traditional salt bar recipe—but it was oh so creamy and for washing my facial it didn’t bother me the lack of big bubbles.

When I was playing around with aloe and avocado I thought I should make another batch of brine soap.  I had sea salt on hand this time and I liked the previous bar so much that I thought it was good enough to sell.

The facial soaps turned out great.  I made some body soaps too in a loaf mold where I had to cut the soap about 4 hours after I poured.  If I’d waited a full 24 hours to cut like I usually do the batch would have been rock hard!  I can’t wait to see how these set up and to try them once they’ve cured.  I might have some new soaps I add to my line!

Experimenting is fun!  These past couple weeks I’ve played around with aloe, avocado, salt, and tallow.  I need to do this more often!


Salt Bars

August 29, 2016

Salt Bars!  Since I was playing around with brine soap I figured I’d play around with salt bars too.  It has been years (like four or five years!) since I last made salt bars. I wasn’t a fan of them the first time I made them and never had any burning desire to make them since.  That is until recently.

I had some extra pumpkin from a batch of beer & pumpkin soap I’d just made so I decided to use it in my salt bars.  Used a traditional recipe high in coconut oil with a little bit of Shea butter and a 10% superfat.

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This is less than two hours later and they’re solid.

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I’m squeezing these as hard as I can…and not even a minor dent. These bar are rock hard! (Note it took them less than three hours to go from soapy liquid in the pot to hey here’s a bar!

Testing: And once again I’m just not a fan. Low, low lather. Super scratchy.  Just not for me, but I know some of my customers will love it.

I couldn’t leave it at that.  I made another batch with a slightly different recipe (replaced shea with avocado) and no pumpkin.  And I tried to push the limits of using dead sea salt (with a blend of sea salt) and it didn’t work.  I mean the bars are hardening up, but they were very soft and crumbly…didn’t come out of the mold pretty. *sigh* I should know better.  The bright side, is my desire to make salt bars is gone. Ha!  So I’m probably good for another five years when it comes to making salt bars ;).

One thing that amuses me to no end with salt bars is how fast they set up (when you use the proper salt).  Within three hours of being poured my bars were rock hard.  I mean you could do some serious damage with them. 😉


Aloe Vera!

August 22, 2016

Aloe, oh aloe!  I’d read about aloe.  I’d watched some videos about using aloe.  I figured I was ready to try it.  My mom has had this HUGE aloe plant for I don’t know how many years and I’ve always said I was going to make some soap and use some of that aloe in it.  I don’t know how many years I’ve been saying that, but I finally did it.

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Quite the aloe plant isn’t it?

Took some aloe, sliced it up, and then pureed it.  No matter how much I pureed I still had some small bits of the skin.  No one had ever said anything about the skin and so I figured it would be ok.  Well after I made the soap and cut it I was no longer sure that it would be okay.  Those tiny flecks grew in the soap and I didn’t trust that.  I had a feeling that they would be cause for concern. The last thing I wanted was moldy soap!

aloe (4)

Can I make a random comment? Aloe has a very distinct smell when cut and I can’t say I like it very much!

aloe (5)

No amount of blending completely pureed it. Might be I need a different (better) blender.

Thank goodness for FB Soap Groups.  After posting my soap and the process I got a lot of feedback on how to make aloe soap and that this batch probably was probably going to be a lost.

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Here’s a small piece of the soap. You can see the small specs of aloe practically tripled in size.

I’ve been watching the soap as it cures and the green spots have slowly kind of morphed to a brown color.  I’ll keep watching it and probably test out a bar using it and seeing how the water affects it over time.

Second batch I took my new found knowledge (advice) and didn’t use the leaf, but just scoped out the aloe and blended that with a little bit of water.  This soap is void of the troubling green specs and I’m excited to try it.

Look at this yummy, messy process 😉

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Sliced off the top of the leaf and scoped out the aloe center. Quite a messy process.

 

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Then I blended the aloe with some water. Lovely looking! Not a green spec insight! Now to make some soap with it!

No green specs.  No worries this batch.  I’m excited to use this soap. Not sure if I’ll notice a difference between it and my normal soap, but I’ll know it’s got all the aloe-y goodness in it.

As a side note:  You may laugh at me; it’s okay.  I never knew that I could just cut the leaf/stem off the aloe and leave it be (the plant that is) and it would “heal” itself. I felt so bad looking at the oozing stem where I’d cut it, but I needed my aloe!  Well a few days later I went back to look at the plant and it had closed itself right up! Haha. I know; I’m silly.  I found that quite fascinating to see.  And now I don’t fee so bad about cutting pieces from the aloe plant.


Dancing Funnel Technique: Challenge

August 12, 2016

This month’s challenged fascinated me and I knew I’d have a bit of time to actually attempt some soaps with it so I signed up.  The design is cool, my attempts—not so much.

Attempt 1: WAY to liquidy-runny

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They said you needed a really light trace…and that the soap shouldn’t be thick. I did super thin trace and well that was a disaster.  I ended up halfway through stopping the batch I was making going back to my liquids and stick blending them to thicken them up some and then starting a new loaf.  Still wasn’t thick enough and you can see how fluid this batch looks as everything just kind of ran into everything.

Attempt 1a: Left over soap…

2016-08-06 16.38.32I had some left over soap from some embeds I was making for a custom order so I decided to practice the technique some more.  Soap was still to runny though to make the technique work properly.

Attempt 2: *shakes my head* (That is all I can say…)

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I didn’t have any clean skirt bottles so I thought I’d use piping bags…You should have seen the mess I made…hence the head shaking.  This soap was better than the first but still didn’t turn out great.  First off the black got a little too thick and the white was still too runny.  It was not a fun combo to work with.

Attempt 3: Too thick

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After the previous failed attempts at a really like trace soap I finally tried a batch at a medium trace.  That ended up being too thick.  I just couldn’t win.  And oh my the glycerin rivers on this soap!  All I did was wrap it in a blanket to insulate this one and I got this craziness. I swear the fragrance had to affect it somehow because I’ve never quite seen rivers like this, though I do wonder if it could be the TD (different supplier than I normally use).

In the end I really wasn’t happy with any of the soaps.  This method is super time consuming and doesn’t work for my loaf soaps, so it’s not one I’m likely to do again, but I gave it a go!