I am excited to share that I will be moving at the end of this week!  My new home will have more space for Baltimore Bumble Crafts, which will mean that I can continue to experiment with new product ideas!  However, this may mean that there will be a slight delay in shipping some items over that weekend.  Fear not!  I will unpack all of my BBC gear first.  Your beloved soaps, lotions, shampoos, and other sundry toiletries will out to you in a timely fashion.  

Hopefully, there will be no delays, but I wanted to be up front about the possibility.  

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for some updated photos of the new workstations and work space!


Say hello to “Lord of the Flies (and mosquitos)” Bug Repellant Lotion!

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Congratulations to Nola Song for submitting the chosen name!  It was a tough decision, and folks really came up with some great suggestions during that last final push.  I honestly had a hard time choosing between some of the wittier entries!  Also, congratulations to Amber Seyler Vyskocil for winning the GIVEAWAY!  I’ll be getting in touch with both of you to get your mailing information.  You should receive your FREE LOTION in the next few weeks, depending on how quickly the labels arrive.

Thank you to everyone who participated!  Keep an eye out for future giveaways, and stop by craft shows in July for a chance to purchase one of these fabulous bug repellant lotions!

Bug Repellant Lotion NEEDS A NAME

I’ve perfected the bug repellant lotion.  It’s been tested in the hellscape of my mosquito-ridden backyard.  It’s been tested on the trails.  It’s been rubbed, smoothed, and applied to anyone who will hold still long enough!  Now, it just need a name.

That is where YOU come in, dear Soap Fans.  Suggest a name for the new bug repellant lotion for a chance to win a FREE TUBE!  The contest runs from today through Sunday, June 16th at midnight.  You can enter as many times as you like, once per day.  Whoever suggests the winning name will be given a FREE tube, but one other lucky contributor will also win.  Start naming!

To participate, post your suggestion as a Reply here, then enter the Rafflecopter (see the link above).  You can earn extra entries by tweeting about the contest!

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Year One PROFIT!

Last night, I sent in my tax returns for the first year of the business.  Whew!  What a long process … so much terminology to learn!  Still, I have a much better sense of how to organize my records for next year (for advice on that, see my Spreadsheets for Small Business series).  But you know what’s even better than getting the taxes done?

SHOWING A PROFIT!  After everything was calculated and done, Baltimore Bumble Crafts showed a profit of $15 in its first year.  HOORAY!  HUZZAH!  CHEERS!  This is a BIG deal.  At some point in the first three years, every business had to show a profit in order to prevent being forever and always relegated to “hobby” status.  This means that if you don’t show a profit in the first three years, you cannot write off any of your expenses and everything you make shows up as income, even if you actually lost money that year doing it all.  This is the worst-case scenario for any business.  And now, I. Am. Safe. Forever.



New Soap Names!

One of my goals for this year is to unify my branding a bit more.  Last year was a bit chaotic and, while I liked the old names, that’s all they were: things I liked.  This year, I wanted my product lines to have a bit more internal logic.  Therefore, the new theme for the soap names is ………………………….drumroll please








Literary References!  After lots of feedback from customers, I’ve come to the realization that the whimsical literary names were the hands down favorite.  It also doesn’t hurt that I teach English during the week and have lots and lots of favorite poems, novels, short stories, plays, and authors to draw from.  You’ll still only see “Things I Like,” but there will be a bit more consistency there.

So, for those of you who just want to find your favorite soap and couldn’t care less about its name, here’s a handy chart:

Signature Scents

Functional and Fragrance Free

Reflection on the First Year

It’s been over a year since I began this business in earnest.  When I began, I honestly had no idea what I was doing or how to go about anything.  I’ve never taken business classes, and in the beginning, it showed.  After a year, I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I can see the improvement already.

I’ve accomplished a lot of my goals:

  • My products are in retail locations.
  • I have repeat, loyal, fabulous customers. (THANKS)
  • My products lines are continuously expanding.
  • I’ve established a proper home office, with work stations and streamlined storage.
  • I donated over $75 to environmental charities.

Still, it’s good to set goals for year two, so here goes.  By the end of 2013, I want to:

  • Donate at least $200 to charities
  • Sell products in at least two retail locations
  • Cut my business debt down to no more than $2,000
  • Trade-in for a more fuel-efficient business vehicle
  • Streamline my branding, logos, and naming conventions

Some of these goals are bit of a stretch, but any small business owner knows that it’s all about dreaming big!  If it wasn’t, none of us would make it past year one!  To my fellow vendors: onward and upward!  To my customers: I can’t do it without you either!  A sincere THANK YOU to everyone who helped me get this far!


Disaster, almost

Day 354 as a professional soap maker and I’ve had my first real lye burn.  Before you panic, let me be clear: I did not have to go to the hospital or seek medical help, but I cried — OUCH!  Honestly, I probably cried more for the lost product than I did for the injury.

To begin at the beginning:

I’ve been trying to catch up on some low stock, so I was multi-tasking.  Bad call.  While making a big batch of the Trousseau  and Hon(ey) Soap, I also decided to work on some lip balms and bag a bunch of orders from my office.  In doing so, I forgot to put together my soap molds until I had already mixed the lye solution and the oils!

Frantically, I screwed together the molds and poured in the unscented Hon(ey) soap.  I quickly realized that the soap was leaking out of the side; something was wrong and I couldn’t figure out what in time to save that batch.  I will need to investigate that mold before I try again to figure out why it didn’t seal properly.  I dumped the whole thing in the sink, apparently getting some on my sleeve in the process.

Cranky about the first wasted batch, I mixed in the essential oils for the Trousseau Soap and started pouring into the other two molds.  The first mold went fine and I put it on the shelf to cure.  The second mold, however, was a complete disaster.  In my panic over the first mold, I must have forgotten to insert the second bottom liner of the acrylic mold, meaning that there were two huge holes in the bottom of the mold!  By the time I realized what was going on, half of the soap had gone straight through the holes into the burner compartments of my range, filling two of the burner areas!

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As I tried to get that mold into the sink as well, some of the soap splashed onto my face.  I tried to wipe it off with my sleeve, but only managed to get more on my lips.  My poor, stupid instincts kicked in and, before I could stop myself, I’d licked some of it off.  Now my cheek, lips, AND tongue were burning from the soap and the water from my tongue was making the lye in the soap burn even more.  I couldn’t get to the vinegar fast enough, and, even then, it burned.

I’m fine; my lips are now only a little swollen and my tongue is alright.  You can’t even tell that my cheeks were touched at all.  Mostly the right half of my lips feels red and angry.  Just in time for Thanksgiving lol.

All in all, it could have been worse.  It also could have been much, much better.  Out of the 50 bars of soap I was supposed to create tonight, I probably can salvage  20 (from the mold where everything went fine).  The rest of the soap will either be totally unusable (if it’s filled with junk from the range), good enough for me to use in my own shower (if it’s maybe a little junky, but safe), or turned into soap balls (if it’s fine but oddly shaped).

Lesson: Focus.  No multi-tasking!


Dawson’s Market Grand Opening!

Baltimore Bumble Crafts’ products will now be sold at Dawson’s Market in Rockville!  The Grand Opening is today and there will be free samples available all day!  The shop is in Rockville Town Square and has plenty of parking nearby.  As of today, the following products are available at Dawson’s:

Look at that beautiful inventory!

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Fall Festival at Quarry Lake (September 2012)

Location: Greenspring, MD

Day of the Week: Sunday

Weather: Warm with a Breeze

Organization: Before the event, there was some information about load-in, maps, etc.  There was almost no visible advertisement on the part of the promoters, however.  They also spelled my business name wrong in all of the literature, even after I corrected them.

Crowd: A bit smaller than advertised.  Still, I had enough customers.

Crowd Make-Up: Mostly families, primarily Jewish.

Booth Fee: $110 for a 10′ x 10′ space

The show was a success, but I don’t know if I’ll do it again.  On the one hand, I more than broke even.  Not by a lot, but by enough, barely.  At the last show I did with Harris Promotions (in Pikesville), everyone lost money and it was a total waste of time and energy.  This show was at least financially worth it.

On the other hand, there are a ton of other shows during September, some of whom might be more well-run or more worth my time.  Next year, I may branch out.  I want to keep working with these customers; I just don’t want to keep working with this promotion group.

Honestly, I feel bad that the Jewish community of Baltimore is being offered such crappy craft fairs.  Both of the shows I’ve done in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods have been run by this same promotion group.  I don’t know if it is because the event organizers make assumptions about the kinds of products people in that community want, but they don’t recruit very many talented or interesting vendors.  I only saw a handful of other crafters there; most of the booths were staffed by big companies advertising services.  There were at least five different kinds of tub-replacement services, five different chiropractors, two or three urgent care clinics, several banks, and lots and lots of free junk.   Craft fairs aren’t much fun if all there is to do is make your way down the line and fill a bag with free lanyards and stress balls that will just clutter up your house later.  All day, my customers either complained that I didn’t have free stuff too or complained that there weren’t any other real artisans there.  It was kind of surreal.

I really just can’t get over the fact that they got my name wrong in so many different, frustrating ways.  When they sent out the list of vendors, I couldn’t find myself on it.  I finally realized that they had written me down as “Baltimore Bubble Cards.”  Now I can see confusing “Bumble” and “Bubble” (people do it all the time), but if they read my application enough to know that I was selling soap, why did they think I was selling cards?  I emailed to ask the promoter to fix the error, explaining that the word was “Bumble” because of the use of beeswax, honey, etc. in the products.  On the day of the event, they had clearly had time to fix it because then it read “Baltimore Bubble Crafts.”   So they changed it to “crafts,” but still didn’t fix the most important word in the name!

I get it; “Baltimore Bubble Crafts” makes a lot of sense … if soap was all that I do.  But I also quilt and sew, and I want to leave myself room to grow.  So nothing against bubbles, but it’s just not me.

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