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

IMG_0931

Gaithersburg Olde Towne Fest (September 2012)

Location: Gaithersburg, MD

Day of the Week: Sunday

Weather: Warm with a Breeze

Organization: Before the event, there was plenty of  information about load-in, zones, and directions to the event.  Staff was available throughout the event to help answer questions and help finding parking.  Parking for vendors was extremely close by; I could have unloaded (with a cart) from my parking spot.

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

Crowd Make-Up: Mostly families, primarily Hispanic.

Booth Fee: $70 for a 10′ x 10′ space

This was a good show, but not a great show.  I will probably do it again.  I have a feeling that the event will grow as time goes on.  The organization of the event was great.  I got plenty of information, was directed quite efficiently during the event, and there were no obvious mix-ups of spaces like you find at some shows.  They also had done a lot of advertising beforehand.

On the other hand, there was a definite difference between being near the food trucks (lots of people and relatively peaceful) and being near the train station (extremely loud and a much smaller crowd).  At least five times during the event, a train came through the fair, blaring its horn and rumbling.  It was impossible to hear or even think with the noise it made.  I know that the organizers cannot control the train, but they should not put vendors so close to it.  It really interfered with sales.

On a more personal note, now that the oppressive summer heat is gone, I am seeing a lot more bees in my tent.  They smell the floral essential oils, beeswax, and honey, and flock to me.  I love seeing them buzz around the booth.  I had one hanging out on my scarf for a few minutes even!

I know that some customers get scared away by them, but I find them soothing.  One little boy was in the booth with his mother and he saw a bee on the ground.  Instead of having my reaction (joy), he freaked out and stomped it!  Then, he and his brother proceeded to watch in fascination as it struggled.  I was horrified and heartbroken.  Here I was, welcoming the bees and enjoying their company, and he just killed it with no regard for its right to life.  It made me feel guilty for having drawn the bees over, however inadvertently.

IMG_0830

Introducing Bumble Balms!

After listening to YOUR feedback, I’ve finally launched my line of lip balms: Bumble Balm’s!  These no-frills lip balms are as simple and pure as possible.  Sticking with my mission to produce high-quality all-natural skincare, the Bumble Balms contain only organic shea or cocoa butter, organic beeswax, organic olive oil, and essential oils.  You will never find synthetic flavor oils in these balms!

I thoroughly research the safety of the essential oils that I’ve used in these balms.  Only lip-safe EOs are in the Bumble Balms.  This limits the range of scents I offer, but you can rest assured that these products will be safe!  I’ve also chosen not to add any sweeteners to the balms to help you protect your lips.  Sweet balms tend to encourage us to lick our lips, which actually dries them out!  Here, you’ll get all the great scent and none of the temptation to lick your lips dry!

You can find these great balms at my Etsy store.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

fireworks-photos-156

Six Months of Vending: Reflections

I’ve been vending at craft shows, farmer’s markets, and fairs for almost six months now.  Those of you who’ve been following this blog know how far I’ve come, but let’s take a moment to reflect.  In the beginning:

  • I sold only 5 types of soap, and only soap.
  • I was using a heavy, metal banquet table, borrowed from my Mom (THANKS MOM).
  • I had no clue how to display my items.  I just sort of set them on the table and hoped for the best.
  • I guessed at what a reasonable price would be, without considering all of my material costs, transportation, market fees, or labor.
  • My labels contained only the most basic information about ingredients, and not always in the proper order.
  • I tried to please everyone.
  • I went crazy shopping online for essential oils, without any clue what I would use them all for.  I just wanted to smell them!
  • I put most of the initial costs on my personal credit card (super No No).
  • My products used conventional oils and some synthetic fragrance oils.

I did a lot of things wrong, in hindsight.  SIGH!  Still, I did the best I could and, for the most part, realized very quickly when something was not working.  Let’s see how I’m doing now:

  • I currently have 8 types of soap on the market, with several more in the testing phase.
  • I have introduced 3 types of shampoo, with plans to introduce at least two more.
  • I have introduced 8 types of lotion and have begun to transform those lotions into lip balms.
  • I have introduced 5 types of sea salt scrubs and hope to expand into Bath Salts soon.
  • I’ve got beautiful, light-weight bi-fold tables, two canopy tents, and plenty of pretty displays for the tables.
  • I receive compliments on my table displays constantly, including one from the leader of an art conservatory who used my display as an example of “doing it right!”
  • I’ve begun tracking (some might say hyper-tracking) my costs, sales, and prices, down to the most minute detail.
  • My labels fit FDA guidelines and best-practices for soap-makers.  Hooray!
  • I’ve started to finally dip into my fabulous stash of essential oils and have begun thinking of fun new combinations, just in time for the holidays.
  • I set up my DBA, business banking and credit accounts, and got all my insurance and licensing.
  • I only use organic oils and essential oils (with one exception) in the products.

Hooray progress!  All in all, I think I am finally getting into the swing of this business.  I’ve got my production system in place (barring natural disasters, ahem!) and I can really focus on the little things now.  There’s a million things I want to do with this business, but I know I need to take things in baby steps.  With that in mind, here are my goals for the next six months:

  • Take some gorgeous photographs of the products to put on Etsy and this site … sorry iPhone, you just don’t cut it anymore.
  • Maximize my booth space by getting some nice vertical displays (shower caddies, anyone?)
  • Create seasonal products, like gift baskets, in time for the holiday shopping season.
  • Start making some bath textiles.
  • Minimize spending and start to chip away at that start-up debt.
  • Arrange to take the Basic Certification test through the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild (a formality, but one I’d like to do).
  • Get my products into at least one retail location.
  • Figure out this whole “twitter” thing.
  • Have fun!

I’ve got some bold goals, I know.  Here I go ……

IMG_0466

Honey Soap

Now that I’ve switched from using some artificial fragrances to entirely essential oils, I’m beginning to use real organic honey in the soap.  The Miel Citron soap is pretty popular, but I didn’t want to keep selling it with the synthetic fragrance.  Today, I decided to make my first batch of the new recipe.

Normally, the lemongrass essential oil gives the soap a pleasant yellow color.  I found out, however, that honey gives soap a slightly orange tint.  I don’t know if it will last once the gel stage is over, but right now, the soap is a beautiful deep orange:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’ll see how it looks when I slice it.  Who knows, it could be the prettiest soap yet!

Scent Stones

I keep hearing from customers and friends that they wish they could just leave my soaps out to scent the rooms in their house.  Since I’d rather they continue to use and buy the soap, I’ve come up with an alternative product: Scent Stones.  These hard little stones have all the same essential oils as my soaps, but they are much more versatile.

Part of that versatility is the storage.  I’m putting a bunch of the little pebbles into 4 oz. ball jars and then using fabric lids to help release the scent without releasing the stones.  When they’re up for sale, the lids will be closed, displaying the label information, but once they’re purchased, the customer takes off the flat part of the lid, opening up the smell. They can leave them on their desk at work or put them in a dresser to scent their lingerie.  The possibilities are really endless!

At this point, the best prices I’ve found for Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz., Case of 12 are on Amazon.  I think the quilting gives them a prettier touch than the regular Ball jars, but those little quilted ones are hard to find! Besides, I want people to focus on my logo, not the jar’s logo.

To make the fabric circles perfect, I’ve been using the OLFA 1057028 CMP-3 Rotary Circle Cutter.  I am horrible at cutting circles on my own and they never look quite right.  At first, I thought I wanted to use pinking shears to make the edges, but I like the look of the perfect circle more than the imperfect circle with pretty edges.

PICTURES TO FOLLOW SOON

I’ve got one in my own lingerie dresser right now.  I want to test to see how long to scent lasts before I put them on the market, but so far, so good!  It’s been in there for almost a month and the smell is still going strong.  Getting dressed is a lot sexier now (which is funny because normally getting undressed is the sexy part)!

Plucky Peppermint

Plucky Peppermint Buzz

Tonight, I made two more batches of soap.  I’ve never done back to back soaping, but I’ll admit: it actually motivated me to clean up RIGHT AWAY.  I’ll have to try this more often!

The batch of Plain Jane Soap was simple enough; I’ve done that one plenty of times and it is the base I use for all of the other soaps.  The lye fumes got to me for a bit so I had to stand outside.  I wouldn’t have minded, but my next door neighbors are both cops and between the mad scientist look and the constant arrival of packages on my front door (often containing large quantities of lye), I’m sure I looked like quite the little meth cooker.

On the bright side, I turned my potentially awkward moment into a chance to talk up the soap business.  I figure it never hurts to mention (casually, of course), that I make handcrafted soaps and that they make wonderful gifts. WINK!

The next batch was Plucky Peppermint Soap, by request of my best friend.  She LOVES peppermint skin care products.  Lip balms, lotions, shampoos, you name it, she’s got it.  At some point, I’m sure she’ll talk me into making a peppermint shampoo bar, but for now, those are all fragrance free.

Anyway, peppermint essential oil has got a punch to it.  Between the lye fumes earlier and the extreme potency of the peppermint, I’m buzzing and a bit lightheaded.  I kept everything as far from my face and even breathed through my shirt, but even after it’s done, the smell is strong.  These are going to be some delicious soaps!  (Justin’s already talked about eating the “mints”).

Although I went without colorants this time, I think the main event will be the aroma.  Still, they’ll probably smell so strong it’ll travel through the internet!

Plucky Peppermint

Chef's Soap

First Scent Experiments

I’m currently experimenting with new soap scents.  I’ve done a lavender soap already, using only essential oils and lavender bud powder:

Image

The smell is divine, and strong!  One of my customers told me that she’s been keeping it in her bathroom just to scent the whole room.

I’ve also tried out using fragrance oils.  I did a Rose Garden soap with Rose Garden FO and rosehip powder.  It smells good, but the scent is nowhere near as strong as the lavender.  I don’t know if that is a result of the differences between Essential and Fragrance oils.

Image

Next, I worked on a coffee-based soap for chefs.  Coffee is great at removing the scent of onions, garlic, fish, etc.  When I worked on the salad line, I could never get the smell of onions out of my hands and I was miserable, until I discovered coffee as a cleaner.  I’d always heard that coffee was great to smell between fragrances, but it never occurred to me to try it on my hands too.

Anyway, I made coffee out of the distilled water I normally use for soap-making.  At first, it smelled foul and I was seriously worried about the batch.  However, once I mixed it all together and got to trace, it smelled faintly sweet.  It doesn’t smell like coffee like I thought it would, but it does smell good and it has a pretty brown color.  It’s a bit neutral, not masculine and not feminine.